By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
A cacophony of gunshots, gearshifts and shouts filled the Warrior Skills Training Center Monday, but few soldiers were living out the dismounted patrols, gunfights and room clearance operations projected on the screens in front of them.
Instead, sneaker- and camera-clad civilians directed the virtual action, as part of First Army Division West's and the North Carolina National Guard's "boss lift," designed to give employers an idea of what their guardsmen employees have been experiencing for the last six weeks.
Soldiers from the 113th Sustainment Brigade, North Carolina National Guard, have been training at North Fort Hood with Division West training brigades in preparation for their upcoming yearlong deployment to Kuwait.
About 30 of their bosses - including Melissa Alexander, chief probate officer for the Middle District of North Carolina - attended the two-day training, which ended Monday following a visit to the state-of-the-art training center.
"It's been really amazing," said Alexander after finishing up a computerized dismounted patrol with the coaching of her employee, probation officer and National Guard Lt. Col. Robert Wright. "Flying over here on the C-130 was really amazing."
Alexander and her fellow bosses flew to Fort Hood on military aircraft Sunday and spent the afternoon touring Fort Hood - to include an introduction to the MRAP armored vehicle, the Army's newest - and an old classic: the MRE, or meal-ready-to-eat.
Wright said Alexander's interest in coming to see him before he deploys - in addition to his office's commitment to checking in on his family while he's gone - means a lot.
"You see a lot of signs and bumper stickers saying, 'We support our troops,' but when you match that with actions, it has a different meaning," he said.
As is required by law in most cases, Wright's job will be available to him upon his return.
It will take Leslie Dula, human resources director at Greensboro, N.C.-based firm Microtech, three people to fill Sgt. Charmeen Dalton's position while she's gone due to her proficiency as a services buyer, but the employer said the sacrifice is worth it.
Traveling to Fort Hood was an attempt to support Dalton in her personal sacrifice, said Dula. "It's just to show Sgt. Dalton that we support her in supporting her country, and to show her how much we appreciate her."
Dalton, a former active-duty soldier, said the boss lift would help Microtech see what she does when she "disappears" each month to train.
The trip was organized by the North Carolina National Guard and the North Carolina branch of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve advocacy and education organization, or ESGR.
Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk, commander of the North Carolina Guard, said boss lifts help foster better relationships between guardsmen - 80 percent of whom are part-time military - and their civilian employers, who also sacrifice during a deployment, financially and otherwise.
"What we stress is that we need to keep National Guardsmen employed," he said. "It's absolutely vital to what we do."
Pat Fulcher, employer outreach director of the North Carolina ESGR, called boss lifts "a win-win" for soldiers and their employers, whom she urged to stay in contact during the deployment to ensure smooth transitions back to work in 12 months.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.