Florida employers recognized for their support to Guardsmen

Written by  //  July 28, 2011  //  Feature Stories, News

By 1st Lt. Allison Givens and Staff Sgt. Carmen Gibson

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 23, 2011) – At their Annual Planning Awards Conference, the Florida Committee for the Employer and Support of the Guard and Reserve honored civilian employers and volunteers dedicated to finding and maintaining civilian employment for members of the National Guard and Reserve.

Mr. Robert Hoyland, USAA Vice President/General Manager in Tampa, accepts the Above and Beyond Award alongside his employee and nominator, Spc. Kyle Byrne, a USSA Member Relationship Specialist, who was recently deployed with the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Spc. Byrne nominated his employer for their continued support during his tour of duty.

A staggering 16.2 percent of Florida National Guard members are currently unemployed, which already exceeds the state unemployment average. With more units returning home from service, this number will continue to climb.

ESGR was created in 1972 with the goal of eliminating this effect, through forging a relationship of support and understanding between Reserve component members and their civilian employers and by assisting in resolving conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.


As a veteran, Dr. Charles Flowers, the ESGR Florida Military Outreach Coordinator, understands the value of military service and hopes to do more to reduce the hardships that reservists and their families face during deployments.

“We have young veterans-warriors- who leave their families to defend the nation and can’t pay their rent, house note or car note,” said Flowers. “They need help. Our job is to ask, what can we do for them?”

The main focus of ESGR is to encourage employers to hire those with military service and to do everything in their power to alleviate the stress of leaving their work and family behind, and thereby allowing military members to focus on their service and commitment while deployed overseas. During the awards dinner, ESGR presented several awards to employers who have filled their ranks with men and women of military service.

The highest award of the evening, the DoD Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Pro Patria award, was presented to Jacksonville-based CSX Transportation for their support and encouragement of National Guardsmen and Reservists.


CSX was nominated by Command Sgt. Maj. John Gipe, Senior Enlisted Advisor Assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, for adopting personnel policies that encourage their employees to fulfill their military commitments both to the state and nation.

Mr. Steve Toomey, Manager of Military and Diversity Recruiting for Jacksonville based CSX Tranportation, accepted the Pro Patria award, which is the highest award a state can grant. Nominees of the Pro Patria demonstrate the pinnacle of employer excellence and commitment to ideals of national pride and military service. In addition to this award, CSX, is one of five large companies scheduled to receive this year's Secretary of Defense Freedom Award at the Regan Cetner in September.

Steve Toomey, Manager of Military and Diversity Recruiting for CSX Transportation in Jacksonville, Fla., accepted the award and boasts that one in every four CSX employees is a veteran of the Armed Forces.

“Military men and women make great employees,” said Toomey. “They are disciplined, committed, have high ethical standards, pay attention to details…they will get the job done right every time.”

During an activation or deployment, a CSX employee and their families receive medical benefits for four months, and receive differential pay for up to five years. This will ensure that the service members will not see a reduction in income due to military service. Several other employers affiliated with ESGR have also adopted the differential pay program.

Sgt. Tait Sanborn, recently deployed with the 690th Military Police Company, based in Crystal River, Fla., nominated his civilian employer, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office for their care and commitment to him and his family during his absence.

The Pasco County Sherriff’s Office was recognized at the awards ceremony for going above and beyond legal requirements for Sanborn, doing everything from supplementing his pay, to ensuring the safety of his loved ones left behind.

The Florida Committee for the ESGR, along with distinguished guest Maj. Gen. Emmett Tishaw, The Adjutant General of Florida, honored employers around the state for their continued support of National Guard members and Reservists. Employers in attendance signed a document at the awards banquet pledging to continue to employ and encourage veterans and service members.

Maj. Maurice Radford, who is in charge of patrol operations, accepted the Above and Beyond Award on behalf of Pasco County and encourages other employers to also bring on employees with military service, as it benefits both the employer and the service member.

“Service to one’s country speaks volumes about their character,” said Radford. “They learn skills and gain experience in public safety that (the sheriff’s department) can capitalize on.”

Employers seeking to hire veterans and Reserve or National Guard members can contact ESGR volunteer representatives at www.esgr.mil. The website also contains a wealth of resources for both service members and their potential employers.