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Employer support highlights ESGR day

Jennifer Hibbs answers questions from civilian employers during a morning briefing on ESGR day at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Aug. 3, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo provided by Staff Sgt. Lincoln Lease, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Jennifer Hibbs answers questions from civilian employers during a morning briefing on ESGR day at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Aug. 3, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo provided by Staff Sgt. Lincoln Lease, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Oregon Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Nicholas Hicks answers questions from (from left to right) Todd Hess and Jim Linkous, both from Portland, Ore., about the F-15 Eagle on display during ESGR day at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Aug. 3, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo provided by Staff Sgt. Lincoln Lease, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Oregon Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Nicholas Hicks answers questions from (from left to right) Todd Hess and Jim Linkous, both from Portland, Ore., about the F-15 Eagle on display during ESGR day at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Aug. 3, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo provided by Staff Sgt. Lincoln Lease, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Sept. 18, 2012 -- Almost any vantage point of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon can be spectacular, but from a boom operator's window aboard a KC-135 Stratotaker at 30,000 feet, the view can be especially magnificent.

Snapping images with his cell phone camera, Todd Hess was a recent guest aboard one of the aircraft, and he said he was captivated with the refueling precision that several F-15C Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing were conducting, as they flew above the park.

"I had no idea how graceful these pilots made this whole operation look, lining up, one after another to refuel and fly away," said Hess, a local business owner.

The KC-135 flight and refueling operation was just one of many demonstrations that civilian employers of the Oregon Air National Guard and Reserve experienced during the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Day, co-hosted last month by the 142nd Fighter Wing and the 304th Reserve Rescue Squadron here.

During this year's annual event, more than 100 local employers spent the day touring the base and attending a catered luncheon. 

Established in 1972, the ESGR program was developed by the Department of Defense to build understanding and promote military service between Guard and Reserve participants with their civilian employers. 

With most military members working full-time in civilian jobs, the ESGR event was an opportunity for employers to interact with guardsmen and reservists involved in the day's events. Some of the military members in attendance took the occasion as a way to meet employers who were specifically looking to hire guardsmen and reservists. 

Hess, who is president of Tom Hess Building Company in Portland, Ore., said he has been looking at ways to hire military members and veterans. The setting for ESGR day offered him a break to put down his hard hat for the day and scout for new employees in uniform. 

"The prospect to recruit traditional reservists seems like a good fit for our company," said Hess. 

Adaptability and infusing new skills are traits that the military is known for, and with housing and construction beginning to rebound locally the time is right to train and hire new employees, he said. 

As the coordinator for the event, Jennifer D. Hibbs, a traditional guardsman with the 142nd Fighter Wing's equal opportunity office, also works full time as the Joint Assistance Transition Program director. She said networking and bringing employers face to face with military members in the unit is one of her biggest concerns.

"When I started planning this year's ESGR day, I had established contacts with many companies already in place," said Hibbs. 

Reservists and guardsmen bring other appealing qualities to the work place, such as leadership, accountability and professionalism. A key consideration of the ESGR program is highlighting the skills and experience military members have gained in their military service and translating it to civilian companies. 

One of the tools Hibbs has been using to help airmen find jobs is the Hero 2 Hire Program, which converts military skill sets to similar civilian careers fields. Hibbs said she has found success connecting a variety of employers with Guard members by building a network of human resource professionals at a variety of local companies. 

Over the past three years, Jim Linkous, the vice president of Viawest in Portland, Ore., has volunteered to bridge the gap between civilian business employers and military members. 
He brought Hess to ESGR day to introduce him to some of the airmen on base and show off the people, mission and equipment.

With reintegration, downsizing and shifting of many career options in the current economy, the military and private sector are going through similar changes, said Linkous.

"There's a symbolic relationship between what the Guard and the construction industry have gone through in terms of high unemployment and positioning of oneself in the current market," said Linkous.

Linkous said his main focus has been to educate local business executives on the Oregon National Guard's mission and how community leaders can help support those who serve part time in uniform. 

"Many private industries would be so much stronger if they had more guardsmen and reservists working in their companies," he said. 

"I was truly impressed with the people I met," said Hess.

He said could see a real commitment to duty, how the airmen were focused on the task of the mission, and how thankful they are to serve their country.

After lunch, Hess and Linkous walked around some of the equipment on exhibit inside the maintenance hangar, including an F-15, just like the one Hess first observed being refueled earlier in the day.

"These are incredible aircraft," said Hess.

The scope and strength of the military equipment on display allowed employers a chance to see how many military aircraft performed on an operational Air Force Base.

Outside the hangar doors, two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters landed on the flight line, and the next group of employer's lined up to take their tour on the KC-135. Lt. Col. Steven C. Grime, a pilot from the 116th Air Refueling Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., patiently led them on board for the afternoon flight.
    
All of the day's agenda gave the visiting employers a perspective to understand the mission that all of these units undertake daily and interaction directly with airmen performing their military missions.

With so many activities happening at once, Hibbs reflected on what made this year's event such a successful experience. 

"It was like winning the lottery," said Hibbs.  "So many people who visited got to see numerous events and meet many of our airmen on ESGR Day."