Sunday, September 3, 2017

'Like a kid in a candy store': Manager sits in on mid-air training with National Guard

After an intense safety briefing on emergency evacuation procedures — one that goes far beyond your typical airline safety spiel — Steve McGrath boards a 1964 aircraft, ready for his first training mission.

He isn’t a member of the military; he’s the manager of Tire Warehouse in Keene, attending a mid-air fueling training session with the National Guard as part of the Boss Lift program.

Boss Lift is organized by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program established in 1972 to promote good working relationships between guardsmen and reservists and their civilian employers.

Part of the ESGR’s mission is to educate those who employ of members of the National Guard and Reserve by allowing them to see what their employees do when they’re not at their civilian jobs.

According to Tom Bullock, the chief of employer engagement for ESGR, Boss Lifts don’t happen all the frequently because they’re coordinated with regularly scheduled training missions. That way, there’s no additional cost to the taxpayer.

McGrath was signed up for the event by his former employee, Joe Phinney, who worked at Tire Warehouse for about 17 years before returning to the National Guard full-time. Phinney left Tire Warehouse in 2008 and is now on active duty in Concord, where he works as a flight operation specialist.

As part of the Boss Lift program, McGrath attended a mid-air fuel injection mission in August, in which fuel is transferred from a large tanker plane to a smaller fighter aircraft using a boom.

Bullock describes the precise movements of the planes in such close proximity with one another as an “air ballet.”

For McGrath, attending the training exercise was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Flying in formation, to have another refueling aircraft flying either directly in front of us or directly to the side of us, is something you just never see. Then to have another aircraft come up behind you where it feels like you could touch the nose,” he said, “the way you can see into the cockpit and see the pilot of the other aircraft is another part you just would never see in any other environment but this.”

The employers taken up on Boss Lifts are allowed unrestricted access to the aircraft, which means they can go into the cockpit, ask the pilot questions and explore the rear boom. McGrath, who has training as a hot-air balloon pilot, said learning about the equipment on the aircraft was a highlight of the experience.

Phinney agreed.

“I didn’t get to see him much,” Phinney said of the trip. “He was all over the aircraft just like a kid in a candy store.”

Seeing the guardsmen in action reiterated the dedication it takes to join the Guard or Reserve, McGrath said.

“For them to work five days for us and two for the National Guard and back for another six days with us would be a long stretch that would not be normal for most people,” he said. “It takes a pretty dedicated and hard-working person to be able to maintain that schedule month after month.”

Phinney said that, from a guardsman’s perspective, the program is important because it helps employers understand how needed their employees are in the Guard and Reserve.

“It gives the civilian employers that employ these guys an opportunity to actually get out and see what these guys really do, either on a training flight or on a support mission,” he said. “They get to be engaged and watch what they do on a day-to-day basis.”

McGrath described his experience with the Boss Lift program as “educational.”

“These part-time people have the same skill set as the full-time staff. They could have been working in a bank yesterday and flying a very high-tech aircraft today, and knowing that they have the proficiency to do so is pretty impressive,” he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

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