Employers given new perspective on Citizen-Soldiers

By Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Kentucky civic leaders and employers visit with Kentucky Guardsmen as part of an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Boss Lift at Fort Knox, Ky., July 22, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — When a National Guard Soldier or Airman serves their one weekend and month and two-weeks in the summer, they are considered a traditional Guardsman. With the overwhelming majority of Kentucky’s Guardsmen falling into that category, hundreds of employers across the commonwealth are included in the extended Guard family. During ceremonies to welcome home, promote or award Guardsmen, we always hear the common gratitude to the families for sharing their loved one with the Guard. But it also a familiar acknowledgment to the employers and businesses that have also supported Kentucky’s Citizen-Soldiers.

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Lt. COl. Rob Larkin, command of the 138th Field Artillery Brigade speaks to employers and civic leaders during the civilians’ visit to the unit as part of an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve boss lift at Fort Knox, Ky., July 22, 2015. The ESGR group toured the 138th’s tactical operations center, interacted with Soldiers and witnessed a live fire exercise of M109 Paladins. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

As a thank you to several such military-friendly employers, Kentucky’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve held a day with the troops event, July 22. Commonly referred to as a Bosslift, such events provide employers and civic leaders the opportunity to see first hand what Kentucky’s Guardsmen, their employees, do when they are “off work.”

More than 30 representatives from local agencies and businesses from Lexington to Bowling Green flew by Blackhawk helicopter to Fort Knox, Kentucky and the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Kentucky for the up-close view of National Guard training.

“The ESGR Bosslift program is essential in helping employers and community leaders understand what our Citizen-Soldiers do while in uniform,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. Mike Richie, a support specialist with Kentucky’s ESGR. “Most develop a deep appreciation for the dedication and sacrifice required to serve in the military.  It’s also an opportunity to thank them for their contribution to our nation’s defense by employing and supporting our Service members.”

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Soldiers with the 138th Field Artillery Brigade were first to play host to the ESGR group at Fort Knox. Kentucky Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini joined Lt. Col. Rob Larkin, commander of the 138th in greeting the civilians in a field environment the 138th was occupying for annual training. The employers met with the artillery Soldiers, toured their tactical operation center and vehicles, and witnessed a live fire exercise by the unit’s M109 Paladins.

One of the Paladin crew members was Sgt. 1st Class James Hatfield, a fireman with the Bardstown FIre Department. Among the visitors was Chief Marlin Howard, Hatfield’s boss.

“He has seen me in uniform before, but never in the field, never in this atmosphere, I’m sure his perspective will probably change a little bit,” said Hatfield. “Telling someone what you do is one thing, but when they see you in the environment you do it, is a completely different story. It’s hard for them to get that visual.”

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Chief Marlin Howard, chief of the Bardstown FIre Department has he photo taken with Sgt. 1st Class James Hatfield during an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve boss lift at Fort Knox, Ky., July 22, 2015. Hatfield serves with Howard in Bardstown as his full-time employment. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“It means a lot that he came out here,” Hatfield added. “We are super busy at work and for him to take the time, see what I do and be a part of it, and to have a boss care enough to want to know what you do is pretty awesome.”

Hatfield has spent 21 years in the military uniform and 14 years as a fireman. The balance has worked for him, but knows some still believe that Guardsmen just get a couple extra days off each month.

“Employers on these boss lifts can see first hand, this isn;t a vacation out here, it’s good quality training for something we might have to do down the road.”

Howard said he has a small and close department, so everyone knows each other pretty well but hearing and seeing are two different things.

“He is a great employee and I kinda knew what he did outside work, but until you put boots on the ground with him, stand there beside with the equipment he works with, it’s an unbelievable moment,” said Howard. “It’s great to know and see that training that they get here, they take it back to their community.”

“I really appreciate everything the Guard has done to make us feel welcome into all of this, it’s been very nice and educational.”

In addition to the visit with the 138th, the employers and civic leaders traveled to the Kentucky’s Guard’s primary training facility in Greenville to see members of the 103rd Chemical Company during search and rescue training and Soldiers with the 138th Signal Company conducting vehicle roll-over training.

Chief Keith Jackson has a unique view of the day as he spent 27 years in the military. Now the Lexington Fire Department chief returns to the training fields to see Larkin, his friend and fellow fireman. Jackson expressed the pride he has for Larkin and the accomplishments he continues in the Guard and knows the sights and sounds will have an impact on the other employers.

“I think, today has opened their eyes to what truly at Citizen-Soldier is,” he said. “And they see what the Service members can offer, not only to the country but to the average American citizen.”

For more information on ESGR, visit www.esgr.mil, and www.kentuckyguard.com for information on Kentucky’s ESGR program.

 

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