FORT DRUM, N.Y. –
Twenty-five employers got a rare and up-close view of what New Hampshire National Guardsmen do while away from their full-time civilian jobs July 21.
A Boss Lift shuttled the group in a KC-46A Pegasus refueler from Pease Air National Guard Base to Fort Drum, New York to watch 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment fire its High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
“This event enables employers to both see and appreciate what we do,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Samon, officer in charge. “It hopefully garners their support for our Guardsmen who train to be available and ready while balancing two careers.”
In recent years, the NHNG has experienced a historical uptick in training and activations. Pandemic relief missions called up nearly a third of the organization. West Coast wildfires and deployments to both the Middle East and Southwest Border further taxed resources. The backing of civilian employers during that period was crucial to mission accomplishment.
“We need your support to keep those service members on our team,” said Maj. Gen. David David Mikolaities, New Hampshire adjutant general. “What you do is invaluable.”
Brian Bilodeau of New Hampshire Department of Transportation supervises Staff Sgt. Matthew Plantier, a DOT communications specialist who balances a full-time career with his part-time guard service. Bilodeau has come to appreciate their partnership, despite Plantier’s absences due to various military commitments.
“We know that’s his responsibility, and he’s helping our country,” Bilodeau said. “We know what he’s doing is really important.”
Eileen Liponis of New Hampshire Food Bank employed dozens of citizen-soldiers during the height of the pandemic. They supported operations due to a volunteer shortage. Guardsmen planted crops, cooked food, and distributed meals across the Granite State for months.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Liponis said. “The guard really saved our ass during COVID.”
Between their roundtrip flight, guests were bused to the field and lunched with soldiers of the 197th. After they donned Kevlar helmets for an up-close viewing of live-fire HIMARS training.
Raji Gupta, a program manager with Amazon, was impressed by New Hampshire’s technologically advanced refueler and combat proven rocket launchers.
“These are people who just live among us,” Gupta said. “They have somehow gone through this training and that they can do this for our country is just remarkable to me.”
The display was a big hit for Tyler Partridge, a landscaper from Deerfield. After the last rocket soared through the sky and the smoke cleared, he joked he might rename his business, “HIMARS Landscaping.”
“I’ve seen some cool things, but nothing like that,” Partridge said. “That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”