[ Triad Online Home ]                                                                                              July 27, 2007

West Virginia employers, media visit Soldiers training at McCoy

By Lacey Justinger, Triad Contributor

      Several Soldiers from the 111th Engineer Brigade, a National Guard unit based out of Eleanor, W. Va., had some special packages flown in from home on July 17 -- their civilian employers. The 111th is undergoing mobilization training at Fort McCoy.

Photo: West Virginia state police officers share lunch with Spc. Ricardo A. Phillips and Spc. Brian Ward (right), National Guard Soldiers in the 111th Engineer Brigade. (Photo by Lacey Justinger)
West Virginia state police officers share lunch with Spc. Ricardo A. Phillips and Spc. Brian Ward (right), National Guard Soldiers in the 111th Engineer Brigade. (Photo by Lacey Justinger)

      "It's extremely important for people to know and understand, for them to come here to see the training to see that it's not a vacation," said Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard. "It's a tremendous sacrifice to leave your job and your family for a year. They need all the support they can get from their Families and communities."

      Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is a Department of Defense supported organization that protects the rights and maintains positive relationships between civilian employers and Reserve or National Guard employees.

      "The interaction between employers and employees is what it is all about; it opens their eyes and shows the Soldiers that they are not alone," said Frank Brewster, chair of the West Virginia ESGR. "It's great for employers as many have never seen their employees in uniform before. They can see what they're doing, how they're doing it and what they're carrying. They're here because they care."

      "I continue to be awestruck every time I see the appreciation of the Soldiers when they see that their employers came to visit them," said Ed Bowman, executive director and program support specialist of the West Virginia ESGR. "The mutual respect and camaraderie is impressive. The Soldiers have smiles on their faces and are motivated to show off their military talents. It's impressive and moving at the same time."

      Employers and media outlets traveled from West Virginia to Volk Field and then were bused to Forward Operating Base Liberty where they experienced MREs (meals, ready-to eat) as they reconnected with their Soldiers. Lunch was filled with training and work-related stories, Soldiers teaching their employers how to open the MREs and how to heat them as well as Soldiers bundling their employers into flak jackets and Kevlar helmets. Later, the travelers were briefed on training by Maj. Paul W. Maetzold, the officer in charge of the Situational Training Exercise (STX) lane with the 1st, 340th Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade.

      "With as much realistic, repetitive training as possible, our combat-experienced trainers are preparing your Soldiers how to handle in-theater situations," Maetzold said. 

      Maetzold and Master Sgt. John A. Harrington, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the STX lane with the 1st, 340th, led the tour through sections of the STX lane and through the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) petting zoo, which allows a safe, up-close look at different types of IEDs, detonators and IED camouflage tactics. The ESGR group watched 111th Soldiers clear weapons and fire test shots, patrol in formation and respond to indirect fire before loading the bus and heading back to Volk Field for their flight home. 

      Police Sgt. Preston Hickman and Lt. Mark Janon volunteered to come and represent the Charleston, W. Va., Police Department.

      "We respect all of them and what they are doing," said Hickman. "Even if they are not employed with us, they are employed with someone else. We respect their sacrifice and the dedication of leaving their Families, homes and jobs."

      Friends and co-workers from the West Virginia State Police Office visited Spc. Ricardo A. Phillips, a Soldier with the 111th Engineer Brigade. "It shows they care," he said. "It means a lot to know you have people at home that care about you."

(Justinger is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)


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