SANDSTON, Va. — More than 25 employers of Virginia National Guard Soldiers were able to experience the environments their employees work in first-hand during an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Boss Lift. The event was hosted by Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division Sept. 7, 2019, near the Richmond International Airport and had employers flying through the skies of Richmond in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and checking out the vehicles, equipment, meals and spaces where their Soldiers work.
“Aviation is very busy,” explained Lt. Col. James Sheldon, commander of 2-224th Aviation. “Getting you out here, seeing what we do, seeing what your employees are doing is extremely important to them and to us.”
At the start of the event, Maj. Gen. John E. Epperly, Commander of the 29th Infantry Division, Brig. Gen. James W. Ring, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, and Command Chief Master Sgt. James J. Profita, Virginia National Guard Senior Enlisted Leader, all addressed the employers and emphasized the importance of their support. Epperly explained the breakdown of forces within the 29th Infantry Division and the way ahead for the Soldiers of 2-224th.
“I want you to understand what your Guardsmen do and why what they do is very important and very relevant to the nation,” Epperly said, stressing the continued importance of the National Guard and its mission, both at home and overseas.
Ring explained the demands on National Guard aviators are similar to those made on their active duty counterparts. Balancing a civilian career with military service is part of what it takes to be in the National Guard, he said.
“We, as reserve component service members, can’t do what we do without the support of our employers,” Ring said.
Following the introduction, the group headed across the street, to the flight line. There, they split into two groups. The first group boarded two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and took an aerial tour over the city of Richmond, while the second group toured the maintenance facility and learned what it takes to keep the aircraft going. Then, the employers checked out a few other military vehicles and learned about their capabilities before enjoying a lunch of meals, ready to eat, or MREs.
“We wanted you to have the full experience today,” said Thomas M. Stephen, ESGR boss lift coordinator. Stephen introduced his team to the employers and also provided an overview of the ESGR program. He explained that ESGR is a Department of Defense program that aims to promote cooperation between reserve component service members and their civilian employers. He said he and his team can assist in resolving conflicts that arise from an employee’s military commitment and can advocate for mutually beneficial initiatives.
“I can’t underestimate how important your support is and how we have to have that so if we’re called on we can go fight and win our nation’s wars,” Sheldon said. “Thank you very much, thank you for your support, thank you for coming out here.”