Fort McCoy News August 09, 2013

Committee for ESGR hosts employers at Fort McCoy

Public Affairs Staff

The Wisconsin Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) hosted a group of employers from northwestern Wisconsin for a visit of the 1st Battalion 128th Infantry of the Wisconsin Army National Guard (WIARNG) that was at Fort McCoy for annual training.

Dick Vallin, chair of the Wisconsin Committee for the ESGR, said the visit showed employers what a military work day is like for their National Guard employees.

Photo for ESGR article
Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers explain and demonstrate the procedures used to fire a TOW — or tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missile system — during an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve event at Fort McCoy.

"They saw the weapons systems used," Vallin said. "They see the training Soldiers go through and build the relationship between employers and employees."

National Guard and Reserve military personnel from all service branches have taken on a key role in military strategy, including deployments, as they now comprise just under 50 percent of the troop strength in all services, he said.

Mike Hallquist, the program support technician for the Wisconsin Committee for the ESGR, said it was a long day for the employers who boarded a bus at New Richmond or Eau Claire, Wis. When the group arrived at Fort McCoy they were briefed by the 1st, 128th Infantry Operations Sergeant Major Sgt. Maj. Craig Boehlke. Boehlke explained what the employers were likely to see on the visit.

WIARNG Commander Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson and WIARNG Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. Brad Shields also visited with the employers and talked to them about the critical support they provide to the servicemembers.

The group of about 30 employers and other military representatives learned about National Guard training during the Exportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) program at Fort McCoy. Employers also saw weapons and training demonstrations, including the simulated and live fire of weapons and a training scenario.

"Without the Guard and Reserve, we couldn't do what we've done during the past 10 to 12 years, with missions including deployment," said David Norton of SRI International, a research and development organization that helped run an XCTC rotation at Fort McCoy. "The support we get from employers, colleges, etc., to give these people the time off to attend training and to serve deployments is critical."

Fort McCoy is a great site for the training because of its state-of-the-art ranges and facilities and its varied terrain, which is excellent for light infantry units, Norton said.

Norton said he also has a personal interest in ensuring the training was as realistic as possible and prepared the personnel for future missions because he has a son and sons-in-law in the military who have served multiple tours to support Iraq and Afghanistan missions.

"The training meets real high standards and is the same thing I would want for my son and sons-in-law," Norton said. "After this training, it means that not only more Soldiers come home safely, but fewer civilians are injured or killed and more bad guys are (taken out of action.)"

Meanwhile the employers gained a new or additional appreciation for what their military employees go through.

John Mineck, an employer from, said he appreciated the visit.

"I learned a lot about what they do," Mineck said. "Just the drills take a lot of preparation to ensure they're done right. The military also has been easy to work with because they understand discipline and respect."

Frank Taylor, the director of the customer care center for, said the day was pretty exciting, seeing the troops go through live-fire training and what goes on during a day of training at Fort McCoy.

"The quality of the leadership, especially the senior leadership, is a key for our company," Taylor said. "This was a really good experience."

Vallin said Wisconsin employers have stepped up to the plate to ensure the military personnel have jobs when they return from deployments, which is very important. The servicemembers have priorities to their Families, their military service and their civilian career, and the support means they can accomplish their goals.

Wisconsin employers have earned top recognition for their efforts to support their employees, Vallin said. ESGR employers have earned seven national ESGR Freedom awards during the past 20 years, which is a high percentage for one state. The award recognizes top ESGR employers from all 50 states.