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NEWS | July 1, 2024

VNG aviation battalion hosts ESGR Boss Lift

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

More than 50 civilian employers joined their employees for an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Boss Lift, hosted by the Virginia National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment June 15, 2024, at their Army Aviation Support Facility near Richmond International Airport in Sandston, Virginia. The event aimed to thank employers for their support while providing them a first-hand look at what their employees experience when in a military duty status. The experience included orientation flights on board the battalion’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, as well as static displays that included weapon systems and various pieces of commonly used equipment. 

The event came at the end of a two-week annual training period for the Soldiers of the 2-224th, much of which was spent at Fort Walker, near Bowling Green, Virginia. Before the helicopter blades started turning, Lt. Col. Ryan Strait, 2-224th battalion commander, addressed the employers and provided insight into the world of Army aviation and what it takes to succeed as a National Guard Soldier. 

“These Soldiers are maintaining the same level of proficiency as their active duty counterparts on a budget that is way, way smaller,” explained Strait. “You should be very proud of what they’ve done.” 

At the start of AT, Strait said he expected his Soldiers to fly around 120-130 hours, but, even before completing the Boss Lift, they’d flown just over 192 hours 

“Coming close to 200 hours on these aircraft is absolutely remarkable,” Strait told the crowd. 

Col. Paul Gravely, the Virginia Army National Guard’s chief of staff, also addressed the crowd and provided an overview of the capabilities of the organization, explaining that the Virginia National Guard includes around 7,300 personnel serving in units spread across the state. 

“The Virginia Army National Guard’s leadership is very grateful for your patriotism as employers who support this unit and the multiple other units throughout our formation,” Gravely said. “More than 90 percent of this battalion is employed in the civilian sector, so we recognize that none of what we do would be possible without your patriotic service.”

Following remarks from Strait and Gravely, and a quick safety brief and explainer on the aircraft’s four-point seatbelt, the employers were broken into small groups and escorted to the flight line where they boarded a UH-60 Black Hawk that took them on an approximately 20-minute orientation flight around the Richmond area, showcasing the city skyline and the James River. 

The was held in conjunction with ESGR, which is a U.S. Department of Defense program that promotes cooperation and understanding between reservists and their civilian employers. ESGR advocates for the rights of military members in the workforce, while also providing resources and support to their employers.  

“These Soldiers, your employees, are some of the most professional and some of the most proficient National Guard Soldiers, I would say, anywhere,” Strait said. 

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