Gone but Not Forgotten: One National Guardsman’s Story

George, a Lockheed Martin research scientist and Army National Guardsman, looks out over Afghanistan during a recent deployment. George, a Lockheed Martin research scientist and Army National Guardsman, looks out over Afghanistan during a recent deployment.

Last year, George fulfilled his third deployment with the Army National Guard, which took him away from his job as a Lockheed Martin research scientist for approximately 12 months; six months in training and six months serving in Afghanistan as the Brigade Non-Lethal Effect Coordinator and Deputy Fire Support Chief.

It’s no easy feat for employees or their management to drop what they’re doing when Reservists get the call to action. In fact, the United States government enacted the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA Law, to establish rights and responsibilities for uniformed service members and their civilian employers.

To help promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve members and their employers, the Department of Defense created the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) organization. In addition to being an educational resource, the ESGR also manages a robust awards program for employers who go above and beyond to support their Guard and Reserve employees.

According to George, Lockheed Martin and his local management team were there for him every step of the way.  Aside from providing him care packages while in Afghanistan, his management team was very accommodating when it came to his readjustment period; allowing him as much time as he needed to reconnect with his wife and baby girl.

“This being my third deployment and in my commanding role in the Army, I’m aware of ESGR and have had to deal with employers who have not been supportive of their Guard members,” said George. “As soon as I started to get the strong support from my managers, I knew I had to nominate them and recognize them for their efforts.”

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Los Angeles Regional Director Wayne Salleng, right, presents ESGR recognition to Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Skunk Works Rob Weiss, center, and his leadership team for exceptional support to George, left, during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Los Angeles Regional Director Wayne Salleng, right, presents ESGR recognition to Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Skunk Works Rob Weiss, center, and his leadership team for exceptional support to George, left, during a recent deployment to Afghanistan.

As a result of George’s nominations, ESGR Los Angeles Regional Director Wayne Salleng visited the Palmdale, California facility to present his leadership team with the Patriotic Employer award,  the Seven Seals award and the Above and Beyond award.  On hand to accept the awards were Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Skunk Works Rob Weiss, as well as George’s leadership team.   

During the small ceremony, the group recalled several stories of their experience, including the closure of his Base Exchange and mail room as they closed the Forward Operating Base; leaving George without mail for long periods of time and only Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) for food.

“I’ve known George for quite a while,” explained one of George’s managers.  “When he first left for training, he kept in touch through his blog posts. When he was deployed oversees, he couldn’t post them anymore and I really missed him. Sending him care packages was the least I could do for him.”  

ESGR’s Salleng also commended George on how he handled himself during his deployment.  Because of his initiative in keeping an open dialogue with his management back home, he avoided many problems, which can occur due to lack of communication.

“There were bumps in the road when George came back but we worked to get them smoothed out as soon as possible,” said his manager. “George is a leader and one of the things he made sure to do was to smooth those bumps to make the process better for the people who followed him.”