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 April 09, 2010

Mobilization

Boss Lift lets employers view
Soldier training

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.

PHOTO: 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 Tom Michele
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 Tom Michele

The 724th, a Wisconsin Army National Guard unit, is a Fort McCoy integrating training to prepare to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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.”

PHOTO: 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
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.

PHOTO: 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
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 Lewis, Wash.

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