News: South Dakota employers experience military life
Story by Sgt. Mark VanGerpen
RAPID CITY, S.D. – Nineteen employers from across South Dakota received a small sample of military life at the South Dakota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’s Bosslift, during the Golden Coyote Training Exercise, June 11-12, 2014.
Nominated for the event by their military employees, the employers experienced weapons training, convoys, flight simulators, combat scenarios, early mornings and military meals in two fast-paced days at Camp Rapid and Ellsworth Air Force Base.
“Employers oftentimes don’t understand what it is their employee does for their military duty,” said Maj. Lona Christensen, program director, South Dakota ESGR. “When we bring employers out, they see the scope of responsibility their service member may have. They see talents and skills that they may not see at their place of employment. So it really helps them to see what it is their service member does, what they’re responsible for and how many service members they may be leading. It also allows them to take a look inside the military as to what we do, how we train and how we support our communities.”
The days started early, with Humvee convoys and a weapons simulator, giving the employers a taste of what it’s like to fire an M4 rifle and be part of a mounted patrol. Drill sergeants taught them the basics of marching in true drill sergeant fashion.
They also saw Soldiers practicing hand-to-hand combat, reacting to enemy contact and care under fire – or first aid on the battlefield.
All of it highlighted the vastly different lifestyles that Guard members and Reservists lead when they leave the workplace for military duty.
Debra Mehrer, nurse manager for the adolescent and chemical dependency program at the Human Services Center in Yankton, oversees four National Guard members in her department. Seeing military training firsthand gave her a better understanding of those employees’ responsibilities on drill weekends and their two-week military commitments during the summer.
“Everything has been an eye-opening experience, seeing what all the Soldiers do to prepare and what the training all entails,” Mehrer said. “I give them a lot of credit, because it is a lot of hard work. I’m tired from just two days, but these young men and women are up early, probably out late, and it’s just day after day. I give them credit for their stamina, endurance and patience.”
Not all of the training was on the ground. Employers also got in the cockpit of a flight simulator at Ellsworth Air Force Base, toured a B-1 bomber and took a Black Hawk helicopter flight past Mount Rushmore.
Tyler Ruhd, assistant director of admissions with Dakota State University, said the whole experience showed him not only the vast knowledge base necessary to being proficient as a Soldier or Airman, but also how to alter his own leadership style to more effectively communicate with the military employee under him.
“This was an opportunity to see what my employee does on his one weekend a month, two weeks a year obligated duties,” Ruhd said. “Instead of just signing off on his time sheet, I can actually physically see what he actually does.”
ESGR has hosted Bosslifts in a variety of locations, usually at military bases where employer’s service members are mobilizing for deployment. However, Golden Coyote offers civilian employers a more extensive list of training experiences, due to the large number of service members who attend every year.
“It’s been a great experience,” Ruhd said. “I definitely recommend it to anyone else out there. I’ll definitely be talking it up when I get back.”