NEWS | June 17, 2021

Civilian employers spend a day in their guardsmen’s boots

By Sgt. Ariel Solomon Utah Army National Guard

Employers of reserve service members take on a burden when they hire Soldiers. Their reserve employees could be working one day, and called up to serve the state or nation the next. But for these employers, their reserve employees bring something to the table that is hard to train and difficult to acquire with civilians.

To help employers understand what it means to be a reserve-component service member, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve sponsors Boss Lifts to bring bosses to see the training that their employees receive on their weekend military drills and two-week annual training. Service members can nominate their employers to give them the opportunity to visit them while training.

Chief Justin J. Shirley, chief of law enforcement for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, got the rare opportunity to see his employee, Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Shumway with the 118th Transportation Company, 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, run his Soldiers through vehicle-mounted gun training on Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground June 16, 2021. Seated in the sun scorched gun trucks, Shirley, in near 100-degree summer heat and the staccato of machine-gun fire, got a taste of what it means to be in Shumway’s boots.
“I was halfway through the police academy when I heard there was an opening in San Juan County,” said Shumway. “Chief Shirley was Sergeant Shirley at the time, and I made some calls, and he was willing to take me on, knowing I was a Guardsman and would be my first supervisor.”
“Shortly thereafter, you [Shumway] were deployed for a year,” interjected Shirley. 
Shumway explained that Shirley knew he would deploy within a few months of being hired on and selected him anyway to be a DWR officer. Shirley expanded that even though he would be short an officer for that year, the experience overseas would make him a more valuable member of his team. 
“Right out of the gate when we hire a Guardsman or somebody else with military experience, we’re looking for the traits that they learn there: leadership, professionalism, responsibility. Some of those things fall right in line with us as an agency and an employer,” said Shirley. “With them being gone, in my own mind, I still consider that part of work because the things that they’re learning and can bring to our team later is well worth the investment in the employee themselves. What we find when we hire Guardsmen is that they bring leadership skills we direly need. Though there are times when we don’t have an employee, it's well worth it.”
Building understanding between civilian employers and the military strengthens the entire military force and helps show employers what their employees have to offer. The boss lift gives insight into the qualities military training provides, helping them understand why it’s so important to support their Soldier-employees during their training and deployments. By supporting them they know they’ll return to their jobs with a stronger work ethic and leadership skills.
“The employers of our Soldiers are critical to our success,” said Maj. Adam Sherman, executive officer of the 625th Military Police Battalion. “Their support of their employees as they serve the country and the National Guard is critical to how we facilitate our mission. If we didn’t have employer support, we wouldn’t be able to build the force the way it is because we are an all-volunteer force. So we bring them out, show them what we do, and show them what their employees do on the weekends so they can build that understanding and that support.”