Utah National Guard Gives

Soldiers' Civilian Bosses a 'Lift'

 

By Maj. Hank McIntire

Published June 25, 2007

 

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Boss Lift passengers Cija Doyle, left, and John Kelley, center, ride in the KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft en route to Camp Shelby, Miss.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Boss Lift passengers Cija Doyle, left, and John Kelley, center, ride in

the KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft en route to Camp Shelby, Miss.

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — The Utah National Guard and Employer Support to the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) treated 24 civilian employers of members of the 116th Convoy Security Company to a three-day experience June 20-22 at Camp Shelby, Miss.

The ‘Boss Lift,’ as it is called, is a national ESGR program which gives civilian employers of Guard members an on-the-ground taste of what their Employee-Soldiers are going through during their preparations to deploy.

Joined on the trip by Utah National Guard Adjutant General Brian Tarbet, Command Sgt. Maj. Dell Smith and state ESGR officials, the group traveled on a Utah Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker from the Utah Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City to Gulfport, Miss., and then moved by bus 60 miles north to Hattiesburg, where Camp Shelby is located.

Tex Thompson, right, of Thompson Steel, rides in the coveted cockpit seat for takeoff from Salt Lake International Airport June 20.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Tex Thompson, right, of Thompson Steel, rides in the coveted

cockpit seat for takeoff from Salt Lake International Airport June 20.

During the evening meal of Southern beef brisket, jambalaya, fried okra, collard greens and fruit cobbler that first evening, Tarbet explained to the group that the 116th didn’t exist two months ago, is comprised entirely of volunteers and will provide security for Coalition convoys in Iraq.

“This is the toughest duty that the Utah National Guard has performed since we’ve been in this business [supporting the Global War on Terrorism],” he said. “It will be more dangerous than anything we’ve done in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines or anywhere else we’ve served in the last five years.”

Commander of the 116th, Maj. Reece Roberts, also spoke to the group and complimented employers on the caliber of men and women they employ.

“You can be very proud of your employees here at Camp Shelby,” said Roberts. “They work hard, their attitude is great, and they enjoy a well-deserved reputation among their peers.”

Boss Lift participants receive a briefing from a Camp Shelby trainer on the IED, lower right, which "attacked" their bus June 21.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Boss Lift participants receive a briefing from a Camp Shelby

trainer on the IED, lower right, which "attacked" their bus June 21.

The next morning saw the visitors on the road to Camp Shelby by 6:30 a.m. for a typical Soldier breakfast of eggs to order, bacon, grits, and biscuits and gravy at the dining facility.

Then the group moved to Camp headquarters for an orientation briefing from Lt. Col. William Smith, mobilization planner at Camp Shelby.  Smith explained that the post is the largest military installation in the United States with more than 76,000 acres in total area and has the capacity to train more than 5,000 at one time.

Moving from headquarters to the training area, the group came under “attack” from a roadside bomb. After everyone exited the bus the “insurgents” who emplaced the improvised explosive device on the gravel road came out of the woods, and trainers explained in detail the real IED threat our military personnel face daily in Iraq.

Visitors pick through the box of MREs to find the tastiest entree for their field lunch with their Soldier-Employees June 21.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Visitors pick through the box of MREs to find the tastiest entree

for their field lunch with their Soldier-Employees June 21.

This danger was reinforced repeatedly during entire visit; not only through the explanations from leaders and trainers but also from the many IED training displays in various locations on the post. But the most sobering aspect of IED training was the fact that visitors were asked not to photograph certain areas and training aids so as not to compromise the most current tactics, techniques and procedures Soldiers use today to survive in Iraq.

Also included in the camp tour was a display of modification techniques for increased vehicle protection, a demonstration of emergency towing procedures and a walk-through of a forward operating base, barracks and shower areas.

The highlight of the itinerary, however, was the chance to reunite employers and employees. As soon as the bus arrived at the field-training site where the 116th was rehearsing squad-level dismounted movement techniques, bosses made a beeline for their Soldiers and exchanged handshakes, hugs and slaps on the back. Particularly touching were the reunions of visitors whose own sons are members of the 116th.

Honorary Colonels Corps representative David Felt, left, reunites  with his son, Spc. Matthew Felt, of the 116th Convoy Security Company.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Honorary Colonels Corps representative David Felt, left, reunites  with

his son, Spc. Matthew Felt, of the 116th Convoy Security Company.

John Kelley, of Warner Truck in Salt Lake, is supervisor and father of Spc. Robert Kelley of the 116th.

“As an employer and as a father, you feel safe that the training they get will help them make it through and get back home,” said the senior Kelley. “When you see the training and the level of personnel who are training them, you feel a lot more comfortable in their ability to do the job they were sent to do.”

