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A new program to foster better employer-employee relations is being tried by the Utah National Guard to demonstrate the company support part-time soldiers have for their military duty.

Utah Power & Light President Frank Davis and representatives of the Utah National Guard presented awards Friday to more than a dozen UP&L mining and power plant employees who are members of various guard and reserve units in addition to their regular jobs.For five years the guard and reserve components have given special recognition to companies that support their employees who serve as part-time soldiers, said retired Maj. Gen. Mike Kauffman, executive director of the Utah Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

About one year ago the committee developed a program to give recognition not only to the companies but to the soldiers themselves - from their employers - as a demonstration of support for military service.

Other large employers are also involved in the pilot program - Questar, Eaton-Ken-way, Continental Bank & Trust and Western Mortgage. Kauffman said the program is the only one of its kind in the nation and should expand soon to involve a wider variety of employers.

Employer support for military service is generally positive, Kauffman said, but that support is not universal. Large employers like UP&L may be less affected when 95 employees are members of guard or reserve units than would an employer with two employees, one of whom needs time off occasionally for military service.

UP&L pays the difference between military pay and an employee's regular salary, a benefit not all employers offer.

Kauffman said guard members' spouses also recoup some of the sacrifices they make when they see recognition coming from the employer.

Davis commended his employees for their service to the company, and to their country. "We appreciate your service," he said. "We appreciate the wives also. You go through a lot."

Commendations were also offered by the state's top military brass, which depends on part-time soldiers to fill many military jobs. "Thank you energetic people for tackling two jobs at once," said Brig. Gen. David Noall, assistant adjutant general for the Utah Air National Guard. He said guard ranks would be empty without the support soldiers get from spouses and employers.

Col. Joseph Ford, commander of the Utah National Guard Engineer Group, said 70 percent of the Army's engineers are in guard and reserve units. Half of the Army's troops overall are part timers. The higher mix of part-time soldiers in the nation's total military force has drastically changed the role guard and reserve soldiers will have in a major military conflict in the future.

Ford said military training often benefits a soldier's civilian employer because of similarities in civilian and military job duties. "If they operate heavy equipment for UP&L that's probably what they do for us."