News: Pittsburgh businesses strengthen relationship with local Army Reserves
Story by Sgt. Joseph Bitet
CORAOPOLIS, Pa. - Over the last 10 years, through support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the mission of the Army Reserve, has shifted from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. With that shift, it is crucial to the mission and success of the Warrior/Citizen for commands to participate in programs that help civilians and reserve employers better understand what we do.
In support of this need, the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command hosted an Honorary Commanders Association outing to educate 22 local business leaders about the military and the 316th. The HCA is a local community relations program endorsed by the 316th and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.
With the 316th ESC scheduled to deploy in 2012 increasing employer understanding takes on a more personal meaning.
“As we continue to support the war effort, it’s very important to give employers a better understanding of what we do,” said Col., David Brown, 316th ESC Chief of Staff. “The goal and intent of the program is to open communication and collaborate with local businesses.”
In an interview with Free Enterprise Magazine, Lt. Gen. Jack D. Stultz, commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command said, “I want to partner with the business community to recruit, train, and retain workers and reservists and place them in good civilian jobs. The Army Reserve and companies are both in the business of training leaders- military, business, and civic leaders. We are continuing a dialogue with small businesses and want to be as flexible as we can to meet their requirements.
The one-day outing began in the morning with 316th Army cooks preparing breakfast for the guests in a mobile field kitchen. After eating they were taken to a weapons simulator where they were given a training brief and fired handguns, machine guns, assault rifles, and rocket launchers. The simulator demonstration was intended to be a fun and educational way to inform the civilians on soldier training.
"It was both different and fun to learn how to shoot the .50 caliber machine gun," said Alisa Faulk, general manager of the Courtyard Marriott in Settlers Ridge. "I was told it would rock me back like a Harley motorcycle, but I was able to control it."
Following weapon training the civilians were given a chance to try the Honda Smart Trainer, that lead to the sound of motorcycles crashing and people laughing. The HST simulates the types of traffic situations that motorcyclists can expect to encounter on public roads. The Honda simulator is designed for more than fun and games; it is one of many safety resources the Army employs to keep Soldiers safe when not in uniform.
Driving the motorcycle was very fun and scary, said Denise Verzi Goetz, manager of the Radisson Hotel Pittsburgh. Verzi was the first one to use the HST and set the bar for everyone else.
Master Sgt. Joe Herman and two soldiers put on a small demonstration for the leaders to show them the some of the basics of the Modern Army Combatives Program. Herman explained the history of the combatives program, why it is a priority for all Soldiers to learn and answered many questions.
Concluding the day’s events was an opportunity for civilians to try on Soldiers equipment including helmets and body armor. Prompting many questions and comments including Frank Fera, from AAA Business solutions and a veteran of Korea who remarked, “This helmet is a lot stronger than the leather strapped helmet I wore.”
“This was a wonderful opportunity to be able to enlighten local businesses about what the challenges are for our employees who are in the Reserves,” said Sally Haas, President of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce. "What we are hoping for is citizens who come here on behalf of businesses is to find appreciation for our military counterparts." In addition, Haas added, “I can truly say, I haven't seen grins on people's faces that big in a long time. “
With the increased strain on reserve forces being evident, it appears that programs such as the HCA will continue to try to ease the burden on service members and employers by promoting mutual understanding, and open lines of communication. The war effort puts an increased burden not only on the soldiers, but on our country as a whole.