|Story by 1st Lt. Peter Owen, 724th Engineer
Battalion Public Affairs Officer
As four Blackhawk helicopters
ascended and landed at Fort McCoy, civilian employers of the 724th
Engineer Battalion exited and embarked on a mission. The mission was a
“Boss Lift,” a joint venture between the 724th Engineer Battalion and
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an organization
created to gain and maintain employer support for the Guard and Reserve
forces of the U.S. military.
Boss Lift employers, newspaper
and television reporters and photographers and Soldiers watch as
a Buffalo route clearance vehicle interrogates a suspicious
package along a Fort McCoy road. The Buffalo was using its spork
to probe the package to determine if it was an improvised
explosive device. Photo by
The 724th, a Wisconsin Army National Guard unit, is a Fort McCoy
integrating training to prepare to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi
Civilian employers of 29 members of the 724th Engineer Battalion took
time March 27 to both visit their Soldier and observe their training
before the Soldiers deploy to Iraq in a few weeks. The morning for these
employers started in Superior, Hayward, Eau Claire or Madison where they
boarded Blackhawk helicopters flown by members of the 147th Aviation
Battalion based out of Madison and Detachment 1 of the 248th Aviation
Support Battalion from West Bend.
After arriving at Fort McCoy and taking a short ride to the battalion
headquarters, the employers were greeted by the Battalion Commander Lt.
Col. David O’Donahue. O’Donahue took the opportunity to explain the
importance of employer support for Soldiers as they spend a year away
from their Families and civilian employers.
“The 724th is made up of 96 percent traditional Guardsmen who are
hardworking Wisconsinites that depend on their civilian jobs for
income,” he said. “Although most of these Soldiers usually only spend
one weekend a month and two weeks a year training, they are always ready
to answer the call when their country needs them.”
The Boss Lift crowd watches as
Soldiers bring an insurgent, portrayed by cultural role players,
out of a house to interrogate him for weapons, explosives and
intelligence. The action was on a Fort McCoy training lane in
one of the simulated Asian villages.
Photo by Tom Michele
After leaving the headquarters, the party observed operations of the
724th Engineer Battalion’s Forward Support Company (FSC).
Capt. Matthew Kelly, the FSC commander, spoke about the company’s
capability to distribute supplies, recover damaged vehicles and provide
maintenance support for the battalion.
Before leaving, the employers had an opportunity to take pictures with
their Soldiers and sit inside a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle
and recovery vehicles.
Next, the party moved to the maneuver training area where 724th Soldiers
were training on their route-clearance maneuvers. This allowed an
opportunity to watch the 724th Soldiers in action as they encountered a
possible improvised explosive device (IED). The Soldiers practiced
interrogating the IED and ensuring the rest of the area was clear of any
other threats as their civilian employers watched from across the road.
Lt. Col. David O’Donahue,
commander of the 724th Engineer Battalion, gives a briefing to
the Boss Lift guests and newspaper and television reporters and
photographers at the 724th headquarters.
Photo by Tom Michele
The final stop was Contingency Operating Location Freedom. Soldiers
from the 724th then joined their employers for lunch and an opportunity
to share their training experiences. Many of these businesses will feel
an impact from losing a dedicated employee for a year; however these
employers are standing firmly behind their Soldiers. Both the employers
and Soldiers enjoyed this time to relax and catch up.
The 724th includes elements from Superior, Chippewa Falls, Spooner,
Hayward, as well as the 228th Engineer Company from Pennsylvania, 1013th
Engineer Company from Puerto Rico and 617th Engineer Company from Fort