Civilian Employers Get Inside Look at Soldier Life

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Drill sergeants with the 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command (IET), instruct civilian employers of the National Guard and Reserve on marksmanship basics during their visit to the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) 2000 at Fort Jackson, S.C., Aug. 12, 2015. The visit was part of a two-day tour of Fort Jackson held Aug. 12-13, 2015 and was intended to familiarize them with what their National Guard and Reserve employees experience while performing military duties. Photo by Sgt. Javier Amador, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — Civilian employers of National Guard and Reserve service members, as well as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and the North Carolina Military Support Corporation (NCMSC) representatives, got a glimpse of what life is like for their Soldier employees during a two-day visit to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Aug. 12-13, 2015.

“The last two days here are what is called a Boss Lift and it’s something that the Department of Defense and the Employers of the Guard and Reserve do to introduce civilian employers to a little slice of the military world,” said Col. Daniel Arkins, chief of staff for the 108th Training Command (IET), “And in this case, since the 108th has the drill sergeant production mission and the drill sergeant support mission for the basic training mission, we wanted them to come and see a little slice of life at a basic training unit.”

Arkins also went on to say that the visit to Fort Jackson was a joint effort between the 108th Training Command (IET) and the North Carolina chapter of the ESGR. In addition to the civilian employers, the South Carolina chapter of the ESGR was also in attendance.

The visit began with a stop at the 120th Reception Battalion (AG) where citizens spend their first few days as they begin their transformation from civilians into Soldiers. It is the place where they get their first military haircut, receive their first initial issue of uniforms and are administratively processed.

After lunch at an Army dining facility, they proceeded to a firing range for a question and answer session with the personnel of Task Force Marshall. Task Force Marshall is tasked with training U.S. Navy personnel in marksmanship as part of their pre-deployment preparations.

Next in line was a trip to the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 (EST 2000) weapons simulator where, after a brief block of instruction, everyone got the opportunity to test their newly acquired marksmanship skills.

The final stop, on the first day, was the Victory Tower obstacle course. Here, the visitors watched Soldiers demonstrate how to rappel down a 50-foot wall. An instructor explained the techniques to successfully negotiate the obstacle. At the conclusion of the instructions, the visitors got the chance to test their courage and physical strength by rappelling down the wall.

Drill Sgt. (Sgt. 1st Class) Eugene Serrano, a Drill Sergeant Leader at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, guides civilian employers as well as representatives of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) through a tour of the USADSA at Fort Jackson, S.C., Aug. 13, 2015. The visit to the USADSA was part of a two-day tour of Fort Jackson held Aug. 12-13 2015 and was intended to familiarize them with what their National Guard and Reserve employees experience while performing military duties. Photo by Sgt. Javier Amador, 108th Training Command (IET), Public Affairs

The visit ended on the second day with a Basic Combat Training (BCT) graduation, the United States Army Drill Sergeant Academy and the Fort Jackson Museum.

Boss Lifts, such as the one described here, are a critical part of increasing the cooperation, as well as the understanding, between civilian employers, government agencies and the National Guard and Reserve Soldiers they employ.

“We always talk about the statistic that shows less than one percent of the U.S. Population serves or has served in the military so this is a great opportunity to teach the other 99%, particularly the employers, about what life for a Reserve Soldier is like. It also gives them a better appreciation for why their employees, who happen to be citizen/Soldiers, are asking for time off or additional time off beyond their two weeks of statutory annual training,” said Arkins.

The need to improve the employer/employee relationship, between the business sector and the National Guard and Reserve service members, is receiving an unprecedented amount of support. The latest initiative implemented to provide that support is known as the Army Reserve Public Private Partnership initiative, or P3i.

The P3i is a United States Army Reserve initiative administered by Erin Thede, who works directly in the Chief of the Army Reserves (OCAR) office. There, she conducts outreach, educates employers, develops programs and assists transitioning Veterans and Army Reserve Soldiers seeking civilian employment, explains Arkins.

Working hand in hand with the P3i program is the ESGR and the NCMSC, an organization that supports the ESGR by providing fund raising as well as other types of support. After a 39 year long Army career, Tony L. Clark, retired as a colonel while attached to the 108th Training Command (IET). Clark, an administrative support technician with the North Carolina ESGR, describes his organization’s mission and the intent of the visit.

“We’re a Department of Defense agency, with an all-volunteer staff except the support staff. Even though I was an ESGR volunteer, I am now on the support staff and our mission is to create an atmosphere with employers to hire Reserve Soldiers in order to garner support for these employees,” said Clark, “What we’re doing here, yesterday and today, is giving these employers a first-hand look at what their service members they employ are doing and the contributions they’re making. Employers can see these service members are not playing but working. They can also see the professionalism at Fort Jackson or wherever they go.”

Clark added that the ESGR works for all branches of the military so the Boss Lifts occur at military installations all around the country. He describes the main issue the ESGR is helping employers to deal with regarding their service member employees and what is offered to them in appreciation for their contributions.

“It’s tough having an employee that has to leave for two weeks or up to five weeks for schools or even a year or more if deployed,” said Clark. “In North Carolina we have very military friendly employers. I can tell you the majority of them just deal with it and a lot of them even provide exceptional benefits. We try to recognize this support through an awards program.”

While employers may have to make sacrifices when their citizen/Soldier goes away for training or a deployment, most will readily admit the value these employees represent to any organization and why they are worth keeping. Ruth Anderson, who represents Legal Shield Group Benefits and employs a Reserve Soldier, explains what they bring to the table.

“They are leaders, they are people who can plug into your business and contribute in a significant way and I think a lot of employers don’t realize the value of having a trained Veteran and what they can bring to their organization.”

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