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Civilian Employers Take Flight at NY Air Guard's 106th!

  • Published
  • By SSgt Daniel H. Farrell
  • 106th Rescue Wing

The New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing opened its doors, and cockpits, on August 5th to civilian employers of wing members for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forty-eight civilian employers of Guardsmen toured the base and flew on an HH-60G-Pave Hawk helicopter or an HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft as part of “Bosslift,” an event sponsored by the Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense program, that fosters a culture where employers support and value the employment and military service of Guardsmen.

“It’s an opportunity to give the employers of the members a birds-eye view of what their Drill Status Guardsmen do when they are not at their civilian jobs,” said Lisa D’Agostino, ESGR outreach coordinator & 106th Rescue Wing Airman & Family Readiness program manager. “I hope they leave here with a greater understanding of how much it takes to get the job done at the base.”

The birds-eye view was taken quite literally as employers took flight around the eastern end of Long Island. They also got an inside view on a tour of the 103rd Pararescue Squadron of the 106th Rescue Wing and the vast array of tactical equipment such as parachutes, all-terrain vehicles, jet skis, Zodiak inflatable rafts and diving equipment.

The feedback from the employers and Airmen was overwhelmingly positive.

“He’s never been on a base before, just seeing the aircraft, seeing the all the different equipment the PJs had…my boss said that he will never forget that for the rest of his life,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Haynes, a 106th Religious Affairs specialist and a full-time machine operator with the Long Island Railroad.

“Sometimes when we go drill, it’s like [civilian employers] know we are going away for a weekend, but they have no clue what we actually do,” Haynes continued. “They think the active duty is the ‘real military,’ they don’t realize the National Guard is identical to active duty, it’s just part-time.”

It wasn’t only an opportunity for the members to showcase what they do, it doubled as valuable flying hours for the aircrew.

The flight to Montauk and back provided the aircrew with valuable flight hours that helped work toward the completion of the wing’s annual Flying Hours Program, according to Lt. Col. Matthew Forbes, 101st Rescue Squadron commander.

The combination of working toward the Flying Hours Program and being able to include the civilian employers is a unique opportunity for 106th Guardsmen.

“It’s an experience that you can give your employer that they would never in million years be able to do,” Haynes said.

In a confirmation of D’Agostino’s hope, her email was filled with thankful guests who left with a greater understanding of what it means to serve in the Air National Guard.

The look at 106th operations was great, according to Kris Bittner, a supervisor on the Long Island Railroad and a Marine Corps veteran.

“I have flown a lot in the Corps, but never on a C-130. I can tell you that it was amazing,” Bittner said.

“As for the servicemember that is assigned to me at the LIRR, I completely understand his mission,” he added. “Thank you so much for the opportunity to experience the Air Guard, to see how the Air Force conducts their business and for the outstanding C-130 flight.”

The 106th Rescue Wing, based at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, New York, operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th RQW is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.