Supportive Employers Fly High

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mary Greenwood
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A group of approximately 20 employers attended the Madison Boss Lift, hosted by Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Wednesday April, 24 at Truax Field, Madison Wisconsin. With the support of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee and 115th Fighter Wing, Madison employers were given a very rare experience.

ESGR, a Department of Defense program, was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers, and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.

The boss lift is an opportunity for guardsman and reservists to nominate their employer to observe real life military training.  There are two ways members can recognize their supervisor or employer for his or her support of their military service. The Patriot Award recognizes supervisors and bosses nominated by a guardsman, reservist employee or the member’s spouse for support provided directly to a military member. The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their outstanding support of employees serving in the guard and reserve.

Colonel Michael Williams Retired, ESGR Wisconsin state chairman, assisted in conducting and attended the flight while sharing knowledge he has gathered from his time working the annual event.

“In the state of Wisconsin there are about 200,000 employers and only 200 per year get to experience this opportunity,” said Williams. “It’s very limited. Sometimes employers get selected by their Airmen and sometimes there are employers that are defense contractors, such as Oshkosh Defense, that try to hire a lot of guard, reserve and veterans.”

Boss lift opportunities vary based on the type of aircraft or vessel that is available.

“Sometimes it’s a large number of people on KC-135 refueling missions, sometimes it’s about 10 on an Army Blackhawk flight, and sometimes with the Coast Guard we can only put about 12 on a search and rescue boat,” said Williams.

When employers arrived at the 115th FW they were greeted, registered, and underwent a TSA screening by security forces personnel. The employers loaded onto a bus and were escorted onto the flightline. They were given a safety and mission brief and loaded onto a 128th ARW Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker.

Richard Rosen, a regional warden out of Eau Claire with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, seized the opportunity to see the aerial refueling when submitted by Captain Robert Kneeland, assigned to the 115th FW.

“It’s extremely exciting to see what our guard members do on a regular basis and it’s just jaw-dropping,” said Rosen. “Just getting the chance to come out here and be a part of what they do is an amazing opportunity.”

This was Rosen’s, along with many other employer’s, first flight on a KC-135. The employers were allowed to walk around during the flight and observe a 128th ARW boom operator controlling the boom equipment during refueling. A select few personnel even got to experience take-off and landing in the cock-pit.

“ESGR is really the only way we can get civilians on a military aircraft in a real live training situation. We try to maximize those opportunities,” Williams said. “I’ve been doing boss lifts for almost 20 years and I have never seen an employer come off the aircraft disappointed.”

Once on the ground, employers gathered around the aircraft for a group photo. They were then ushered onto a bus that toured the 115th FW, to include a demonstration at the unit’s fire station and explosive ordinance disposal workcenter. One employer was even volunteered to wear an EOD suit.

The group returned to the dining facility where they were given a prepared lunch as they listened to an ESGR briefing and signed a statement of support.

“A lot of these bosses today have never served in the military so they don’t have a good understanding of what their employees do,” said Williams. “This gives them the opportunity to see what their employees do, particularly if their employee is a member of the Air National Guard. To see what goes on behind the scenes and give them a better appreciation of what the guard does on a day-to-day basis.”