'Bosslift' Inspires Troop Support From Employers
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
FORT KNOX, Ky., Nov. 18, 2005 After a three-day tour of Fort Knox and its training operations, a group of employers who have employees in the National Guard or Reserves showed their support for the troops by signing statements of support for the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve program here Nov. 17.
Ruth Samartic, director of homeless assistance programs at the U.S. Department of Labor, fires an M-16A2 simulator at the Kelley Combat Marksmanship Center at Fort Knox, Ky., Nov. 17. Samartic was a participant in the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Bosslift program. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
The employers visited Fort Knox and the U.S. Army Armor Center as part of the Bosslift program. Bosslift transports employers who have National Guard and Reserve employees to military installations to observe training and gain a better understanding of what their employees do.
"This gives them an opportunity to see firsthand what the servicemember does when they're gone away from their full-time job," said Angie Moore, executive director of the Washington, D.C., Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve committee. "This is a wonderful program."
The D.C. committee does one Bosslift each fiscal year to a military installations. On this trip, the employers were given several briefings about the mission of Fort Knox and the training that is conducted here, they got to experience state-of-the-art training simulators, and they interacted with the soldiers going through training and those permanently stationed here.
There were about 16 employers on this Bosslift from all walks of life, including accountants, business owners, service industry workers and chief executive officers.
Moore said that they all seemed to gain a better understanding and appreciation for what National Guard and Reserve personnel go through in their training. Nearly all the employers signed a statement of support and made a commitment to do more to help their National Guard and Reserve employees.
The first in line to sign was Julie Patterson of the Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department. Patterson said that seeing the training firsthand made her realize the enormity of the sacrifice the men and women in the National Guard and Reserve are making.
"I mean, you see everything on television, but you never get to see the inside -- the training they go through," she said. "They volunteer; this is an all-volunteer military these days, so these men and women volunteered for this job - to serve us, to protect us."
The police department already has benefits in place for National Guard and Reserve employees, Patterson said, but she is going to make sure those stay in place and spread the word about supporting the troops to her colleagues and friends.
"I wish more people could see this, because I didn't know anything about (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve)," she said. "I think that this is something that the whole world needs to know about. It's very valuable."
Many employers don't know about the ESGR program, Moore said, which is why Bosslifts are so important. The purpose of ESGR is to increase awareness about the rights and protections all employers are required by law to provide to National Guard and Reserve employees, she said. Also, ESGR committees intervene and help servicemembers who are not getting the rights they deserve, she added.
Tim Murphy, an ombudsman for the District of Columbia's ESGR committee, is helps servicemembers protect their rights. This was his second Bosslift, and he said he has seen nothing but positive results both times.
"You talk with employers after they participate in a Bosslift, and they appreciate what the armed services are doing, what our men and women are doing to support us," he said. "It gives them a greater appreciation and then they'll step up and go above and beyond what they should do."
Murphy is an attorney with his own firm in Clinton, Md. He has been volunteering with ESGR for two years and said he usually deals with one case a month, except when a unit has just returned from a deployment and there are more servicemembers to help. Most of his cases involve mediation between a servicemember and an employer who is denying the servicemember his job or certain benefits after a deployment, he said.
"I wish more employers were like the employers that we have here, who go above and beyond the call of duty," he said. "Whether you agree with the war or not, people should support our servicemembers."
Patterson said ESGR is important to her because troops who deploy shouldn't have to worry about what's going on at home and whether they will have a job when they return.
Andrew M. Kertesz of Old Branch Builders in Swan Point, Md., agreed, saying that he signed a statement of support because of what ESGR does for the troops.
"I believe in what this organization stands for," he said. "The servicemembers and the people who serve this country deserve absolutely the best of everything that we can offer them."
Soldiers in the National Guard and Reserve have proved vital to the success of the U.S. military around the world, said Army Brig. Gen. Albert Bryant, deputy commander of Fort Knox. Soldiers make a huge difference wherever they go, be it on American soil in disaster-relief efforts or in a foreign land providing democracy to formerly oppressed people, he said, but the only way they can be there is through the support of their employers.
"They cannot be there unless you, who represent the employers, who represent the leaders of those communities, allow them to do that," he said to the Bosslift group. "Secure for them employment; provide for their families in ways that you're not required to do; support them emotionally; support them financially."
Bryant said that while not everyone can serve in the military, everyone who supports the troops serves the country in their own way, and he asked the employers to continue their support of the military.
"What you do for us represents the ability of this nation to sustain its armed forces," he said. "What you do for us represents the ability of those armed forces to accomplish the task that they've been assigned."