Thursday, October 23, 2008

TOP STORY > >Civic leaders from 7 states see base, learn about Air National Guard

By Master Sgt. Bob Oldham
189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Fifty-five civic leaders from seven states climbed on aircraft, viewed C-130 simulators, fired rifles in a firearm training simulator and received briefings here Oct. 23 as part of the Air National Guard’s Business and Industry Days.

Additionally, they flew on Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters to nearby Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock to watch an airfield assault demonstration. To close the event, they witnessed a formal retreat ceremony.

Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley, Director of the Air National Guard, said the need for employer support of Guard members is at an all-time high.

“We’re at war, and it’s a long war,” General McKinley said in a media interview on the base’s flightline. “We’ve got to continue to outreach to the community.”

Three main efforts drive that outreach: to ensure families are well taken care of, to ensure Guard members are taken care of and to ensure employers understand a Guard member’s sacrifice. “Today, we’re focusing on the employers,” General McKinley said.

One message the general said he tells employers is that Guard members bring sought-after characteristics to any job.

“The National Guard brings great qualities to the work force - the military workforce and the civilian workforce,” General McKinley said. “We’re a drug-free organization. We have high physical fitness standards. Our education standards are extremely high.”

Employers were enthusiastic in their support of the Guard.

“We cherish our Guard members,” said Vincent Horton, Geo Group, Inc. from Hobbs, N.M. “We know and understand what we need to do to meet their needs.”

Another employer said B&I Days opened her eyes.

“I’m getting ready to hire, and this excellent program today is putting a new light on my hiring decision,” said Carla Helton, with the U.S. Postal Service in Candenton, Mo.

Local military leaders were happy to show off the state’s capabilities.

“We think this is a great opportunity to showcase not only the 189th [Airlift Wing] but the Air National Guard in this region of the United States and demonstrate employer support to the Guard and Reserve and express our appreciation for everything [employers] do,” said Maj. Gen. Bill Wofford, Arkansas’ adjutant general.

Civic leaders came from Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.

Brig. Gen. Riley Porter, Arkansas Air National Guard commander, echoed General McKinley’s comments. General Porter owns a family business in Helena-West Helena, Ark., and said he knows first-hand the challenges small business owners face when making personnel decisions.

“[Guard members] come with a set of values employers are looking for,” he said, citing integrity, service before self and excellence in duty performance. He said those same Air Force core values are also appreciated by the civilian workforce. (Arkansas Army Guard Staff Sgt. Chris Durney contributed to this article.)


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