The Boss Lift offers employers an opportunity to visit military installations throughout the nation to observe National Guard and Reserve members involved in training exercises.
For three local employers, Mike Redd, of Redd Mechanical, Billy Mendoza, of Denison Mines, and Gary Crowley, of Crowley Construction, it also allowed them a first-hand look as their employees began a year-long deployment to Afghanistan as members of the Utah National Guard’s 624th Engineer Company.
Local members of the Utah National Guard’s 624th include Ivan Carr, David Carr (employed as a Process Mechanic at Denison Mines) Montana Carr, Jesse Barton (employed at Crowley Construction) and Derrick Jones (employed as an Apprentice Plumber at Redd Mechanical).
On June, 13, about 150 soldiers of the Utah National Guard’s 624th Engineer Company departed Utah on the first leg of their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Just more than a week later, the Boss Lift program allowed employers to travel on a KC-135 Refueling Jet to Fort Bliss, where they were able to see their employees train and continue their preparation for deployment.
“We received a warm welcome from the commanding officers at Fort Bliss,” said Gary Crowley. “They expressed many, many times how much they appreciated the employers support and they gave us ideas of how we could support the troops during their time of deployment and after they return. The whole experience helped me realize what dedicated young men and women our service members are and how much we owe them.”
At Fort Bliss, the employers were shown around the base and were able to see some of what the troops will do and the equipment they will use.
The employers were allowed to fire a 50 caliber machine gun and wear the 40 pounds of protective armor and the other gear that the troops will wear in the 100 plus degree heat of Afghanistan.
For Billy Mendoza, the visit was not only an honor and a privilege, but he found himself eating in the same chow hall and reflecting on his own 2003 deployment. Mendoza was a member of the 1457th Engineer Company that was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Mike Redd said, “The objective of the trip was to give employers a better understanding of the Guardsman we employ, but we were able to see how critical they each are to their Unit’s success and we, each employer there, also came away with a feeling of absolute and intense gratitude.
“Each of these individuals are our employees and friends…they are volunteers, they are great soldiers, they are great people...they are our heroes!”
The employers bid the troops goodbye on Friday evening after a good meal in the mess hall and returned to Salt Lake City on Saturday morning.
In Salt Lake City, they observed a National Guard Unit returning after a year deployment in Afghanistan and got a glimpse of what it will be like in a year when our own local heroes return home.
“Hoooaaaaahhhhh!!!,” added Mendoza. “Hooah is an Army term that’s used meaning ‘we agree!’ We used this term a lot during our visit to Fort Bliss. 624th…Hooah!”