McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- More than 90 civic, business and military leaders from 11 Northeast states traveled to The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center here, April 28-30, for the National Guard Bureau's Business and Industry Days.
With more than half of America's fighting forces consisting of the Reserve components, employers play a critical role in the defense of our nation.
Business and Industry Days is designed to give them a better understanding of the mission of the Air National Guard, the responsibilities and training of its citizen Airmen, and how this can benefit them as employers.
"During their trip they get to see just exactly what the Air Guard is all about," said Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Moisio, deputy director of the Air National Guard. "We show them some of what goes on here and get them talking to us. We want them to understand exactly what they are doing by hiring and supporting guardsmen."
Establishing positive relationships with employers is important to servicemembers because it helps to minimize the stress that sometimes comes with balancing military and civilian life.
"It's always good to expose what we do and who our Airmen are," said Chief Master Sgt. Chris Muncy, the Command Chief Master Sgt. of the Air National Guard. "These employers are key to the morale and welfare of our troops...for them to understand us is huge."
The employers, who represent top businesses such as Bank of America and the Hershey Company, and industries ranging from manufacturing to law enforcement, arrived on military aircraft along with key National Guard members from their respective states.
After a friendly welcome from National Guard Bureau, Training and Education Center, and 134th Air Refueling Wing personnel, they began a full schedule of activities designed to introduce them to the training opportunities available to their employees through Air National Guard membership.
Events included information on employer support programs, tours of the base and aircraft, and a variety of team building activities.
The highlight of the program was the experiential learning events held at the Training and Education Center's Leadership Evaluation Course.
This outdoor obstacle course is used to reinforce lessons learned in the classroom. Using simulated scenarios, these employers got to experience how the enlisted professional military education courses held here teach Airmen to apply lessons in communications, resource management, problem solving, teamwork, leadership, and followership to real world situations.
Whether they got to lead a patrol into enemy territory to repair a damaged communications site or crossed a rope bridge and scaled a cliff to deliver badly needed medical supplies...a good time was had by all.
"This training is directly transferrable to not only our students but to these business and industry leaders," said Chief Master Sgt. Chris Coyne, chief of the center's transformative education branch. "We know the challenges and difficulties (they) face in allowing their guardsmen to go away to school."
"We take that very, very seriously," continued Coyne. "And we're very proud of the fact that when people leave our courses, they're ready to lead...and they're going to do that mostly in their (employers) organizations, not in ours."
Many of the leaders walked away from the event with not only a better understanding of the value of the training military members receive here, but a deeper appreciation for the practical skills that training provides.
Many also expressed opinions that were reflective of an overwhelming pride and patriotism for our military services and it's highly motivated and educated members.
"This has been an outstanding experience," said Timothy Farrell, a senior vice president for Bank of America, a company that actively recruits military personnel. "As a major company in this country today, we feel we have support our military services. So, what better way to support them than by looking for new associates that can benefit both our company and our country?"
"Our goal was to give them as great an awareness as possible in a short amount of time of what it is that their employees, our military members, are experiencing here and the value of the product they get back," said Col. Richard B. Howard, the commander of the Training and Education Center.
Mission accomplished, said many of the employers.
"This experience has been a blast," said Barbara McLaughlin, the director of corporate relations for Northeast Delta Dental in Concord, N.H. "I wanted to come down here and see the folks who are on the front lines of our defense so it's been a lot of fun to be here."
"It's been great," agreed Ann Miller, senior vice president of human resources for Freedom Federal Credit Union in Hartford County, Maryland. "Everybody here has been wonderful to us, absolutely wonderful, so it gives us a really positive feel for the military services."
Eight Massachusetts business and industry leaders boarded a military C-26 aircraft and headed to Knoxville to attend theNational Guard Bureau sponsored Business and Industry Days event at The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center.
Massachusetts participants included: Monserrate Quinnones, Massachusetts Department of Corrections, James Koehler, Gateway Regional High School, Patrick Flavin, TJX Companies, Capt. Steven Hughes, Massachusetts State Police, Rachel Gillette, Wareham School Committee, Oswald Mondejar, Partners Healthcare, David Vierra, Falmouth Town Moderator, and Anthony Resnick of the City of Chicopee.