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.
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
"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