Janesville bosses take a ride with Uncle Sam
The purpose was for employers to learn about what their employees do when they leave their jobs to spend time with the National Guard or Reserves.
The Guard and Reserves’ Boss Lift program arranged the flight from Milwaukee to Norfolk, Va., for Janesville Police Chief David Moore, school district Superintendent Karen Schulte and about 25 others, mostly private company executives.
It wasn’t a totally free ride. All participants were required to take vacation for the three-day trip and pay their own lodging costs, so neither the city nor school district paid for the trip.
The group flew on a KC-135 Stratotanker. The tanker crew did its job en route, refueling a fighter aircraft.
“We saw jets fly right up to the tanker. That is pretty amazing,” Schulte said.
Boss Lift seeks to gain and maintain support from public and private employers and build relationships between employers and the military, according to military documents.
Members of the Guard or Reserves can nominate their bosses. Officer Chad Woodman, who has served in Afghanistan, nominated Moore. School maintenance worker Ron Conaway nominated Schulte.
Moore said his department is short-staffed when officers are away in the military, but it gets by.
Schulte said sometimes the district hires a substitute teacher, as when Parker High teacher Joe Kruser went to Iraq about six years ago. In Conaway’s case, maintenance work can be contracted. Sometimes, existing employees can cover, she said.
Employers are legally required to allow the part-time troops to deploy, but they can make it easy or difficult, Schulte said.
“I think it’s important that we make it easy,” she said.
“I always had great respect for our military and veterans but never had a chance to experience even a little part of their day, and certainly the flight over and back shows me that these flights are very uncomfortable,” Moore said.
Earplugs were required in the back of the noisy, dark refueling aircraft, which is the same airframe as the Boeing 707 without the amenities.
“There were four very small windows. I would liken it to a very dark tunnel with a few headlights on,” Moore said.
The aircraft sat on the tarmac with doors closed and no ventilation while the group waited to take off, Moore said.
Schulte said they estimated the temperature was 110 degrees inside.
In Virginia, participants ate at officers’ clubs but also were treated to meals ready to eat, or MREs, which are self-heating field rations.
“It actually was pretty good,” Moore said.
The group also toured Navy ships at Norfolk, where Schulte and Moore were impressed with how tight some of the living quarters are.
“It’s like shelves. You’re sleeping on a shelf,” Schulte marveled.
Moore said he was impressed by the use of technology, including robotic devices used for roadside bombs and remote-controlled flying drones.
“The men and women we met were well trained and dedicated,” Moore said. “They were technically savvy and very welcoming.”
Schulte said the group talked to troops in a wide variety of specialties, from mechanics to divers to pilots. All were well spoken and respectful, she said.
“One thing I heard over and over again was they train, train, train, so they’re ready,” she said.
The program also impressed on the bosses that these often skilled workers return to civilian life only to confront high unemployment rates.