By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 23, 2009 - The International Association of Fire Chiefs joined thousands of other American employers of National Guardsmen and reservists today when its president and executive director signed an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve statement of support. "The first-responder employer segment is one of the largest employers of National Guardsmen and reservists in the country," said Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. "Police chiefs, fire chiefs [and] emergency medical technicians are sort of a natural fit with the military, and many of them are with the Guard and reserve.
"So when they deploy and our employers support them, it means so much to the families," he added
Established in 1873, the association is a network of nearly 13,000 chief fire and emergency service officers.
Association President Larry J. Grorud also signed a statement.
"We understand the solemn duty of serving our communities and nation, and we support National Guardsmen and reservists," the Janesville, Wis., fire chief, said. "As employers we have the responsibility to support their service to their country."
He also challenged all the International Association of Fire Chiefs' member fire chiefs and emergency medical service managers to join him in signing statements of support to publicly honor their employees.
"I call on all fire chiefs to join me in publicly expressing [their] support for the brave men and women who have chosen [to serve in] the National Guard and reserves," Grorud said.
The 18 board members here for the association's annual board meeting met that challenge immediately, singing statements of support on behalf of their fire departments.
"I think the secretary said it best. The fire service and the military are so similar. The fire service really is a paramilitary organization," said Grorud, who served three years in the Army, including one in Vietnam. "I think there's a common thread there that bonds, and I think that's probably why you saw the entire board get up and sign that statement for their departments. I'm really proud of them."
The statement of support is a pledge to:
-- Fully recognize, honor and enforce military employment law;
-- Provide managers and supervisors with tools to manage employees who serve in the National Guard and reserves; and
-- Continually recognize and support the country's servicemembers and their families in peace, in crises and in war.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a Defense Department agency established in 1972. Its mission is to gain and maintain employer support for Guard and reserve service by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law, and resolving conflicts between employers and military employees through mediation.