Civilian Employers Learn About Air National Guard Operations

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
  • 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Twenty-one employers, or bosses, who have Citizen-Airmen employees toured the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing, here March 6. As part of a "Boss Lift" coordinated with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), employers were given an insider's view of the unit's operations.

     Participants learned about the Air National Guard unit's history, whose lineage through the 182nd Fighter Squadron is traced back to the European Theater of World War II, and its current F-16 combat fighter training and state disaster preparedness missions. Additionally, those in attendance watched a video that detailed why the 149th Fighter Wing is in a position to continue combat fighter training far into the 21st century by transitioning from the F-16 to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, if selected by policymakers.

     Established in 1972, ESGR is a component of the Department of Defense (DoD), residing in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. Its mission is "to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve component members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee's military commitment."

     Roland Keller, ESGR Ombudsman for Texas, said that, when times of emergency arise and members of the Guard are activated, sacrifices are made by not only the Citizen-Airmen and their families, "but also their civilian employers." The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act places certain responsibilities on employers of military personnel, and Keller said ESGR works with the DoD and local units, such as the 149th Fighter Wing, to "mitigate impact to employers."

     As part of the tour, employers viewed an F-16, learned about its functions and capabilities from Col. Michael Ogle, a pilot and group commander, and noncommissioned officer aircraft maintenance technicians. Employers saw up-close some of the combat firearms that are used by security forces, the role of night vision in F-16 combat operations, and a medical tent and equipment used during humanitarian and disaster relief missions.

     The visit culminated with the employers observing F-16 in-flight refueling operations from a KC-135 Stratotanker. Lt. Col. Michael "Bones" McCoy, an F-16 instructor pilot, described the flight as a win-win, since employers got a unique opportunity to see the 149th Fighter Wing in action, and "pilots got to log training for the refueling mission." Colonel McCoy explained that having the civilian employers on the KC-135 did not hinder the unit's primary duty of training combat ready F-16 pilots, and said "aerial refueling is built into student training, and is required for graduation" from pilot training.

     Many of the employers said that this was their first experience with the military, and appreciated the opportunity to visit. Keith Christian, a manager for H-E-B, a grocery store chain which has its corporate headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, said he "never experienced anything like this." Christian said his father served in the U.S. Army before he was born, but that he was never exposed to military life or the activities of a military unit.

     After the tour, and seeing the F-16s in action, Jed Garmon, the end shop service manager for Cummins Southern Plains' facility in San Antonio, Texas, said, "Wow. What a job!" Garmon further stated that he "learned a lot, and didn't realize there was so much medical and disaster relief" preparations taking place at the Air National Guard unit.

     During the program's final briefing, Lt. Col. John Kane, the 149th Fighter Wing's vice commander, said the support of employers is critical to successfully accomplish the unit's missions, particularly when it comes to disaster relief. In recent years, Texas Air National Guard forces have been activated with relatively short notice to respond to hurricanes and wildfires that struck the state and region.

     Additionally, Citizen-Airmen from Texas have been called upon to serve with the active-duty Air Force to defend U.S. national security interests overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in other areas of strategic significance.

     Colonel Kane concluded that having the employers visit and "see how we do business is a way to say thank you."