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Soldiers display a howitzer for civilian employers during a June 9 Boss Lift event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is facilitating several Boss Lifts throughout 2021 with the goal of not only showing appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin Guardsmen, but also promoting understanding and cooperation. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Senior Airman Anya Hanson.

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Civilian employers of Wisconsin National guardsmen have had the opportunity to take part in several Wisconsin Boss Lift events throughout the summer.

The purpose of the Boss Lift program, run by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), is to show appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin National Guard members, while also helping to educate those employers about the service, sacrifice, and professionalism of their service member employees, all of whom may be called upon at any time to assist with federal and state missions.

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Soldiers discuss the workings of a medical vehicle and M249 light machine gun with civilian employers during a June 9 Boss Lift event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is facilitating several Boss Lifts throughout 2021 with the goal of not only showing appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin Guardsmen, but also promoting understanding and cooperation. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Senior Airman Anya Hanson

The past year has been especially trying for some Guard members and their employers as thousands were activated for the COVID-19 mission and civil support missions in addition to overseas deployments.

Traditional drill-status Guard members who work full time for civilian employers were asked or required multiple times to immediately step away from their civilian jobs and careers to support their communities with little notice and unknown durations. In addition to domestic mobilizations, hundreds of Guardsmen were deployed overseas last year.

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Civilian employers try MREs for the first time during a June 9 Boss Lift event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is facilitating several Boss Lifts throughout 2021 with the goal of not only showing appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin Guardsmen, but also promoting understanding and cooperation. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Senior Airman Anya Hanson.

The National Guard relies on strong support from families, communities, and employers in order to stay ready for these missions. Thankfully, many civilian employers remained flexible and were understanding of the responsibilities that their Soldier or Airmen carry for the greater good. These Soldiers and Airmen in turn can nominate their employer or supervisor to participate in one of the Boss Lift events or for an annual awards program.

“I think it’s really important that we support everyone military,” said Seth Breitenfeldt, a floor supervisor with Robinson Metal Incorporated. “I have a lot of family members in the service and I think the hardest transition for them is coming back to whatever we would know as normal life. So in our business we prioritize being flexible with their schedule, with their life while continuing to give them opportunities to grow.”

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Civilian employers tour the Commemorative Area and Museum during a June 9 Boss Lift event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is facilitating several Boss Lifts throughout 2021 with the goal of not only showing appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin Guardsmen, but also promoting understanding and cooperation. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Senior Airman Anya Hanson.

Boss Lift events range from UH-60 Black Hawk flights to Fort McCoy, to KC-135 flights out of Milwaukee’s 128th Refueling Wing to observe in-flight refueling of F-16s from the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison. Several such events are scheduled or have already occurred for this summer’s annual training season.

In some cases, employers get to see their employee during their annual training period to get a better understanding of what they do during their drill weekends, training periods, mobilizations, and deployments. Better understanding and cooperation overall is ESGR’s goal in facilitating Boss Lifts.

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Civilian employers prepare to board Blackhawks to return to their hometowns after a tour of Fort McCoy during a June 9 Boss Lift event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is facilitating several Boss Lifts throughout 2021 with the goal of not only showing appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin Guardsmen, but also promoting understanding and cooperation. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Senior Airman Anya Hanson.

“Usually we’re gone two weeks out of the summer for annual training, so it leaves the employers short staffed and it puts a burden on them,” Cpl. Tate Shafer, a lightweight vehicle mechanic in Company B, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, said. “It’s important for us to show our appreciation so that when we’re mobilized or activated, they know we appreciate them appreciating us.”

Not only is civilian employer support important for the well-being of the Soldier or Airmen they employ, but it’s also important for Wisconsin’s emergency readiness and the country’s military readiness as a whole.

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Civilian employers and their guests talk to UH-60 Black Hawk pilots before taking off to attend a June 9 Boss Lift event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is facilitating several Boss Lifts throughout 2021 with the goal of not only showing appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin Guardsmen, but also promoting understanding and cooperation. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Senior Airman Anya Hanson.

“We take this time to share these moments with these employers, because they play such a vital role in the national defense of our country,” said Mike Proue, ESGR military outreach coordinator. “They don’t really realize that they’re kind of a hero in their own sense. By providing our citizen Soldiers and Airmen the ability to do their job and release them from their responsibilities and pressures of their job to go and defend or provide a service for our country at a fraction of the cost of maintaining a full-time force for taxpayers. The employer plays an extraordinarily vital role.”

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Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve guides pose with civilian employers in front of the Fort McCoy Commemorative Area during a June Boss Lift event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Wisconsin ESGR is facilitating several Boss Lifts throughout 2021 with the goal of not only showing appreciation for civilian employers of Wisconsin Guardsmen, but also promoting understanding and cooperation. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Senior Airman Anya Hanson.

Supportive employers are one of the critical elements of ensuring service members are ready, and ultimately the National Guard is ready, for any state or national emergency.