ESGR and the Utah Guard Host

Soldiers' Civilian Employees at Fort Bliss

 

By Maj. Hank McIntire

Published August 27, 2007

 

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Valerie Newson, right, observes refueling operations aboard a Utah Air National Guard KC-135 as Master Sgt. Dave Hudson operates the boom.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Valerie Newson, right, observes refueling operations aboard a Utah Air National Guard KC-135 as Master Sgt. Dave Hudson operates the boom.

FORT BLISS, Texas — "Overwhelming.”

That is how Valerie Newson, a corporate manager in the auditing division of the Utah State Tax Commission, described her visit to Fort Bliss, Texas, to observe the training of one of her employees here who is currently preparing for deployment as a member of First Battalion, 1-145th Field Artillery, of the Utah National Guard.

Newson, along with 43 other employers of Soldiers with the 1-145th, came to Texas Aug. 16-18 as part of the Boss Lift, a Department of Defense-sponsored program administered by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, an organization which works to educate civilian employers on the military service of their employees who are members of the National Guard and Reserve and their reemployment rights upon returning from full-time duty.

Col. Scott Marquardt, brigade commander at Fort Bliss, Texas, briefs Utah employers on the training their employees receive before heading to Iraq.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Col. Scott Marquardt, brigade commander at Fort Bliss, Texas, briefs Utah employers on the training their employees receive before heading to Iraq.

“I had no idea exactly what [Soldiers] were doing, how much they were being trained and how much work they were really doing out here,” said Newson after observing her employee, Staff Sgt Riley Anderson,  and his fellow 1-145th Soldiers for a day as they went through some very rigorous training. “I’m amazed at their ability to do it.”

Primarily from Utah, this group of employers started the trip on a Utah Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker and witnessed the midair refueling of a B-1 bomber from the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and then continued on to Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss, located near El Paso.

Once at Fort Bliss, officials hosted the visitors at the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Museum and provided them with a tour and briefing of Team Bliss’s mission to train their employee-Soldiers and prepare them to support detention operations at Camp Bucca, Iraq, in early fall.

Boss Lift participants and their Soldier-employees receive a typical early-morning Army breakfast at the Camp McGregor dining facility Aug 17.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Boss Lift participants and their Soldier-employees receive a typical early-morning Army breakfast at the Camp McGregor dining facility Aug 17.

To give employers the most realistic taste of Soldier training, Day 2 started at 5:15 a.m. when they boarded buses for the 45-minute drive north to Camp McGregor, the training area on the New Mexico side of Fort Bliss, to meet a six-o’clock time hack to eat breakfast with their Soldiers.

After the standard Army meal of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and coffee, employers were herded into a formation and were given a little hurry-up-and-wait training before the next event on the itinerary.

During this pause several employers were issued sets of 60-pound IBA, or Individual Body armor, complete with SAPI (Small-arms Protective Inserts) plates and a Kevlar helmet. The initial wearers of the gear ‘generously’ handed it over to others during the day to give as many as possible the experience of wearing the full ‘battle rattle’ that Soldiers rely on daily in a theater of combat.

Lt. Col. Bernie Spoerri, left, helps Shawn Crane of ACT in Gunnison, Utah, gear up with 60-pound individual body armor.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Lt. Col. Bernie Spoerri, left, helps Shawn Crane of ACT in

Gunnison, Utah, gear up with 60-pound individual body armor.

After being issued Meals Ready to Eat for their lunch, visitors boarded buses for the training area and were met there by Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dell Smith, who joined them for the morning’s events.

Employers were treated to a broad spectrum of training as they saw Soldiers labor in the West Texas heat to respond to mock disturbances in a detention camp, extract uncooperative detainees from their cells, clear houses of suspected insurgents, take the combat-lifesaver course and pass marksmanship tests on their assigned weapons.

As employers arrived at the various venues during the day, they looked anxiously for their Soldiers and when they found them there were exchanges of handshakes, hugs, and slaps on the back. Genuine appreciation shone in Soldiers’ eyes as they visited with their bosses and heard about what was going on back at the office.

Allen Dyreng, left, pins new sergeant rank on his son and employee, Sgt. Bradford Dyreng, center, in a special ceremony at the Triple B Ranch.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Allen Dyreng, left, pins new sergeant rank on his son and employee,

Sgt. Bradford Dyreng, center, in a special ceremony at the Triple B Ranch.

“It’s neat for employers to come out here because they miss their employees being there and wonder if it’s worth having people go out and serve,” said Sgt. Jacob Dyreng, whose ‘office’ is actually an 800-cow dairy farm in Gunnison, Utah, where he and his brother, Sgt. Bradford Dyreng, are employed by their father Allen.

“Dad’s always been really interested in what I do, and it’s been hard to explain what it’s like to go through everything,” added Jacob. “So it’s a good opportunity for him to see what we’re doing and that we’re working and training hard and motivated to do what we’re called upon to do.” 

