CONROE, Texas –
Very few people understand the critical relationship between the U.S. Army Reserve Soldier and the civilian employer. As a member of the dedicated federal reserve of the Army, the Reserve Soldier must rely heavily on their employer's continuous commitment and sacrifice; so, they can serve the nation while maintaining rewarding civilian employment.
To witness such a relationship, the people of central Texas do not have to look far. Nested in the small town of Conroe is 1st Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 11th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade.
In its first-ever, the air assault battalion hosted an Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve Boss Lift — with the support of the Texas ESGR — at the Aviation Support Facility, Oct. 19. The event demonstrated to approximately 60 local civilian employers the unique skillsets and talents of their Army Reserve Soldiers and allowed the 1-158th to express their sincere appreciation for sharing their workplace talent with America's Army Reserve.
"Civilian employers are every bit as much a partner in the nation's security as we are," said Brig. Gen. Jami C. Shawley, commander of the Army Reserve Aviation Command. "As an organization, we cannot do what we do unless we have the capacity and support from our surrounding area. Everyone serves when they are serving in the right direction."
During the event, civilian employers were given a special tour in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and were witness to the operations behind the Forward Arming and Refueling Point, as well as the activities inside a mobile tactical operations center, to name a few.
Lori Davis, division director for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, was one of the event attendees. Overall, she said the ESGR Boss Lift was a fantastic event to observe the partnership between the TDCJ and the Army Reserve Center in Conroe. However, of all the events that took place during the boss lift, Davis says there is one particular moment that she will never forget for the rest of her life.
"[Our pilot said], 'Ladies and gentlemen, you're getting ready to hear the sounds of freedom,'" she said. "And that was a very powerful thought; to realize that being a small part of the partnership links into something that's so much bigger."
"Seeing that bigger link to the picture makes you proud as an American, thankful as a Texan, and more specifically proud to be involved in this particular Reserve Center," she added.
Sharon Jones, a nurse practitioner with Avenue 360 Health and Wellness out of Houston, agreed with Davis.
"The event was so well organized, and the people here are so friendly and knowledgeable," she said. "We saw real equipment, real men and women doing what they do for us and our country. It was a thrilling event. I loved it!"
In her closing remarks, Shawley said the Army Reserve benefits from the training and technical skills Soldiers gain from their civilian employment. Likewise, she said employers benefit from the skills and training the Soldiers learn from the Reserve.
"Sometimes technical skills translate over," she said, "but a hundred percent of the time their mental and emotional resiliency, their ability to power through the pain, hunger, fatigue, discomfort, and ambiguity is unparallel in the civilian world. Leadership is not the same as management, and while you can train them for management, believe me, I will prepare them for leadership."
As the 11th ECAB motto goes, "We make the difference!"