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Hokanson: ESGR ‘empowers everything we do’

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely,
  • National Guard Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Throughout the past 50 years, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program has provided a conduit between reserve component service members and their employers.

The National Guard’s senior-most general spoke with ESGR members and volunteers during a national leader meeting in Alexandria Friday.

“Thank you for everything you do that makes it possible for us to maintain that balance between our families, our civilian careers, and our military service,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “ESGR is a very important part of that. That balance empowers everything we do.”

The National Guard makes up nearly 20% of the Joint Force. Together with the Reserves, that number goes up to 38% of the nation’s military strength at 16% of the total defense budget.

Most Guardsmen and Reservists serve part-time, but Hokanson outlined the historically high operational tempo the Guard has sustained over the past three years. Thousands of Guardsmen were called on to serve in COVID response operations across the 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia. Guardsmen are on continuous standby, ready to help their communities during disasters like fires, floods and hurricanes.

Hokanson cited the nearly 30,000 Guardsmen currently mobilized overseas. He noted the Guard’s recent cyber support to ensure election security. He named the Department of Defense National Guard State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with nearly half the world’s nations. He discussed the support the California Guard and other Guard units continue to provide to Ukraine.

“They embody what the reserve component is all about,” the CNGB said. “When the mission calls, we kiss our families goodbye and tell our civilian employers, ‘I know our work is important — but right now, our nation needs me.’ Then we get to work — vital, lifesaving, world-changing work.

“When the mission is complete, we pick up where we left off — returning to our communities, our families and our civilian jobs, and rebalance our responsibilities.”

He said ESGR is a huge part of making that transition a success.

ESGR, a Department of Defense office, was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers and to help resolve conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.

Powered by nearly 3,000 volunteers, ESGR is in communities across the nation to serve employers, service members and their families.

“Over the past 50 years, you’ve changed the culture and the conversation around our service members,” Hokanson said. “This is especially true for the volunteers who take on so many different roles to make this work possible.”

Hokanson charted some of his initiatives for the Guard, including health insurance for all Guard members, educational benefits and incentive pay.

He said 60,000 Guardsmen don’t have any health care at all. Those who have coverage through their civilian employer transition to TRICARE when they are mobilized for service. This transition in status and health insurance may cause a strain on service members, their families, and their employers. Hokanson is trying to fix that.

Frank Huff, the ESGR regional coordinator, who retired after more than 20 years of service in the Louisiana Guard, said this is crucial.

“Having one consistent medical provider takes a lot of stress off the families,” Huff said. “I also see it as a huge benefit to employers to help offset some of the costs when service members are mobilized away from their civilian jobs.”