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ESGR: Comfort in knowing

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Richard Dunkelberger, a first sergeant with the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, is shown in a photo illustration representing his service as a Citizen-Airman, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Sept. 30, 2014. Dunkelberger is featured in a story about the Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program.  Established in 1972, ESGR promotes cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers. Dunkelberger's employer, United Parcel Service, has twice received the ESGR Freedom Award for their support of Guard and Reserve members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Richard Dunkelberger, a first sergeant with the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, is shown in a photo illustration representing his service as a Citizen-Airman, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Sept. 30, 2014. Dunkelberger is featured in a story about the Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program. Established in 1972, ESGR promotes cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers. Dunkelberger's employer, United Parcel Service, has twice received the ESGR Freedom Award for their support of Guard and Reserve members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- More than 760,000 National Guard members have deployed in support of the war on terror since 9/11, leaving behind families and the civilian jobs they rely on to support their families.

Standing in the gap to support these service members is the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Established in 1972 by the Department of Defense, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve promotes cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers.

"These citizen warriors could not defend and protect us at home and abroad without the continued promise of meaningful civilian employment for themselves and their families," from ESGR on their website.

For many Guard members, defending and protecting us means sacrificing more than the proverbial one weekend a month and two weeks a year away from their civilian employers.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Richard Dunkelberger, a first sergeant with the Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing, is one of these Citizen-Airmen.

In addition to leaving his civilian job while completing four deployments to Southwest Asia during the last decade, the first sergeant regularly travels more than 16 hours to and from monthly drills.

"During my time with the Georgia Air National Guard, I've been fortunate to have a civilian employer who supports my military career," said Dunkelberger, who, when not in uniform, works as a production control supervisor for United Parcel Service--a company that has twice received the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Freedom Award, the nation's highest recognition for employers supporting Guard and Reserve members.

"Knowing my job is secure helps alleviate a lot of stress on me and my family during deployments," he added.

For Dunkelberger, the relationship between him and his employer is a two-way street.

"Communicating your military commitments in advance to your employer is the key to balancing life both in and out of uniform," said Dunkelberger.