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NEWS | Nov. 9, 2023

Friendly Forces: Leading the charge to secure quality employment for Army Reserve, National Guard

By Cpl. Isaac Copeland 220th Public Affairs Detachment

A decade ago, Washington, D.C., native U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Eric Evans enlisted in the Army National Guard, a decision that would alter the course of his life and inspire a remarkable journey of support for fellow National Guard and Reserve Soldiers. As he embarked on his military path, Evans encountered a significant hurdle – notifying his employer of his commitment to attend Army Basic Combat Training. Unfortunately, this simple act led to his dismissal by his employer.

Reflecting on that challenging time, Evans shared, "I've had this concept in my mind since that happened. Initially, it involved categorizing companies as either supportive or unsupportive." Since then, Evans has dedicated himself to making life easier for National Guard and Reserve service members who often grapple with securing civilian employment that accommodates their military duties.

Over the past decade, Evans has worn various hats in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. Throughout his service, he observed fellow soldiers struggling to find employers who truly understood and supported their dual roles. "I observed varying levels of support, ranging from little to no differential pay for two weeks during annual training to offering full salary for 12 months during deployments," Evans remarked with frustration.

Even when consulting with recruiters, service members found obtaining accurate and up-to-date information about leave policies and differential pay challenging. "Many times, they provide outdated or even inaccurate information," Evans noted.

Leveraging his leadership skills gained from the Army Reserve, Evans established a network of military-friendly employers and resources for National Guard and Reserve service members, which he named "Friendly Forces." This initiative empowers reservists to identify companies aligning with their specific requirements concerning deployments, orders, and training while balancing full-time civilian jobs.

"These companies walk the walk and talk the talk," Evans explained. "It essentially comes down to whether they offer paid military leave, and if so, is it differential pay or full salary? Furthermore, what is the duration? Is it two weeks, six months, or a full year? Is it unlimited based on these factors? This is how we assign them a rating."

While designing the rating system initially posed challenges, Friendly Forces successfully refined the parameters. The organization objectively evaluates companies based on factors crucial to reservists and has assessed approximately 300 companies, assigning ratings from one star (lowest) to five stars (highest).

To streamline their focus, Friendly Forces primarily evaluates larger-scale businesses. "Comparing a small mom-and-pop business to larger corporations is hardly fair, given their differing resources. Thus, we primarily examine major companies and their treatment of reservists," Evans explained.

Evans' calculated approach and vision for enhanced transparency have garnered positive results. Service members seek guidance on ideal workplaces that cater to their military service and family needs. "I receive many heartfelt notes and messages, including from executive-level individuals in various industries who currently serve in the Guard or Reserve or did so previously. They reach out, expressing their admiration for what we're doing and their desire to contribute," Evans proudly stated.

Despite gaining increased support and positive reviews, Friendly Forces has faced opposition from companies unhappy with their assigned ratings. "Typically, companies believe they are military-friendly based on feedback from other organizations that don't objectively evaluate their treatment of the military, particularly reservists rather than veterans," Evans noted.

Evans and Friendly Forces' mission extends beyond staffing, training, equipping, and leadership development. Ensuring financial stability in civilian life is equally vital and stands at the forefront of their mission. "Our role involves educating individuals about the significance of this matter," Evans emphasized. "Without job and income security on the civilian side, there won't be individuals willing to serve in these capacities, ultimately jeopardizing our military readiness."

As Friendly Forces continues to grow, Evans envisions limitless possibilities for the organization, with a mission to "Elevate the national standard of support for reservists and advocate for the community." Through ongoing partnerships and expanding company ratings, service members can turn to Evans and Friendly Forces to alleviate the challenges of being a guard or reserve member.

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