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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

Agency aids part-time soldiers at workplace

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

Visconti Christman was six months into basic training for the Hawai'i Air National Guard on the Mainland when he learned in December that the airline he worked for as a part-time ramp agent had laid him off.

Agency contacts

• For information on the Hawai'i Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, visit www.esgr.org or call 448-7270.

• To get a free pamphlet about the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, call 541-2850.

But when ombudsmen from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve group intervened two months later, the 25-year-old Waikiki resident got his job back within a month.

"They provide a really important service," Christman said. "I don't think I would've gotten my job back without them."

The agency, part of the Department of Defense, promotes cooperation between Guard and Reserve members and their civilian employers. It helps enforce a 1994 federal law that requires employers to reinstate workers to their jobs when they return from an active duty military call-up.

The potential for hardship on both sides is increasing. Employees may be gone for months at a time as America's military has been restructured to rely more heavily on reservists in wartime.

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Edward Kubo, U.S. attorney for Hawai'i, said there are about 1.4 million National Guard and reservists in all branches of the military nationwide, including about 12,000 who live in Hawai'i.

"With the increase in use of the Guard and Reserve, there's a larger potential for problems because more employers will be impacted," said Lt. Col. Ann Greenlee of the Hawai'i Air National Guard and executive director of the Hawai'i employer support group.

The Hawai'i group, which consists of about 40 volunteer military personnel and civilians, has seen an increase in inquiries and requests for services since recent events in Iraq unfolded.

"Since 9/11, we have been averaging two to three a month," Greenlee said. "However, in March, we have already had seven inquiries."

The organization's mission is to prevent complaints by helping employers understand what the Reserve is and how it works, she said. This is done through mediation and educational sessions.

"We bring employers and reservists together to learn what each other is doing and then work out any problems that come up in relation to Reserve duty," Greenlee said.

Christman said without the organization, he would have been lost.

"It gives you peace of mind because you have somebody that watches over your interest while you're away," he said.

Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at zespanol@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.