“He gave up a lot to do what he is doing, and we’re proud of him,” he added.

Visitors spent the next hour catching up on what Soldiers had done since leaving Utah May 18, while they opened, heated, and dined on MREs with a little coaching from their uniformed hosts. Then Soldiers were off to the next training activity while the group toured the impressive Camp Shelby Military Museum complete with vintage weapons, life-sized dioramas, multimedia exhibits and a gift shop.

John Blankenstein, left, meets with 116th commander Maj. Reece Roberts at Gulfport Airport.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

John Blankenstein, left, meets with 116th

commander Maj. Reece Roberts at Gulfport Airport.

In the evening guests treated their hosts to a chicken and ribs barbecue at Camp Shelby’s Dogwood Lake picnic area, and Soldiers and visitors had one last opportunity to mingle and make new friends.

ESGR representatives Bart Davis and Bill Rappleye spoke to the group and praised Soldiers for their service and their civilian bosses for their support of the military. Then Rappleye presented employers with the One-Star Statement of Support for their signature along with a commemorative employer pin as a memento of the experience.

As Soldiers spent a last few minutes with visitors before retuning to the barracks, many expressed great appreciation for the personal visit from their employers.

“It meant a lot to me. It showed that they miss me, that I am an important part of the department back home,” said Sgt. Brad Young, a patrolman for Tooele City Police. “When I come home, they are going to be there waiting for me and wanting for me to come back. Tooele City has been great to work with. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work.”

Bosses treat Soldiers to a chicken-and-ribs barbecue at Camp Shelby's Dogwood Lake pavilion June 21.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Bosses treat Soldiers to a chicken-and-ribs barbecue

at Camp Shelby's Dogwood Lake pavilion June 21.

“It was a great thing. It makes you feel proud of what you’re doing,” added Spc. Robert Kelley, employed at Warner Truck. “They can see why you do what you do and why you want to go out and make a difference in the world. Now they understand better how you work and how you work as a team.”

With an unforgettable three days under their belt, many employers felt they could have flown home without the airplane, but they brought it back with them anyway—just in case.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Cija Doyle, Wal-Mart supervisor of two 116th Soldiers, Sgt. Debra Kelner and Spc. Nathan Boyd, both of Orem. “I gained a newfound respect for what they do and what they go through to protect our country. It heightened my awareness as to what’s really happening.”

And based on the feedback provided to ESGR officials, employers came away with an increased appreciation for the military service of their employees and the confidence that their Soldiers will return with greater skills and abilities which will greatly benefit their organization.

Blaine Butterworth, Macey's Food Stores representative, puts on his ESGR pin at the post-barbecue program June 21.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Blaine Butterworth, Macey's Food Stores representative, puts

on his ESGR pin at the post-barbecue program June 21.

“He will come back a stronger employee,” said Liberty Safe’s Linda Wren of Sgt. Chris Buckwalter of the 116th. “If he dedicates himself to the military, there is no doubt he can dedicate himself to his job. He will come back even more valuable than when he left because you can’t help but grow strong in the military.”

Jorge Chalico, of Tooele City Police and supervisor of Sgt. Brad Young, echoed Wren’s sentiments.

“Brad’s going to come back having learned lessons that the rest of our work force has no idea about,” he said. “It’s going to enhance the leadership skills that we know he already has.”

Besides the visit from his boss, Young also received an added bonus from Chalico: an American flag that the Soldier will fly over his base in Iraq. Upon his return Young will give the flag back to the department as a thank-you for their support for him.

Jorge Chalico, Tooele City Police Department, signs his ESGR One-Star Statement of Support to show his commitment to Guard employees.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Jorge Chalico, Tooele City Police Department, signs his ESGR One-Star Statement of Support to show his commitment to Guard employees.

“He is a big part of our organization, and his absence has been greatly felt,” said Chalico. “I don’t think anybody back at the office will ever question whether or not Brad Young is a patriot. Putting himself in harm’s way for a country of strangers, it proves what a patriot he is.”

Now Soldiers of the 116th will head off to combat in a few weeks with the knowledge that their families and community are behind them—and their bosses have their backs too.

“It really boosted my morale, knowing that people back home support me—especially where I work [at Liberty Safe],” said Spc. Chris Buckwalter. “It’s never happened to me like that before. It makes me want to come back and do a good job there. They take care of me.”

 

 

A group photo of employers and ESGR officials as they prepare to depart the Gulfport, Miss., airport to return to Utah.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A group photo of employers and ESGR officials as they prepare to depart the Gulfport, Miss., airport to return to Utah.