EMPLOYERS, COMMUNITY LEADERS LEARN ABOUT NATIONAL GUARD IN BOSS LIFT
ASTORIA The C23 Sherpa army cargo plane touched down in Astoria Wednesday bringing more than 20 people from Union and Wallowa counties and the Baker City and Ontario areas to Camp Rilea.
Beside it, already on the runway, an identical cargo plane had landed with civilians from Pendleton, Hermiston and The Dalles.
The group was hosted for the day as part of Operation: Boss Lift, the brainchild of the Department of Defense's Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program.
These employers and community leaders come to get a sense of what their hometown men and women are undergoing as part of the National Guard's specialized training for deployment to Iraq.
The Eastern Oregon Army National Guard, 3rd Batallion, 116th Cavalry was recently
put on alert for potential mobilization.
After a briefing by Maj. William B. Cole, and a military lunch of ready-to-eat meals or MREs, guests were first shuttled by bus to watch soldiers undergoing individual weapons qualification testing. With M16 rifles, the Guard men and women shot at pop-up targets at ranges from 50 to 500 meters.
Another highlight of the day was the opportunity to visit with Charlie Company during land navigation training. Land Nav, as the Army calls it, is an operation designed to train soldiers to find their way from point A to point B in the dark, in the daylight, with or without a map, using compasses and coordinates.
At the end of the day, the group was again able to visit with soldiers in the classroom where they were studying, among other subjects, nuclear, biological and chemical (or NBC) training.
Deborah Hayes, representing Joseph Electric, says she believes she is the only employer in Wallowa County employing a National Guard member.
"And there are only three of us," she says, laughing, "so if he goes, we lose one-third of our workforce."
Hayes says she came to Camp Rilea Wednesday so she could show her support for employee Marc Christman. It is her first time as a Boss Lift participant.
"I think this program is a really good idea," she says. "I wish they could make it available to more people. Everyone ought to see what these men and women do."
Although Wallowa Memorial Hospital Administrator Larry Davy has no Guard members in his employ, he says he also came to show support for the National Guard and what they are doing for the country.
"I'm impressed," Davy says. "It sure gives you a good perspective of the quality of these soldiers."
Wes Faulk, who owns Gem Stop Fuel in La Grande, has two Guard members in his employ. He says Operation: Boss Lift is just one way to show support for the Guard.
"I'm real impressed with the morale of these troops," Faulk says, "and I think we all should do whatever we can to support the entire military."