When 1st Sgt. Dennis Crigger's Army Reserve unit was called on for active duty two years ago, the last thing he needed to worry about was the pay and benefit differences between his civilian and military jobs.
But his employer, Alltel Wireless, made sure it wasn't an issue, which allowed Crigger to worry less about his family and focus on the 200 or so soldiers in his command.
On Monday, Alltel became the 424th business in the state to sign what the ESGR - Employer Support for Guard and Reserves - calls the 5-Star Statement of Support.
According to the ESGR Web site, 415 businesses have signed a 1-Star Statement of Support, 77 have signed the 2-Star Statement of Support, and four have signed a 3-Star Statement of Support.
Col. Jim Cross, the regional chairman for the Northeast Tennessee ESGR, said he hopes even more businesses will follow suit.
For Crigger, first sergeant of the Headquarters Support Company 844th Engineer Battalion, his employer's support was critical.
"It was very important because in my position I had about 200 soldiers to take care of every day. With Alltel taking care of my family, we didn't have to worry about money or insurance. ... Alltel supplemented my pay. They kept up my insurance," he said.
The statement confirms that the company signing publicly supports their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserves, complies with federal re-employment laws, promotes training for managers and supervisors to effectively manage employees in the service, adopts company policies and programs that go beyond what federal law requires, and acts as an advocate for employee service in the Guard and Reserves.
Cross said the National Guard and Army Reserve currently make up 54 percent of the total force, which makes it even more important that employers comply with federal law and go above what the law requires.
"Both the Guard and Reserve have to meet the same standards as the active component. If the employers support the Guard and Reserve employees, then that becomes a force multiplier," he said.
Dave Green, Alltel regional vice president of engineering, said the company is honored to be recognized by the ESGR.
"But the real honor belongs to the men and women who serve our country in the Guard and Reserves.
"Employees like Dennis Crigger ... conduct themselves with character and integrity in both their military and civilian jobs, and it's our privilege to support them as they go about that important work."
In addition to signing the statement, Alltel received the ESGR's Above and Beyond Award, given to employers who sign the 5-Star Statement of Support and go beyond what federal law requires when they employ reservists and guardsmen.
For more information about the ESGR visit www.esgr.mil/ or to see the list of employers in Tennessee that have signed a statement of support visit www.esgrnet.com/submit/sosList.asp?listing=TN.