An added bonus for the senior Dyreng was to pin on his boys’ new rank as they were both promoted to sergeant during a special ceremony at Texas rancher Jimmy Bowen’s Triple B Ranch near El Paso, where the entire battalion and employers were hosted for a steak-and-ribs dinner after the long, hot training day.

Employers join Soldiers for a steak-and-ribs dinner at the Jimmy Bowen Triple B Ranch near El Paso, Texas, Aug. 17.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Employers join Soldiers for a steak-and-ribs dinner at the

Jimmy Bowen Triple B Ranch near El Paso, Texas, Aug. 17.

“It was an honor for me to present that to my sons, said Allen Dyreng. “This was a real treat. They are good Soldiers.”

"I didn’t expect to see and feel the things that I saw and felt here,” he added. “I’m very impressed with the efforts that they’ve gone to in this training. Every situation that could possibly happen they seem to have developed a system to handle it. I understand more now how prepared and what the Army does to accomplish their goal.”

Valerie Newsom spent the entire time at the Triple B with her employee Anderson and former employee,1st Lt. Shane Day, also of the 1-145th. It was evident that these Soldiers were missed by their civilian employer.

“His absence has really been quite noticed,” said Newsom, acknowledging the hole left behind by employee-Soldiers when they deploy. “Our other auditors have pitched in and picked up the slack, making it work out and getting it done.”

Soldiers of the 1-145th Field Artillery practice riot-control techniques under the hot West Texas sun as their civilian employers look on.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Soldiers of the 1-145th Field Artillery practice riot-control techniques

under the hot West Texas sun as their civilian employers look on.

Although his boss at the U.S. Postal Service was not a part of this Boss Lift, Sgt. 1st Class Rob Hathaway of the 1-145th was also touched by the visitors’ presence and their willingness to take time to come down and see them in person.

“It’s very important for Soldiers to see that employers saw what they were going through,” he said. “And it was really good for employers to see the hard work the Soldiers are doing in preparing to go. It really reinforces [us], knowing there is a better chance of having a job to come back to when you come home and support for your family.”

Lt. Col. Karl Wright, commander of the 1-145th, also spent time with employers to answer their questions and explain the mission his Soldiers will fulfill in Iraq and how their experiences in combat will help make them better employees when they return home next year.

Employers take a tour of a mock detention-facility compound which resembles the location where the 1-145th will serve in Iraq.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Employers take a tour of a mock detention-facility compound

which resembles the location where the 1-145th will serve in Iraq.

“This is a very difficult environment where Soldiers have to make decisions [and go through] a mental thought process that demonstrates respect for others,” he said. “It will improve their social skills and how they interact with others. And their attention-to-detail skills will vastly increase. That’s a valuable skill in any workplace.”

As he observed employers interact with Soldiers at the riot-control range, Maj. Gen. Tarbet, who has attended a number of Boss Lifts during his tenure, outlined the desired results of inviting employers to see employee-Soldiers training in person.

“It’s important that we knit employers together with Soldiers so they continue to have that relationship,” he said. “Now these folks will go back and become our best ambassadors with the public. They come back feeling very good about the training that they are getting, that they are being as well prepared as the Army can make them for this deployment.”

Shirlayne George, left, Utah ESGR human resources director, presents Dave Mahas of Bud Mahas Construction with a commemorative pin.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Shirlayne George, left, Utah ESGR human resources director, presents

Dave Mahas of Bud Mahas Construction with a commemorative pin.

According to organizer Kim Watts, full-time ESGR representative in Utah, who put in hundreds of hours to arrange the trip, Tarbet’s objectives are being achieved here.

“The reward that we’re after is to increase the support in the employer base in the business community for our Soldiers,” he said. “It’s worth it because there is no better way to show an employer the value of an employee who is in the Guard or Reserve without letting them see them train in preparation for a hazardous mission.”

“It’s helped to validate and reinforce . . . the magic involved in one of these [trips],”

Watts continued. “The comments we hear from these employers over and, over  is, ‘This is amazing. Thank you so much.’”

Employers and Soldiers spend time together during a short lunch break during a typical training day at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Employers and Soldiers spend time together during a short

lunch break during a typical training day at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Part of that ‘magic’ is helping employers experience firsthand what Soldiers do, and bosses come away seeing their employees through different eyes.

“It’s been a terribly humbling experience to see what these guys are going through,” said Bill Deweert of Cabinetech in St. George, who employs Sgt. Dale Watts. “The level of professionalism that I’ve seen, I wasn’t prepared for the demeanor and attitude of the Servicemen preparing to go to Iraq.”

“It’s an opportunity that you can’t not take if you are offered it,” added Newsom. “You will have a totally new perspective and a better connection with your employee for having come to see what they actually do. [I have] an even larger respect and admiration for them than before I came out here. I would tell anybody to do it, and I’d do it again if I had the chance.”

A group photo of employers and ESGR officials after returning to the Utah Air National Guard Base from Fort Bliss, Texas.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A group photo of employers and ESGR officials after returning to the Utah Air National Guard Base from Fort Bliss, Texas.