Boss Lift betters employer understanding of soldier training requirements

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Story by SSG Doug Roles on 10/27/2017
By Staff Sgt. Doug Roles
28 ID Public Affairs
Pa. Army National Guard soldiers know what it's like to tell civilian employers they need time off work for training. A recent Boss Lift event at Fort Indiantown Gap gave employers a look at what their civilian-soldiers do when they have to be out of the office or off the factory floor for days or weeks at a time.
Staff from 18 employers from across the region participated in the Oct. 16 Boss Lift. This visit organized by 28th Infantry Division leaders and Pennsylvania's Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR) began with briefings on the division's operations and capabilities. Then, bosses learned about vehicles and weapons before getting to "fire" those weapons and "drive" military vehicles in a simulator.
Retired Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, ESGR state chairman, said the goal of the program is to get employers to support and value the military service of their employees. He said having that understanding is especially important as soldiers need additional time away from work to prepare for upcoming deployments. Craig said having employers get a firsthand look at the military training builds a bridge between the Guard and the business community.
"They're usually quite astounded at what the soldiers of the Pennsylvania Guard have done in their overseas deployments and realize they still have deployments here in the commonwealth when there is an emergency," Craig said. "It's usually quite eye opening for the employers and they usually enjoy what they're doing."
One of the bosses, Christine Szala who heads Institute of Notre Dame, a Catholic girls' school in Baltimore said her tour of the Gap gave her a new perspective on the demands of military training.
"I think this is a great event; it's so informative," Szala said. "I underestimated the amount of specialization in the military."
Szala said she was asked by Lt. Col. Rolando Rodriquez to attend the event and participated to get a better sense of what Rodriquez, a physics teacher, is doing when he needs time away from the institute. On duty Rodriquez serves as the division's engineer. At the school, he chairs the math department and coaches field hockey.
"I'm glad she (Szala) was willing to take time to see what I do and to have a better understanding of why Guard soldiers need time away from their civilian jobs," Rodriquez said. "The school has been very supportive and flexible."
Bald Eagle Area School District, in Centre County, sent several of its administrators to the event. Jeff Miles, district superintendent, said the district's approach is that if an employee needs a temporary military leave, "We're going to make it work."
"I'm exceedingly impressed by the equipment and the knowledge base these soldiers have," Miles said.
The employers visited the Gap's United Service Organizations (USO) facility, where soldiers can relax, watch TV and use a computer lab in their off-duty time. They also toured a static display of vintage military equipment and learned about the history of the 28th Infantry Division (America's oldest Army division) from Maj. Gen. Andrew Schafer, division commander.
"The boss lift provides an opportunity for employers to see why their personnel require time away from the job," Schafer said. "It's great to have them come out, get to know us and see what it takes to be ready for state and federal missions."
The bosses also learned about the reemployment rights of soldiers under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) and the responsibilities soldiers have to give timely notice of absence from work for training or deployment.
George Mentzer, an ESGR representative, explained that ESGR, a Department of Defense program, can help resolve employer/soldier issues at the lowest possible level. ESGR also gives soldiers a way to recognize the support of employers through the Freedom and Patriot awards programs. Soldiers can learn more about nominating employers for awards at:
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