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Blackhawk helicopter rides provide civilians with fun, new perspective

Riding through the city of Roswell in a helicopter isn’t exactly an everyday activity for typical residents, but if one is part of the area’s National Guard or Army Reserve, one’s day-to-day life is likely anything but typical.

Roswell’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program gave that opportunity Thursday morning as a means to give back to employers for allowing employees in the National Guard and Reserve to perform their promised duties. A “Bosslift” luncheon was also held to honor local employers.
“The ESGR is the employee support for the Guard and Reserve,” Chris Garcia, commander of the 515th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said. “They kind of thank the employers for lending their employees to us. We take them away one weekend a month and two weeks a year, and also, if they’re deployed overseas, they kind of support — they kind of help.”
A year before the U.S. military draft ended in 1973, the Department of Defense established the ESGR. Their mission works to continually promote cooperation and an understanding between Reserve Component Service members and employers.
Gary Smith, Roswell’s area chair for the ESGR, has spent more than 35 years of military service in his lifetime. He said 27 of those years were at the Ohio National Guard.
“I got activated during the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm — that was in ’91,” Smith said. “That’s ancient history to a lot of people, but I logged a lot of years, both active and reserve. I still volunteer in this respect because a lot of success I had, I owe to the military.”
Garcia, who started as an E-1, has been in the National Guard for 32 years. With his household serving a total of 65 years with the military, he said serving for the Guard is in his blood, and when they receive a call — whether local or far away — they answer.
“We support our federal and state mission,” Garcia said. “If there’s a state emergency, the governor calls on the Guard to go out. They go through local law enforcement, local firefighters, everything that they need to go, and if they get beyond their means, then they call in the Guard.”
Smith said while the Thursday program offered employers and civilians the opportunity to ride in a Humvee and a Blackhawk helicopter might bring joy, it also provided the chance for them to see what the National Guard and Reserve may experience.
“I just think that — not everybody gets a chance to fly on a helicopter. It’s unique.”
Garcia added that the helicopter ride places civilians in the perspective of what their life can be like.
“It’s intended to give them a little taste of being in the soldiers’ boots,” Garcia said. “Going into a bad area or going to a natural disaster or whatever, fly a helicopter. Once we land — we go out the door — and we go do what we need to do. If they see it from that perspective, yes, they should get a little taste of it.”

According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2016 index of U.S. military strength, the Reserve and National Guard make up roughly 38 percent of total U.S. uniformed manpower.
Smith said it’s worth appreciating just how much U.S. military support resides within the National Guard and Reserve.
“Our active forces have been drawn down significantly,” he said. “If we did not have the Guard and Reserve, I would be very fearful for our nation’s defense.
“These guys and ladies, they are fully-trained. They are every bit as well-qualified as their counterparts on active duty, and they’re ready to step up if the need happens. Without them, I would feel very un-secure, and that’s how much they mean to us.”
Smith said the experience and qualities that that Reservists and Guardsman bring to employers are exactly what one would expect.
“The fire department, police department, the sheriff’s department — they’re looking for that,” Smith said. “Our guys fit the bill. I don’t know of any employer that’s had a Guardsman that’s not happy to have them.
“They’ve told me many times that they will take in all that we bring to them for employment consideration, because they come to the employer (in) a lot of cases, already qualified, they’re drug-free, they know how to take orders.
“We are just very, very proud of our area employers — they have stepped up to the plate, and a lot of them look first to the Guard and Reserve when they’re going to hire new employees.”
Garcia said, as an employer, getting that little “thank you” means a lot.
“People have good days, bad days, and so forth,” he said. “It’s nice to finally get a pat on the back once in a while. As a manager, they have a lot stress. As a business owner, it’s a lot of stress, and to get that little ‘pay it forward’ type thing — it goes a long way, and it means a lot — and I truly believe that.”
The Patriot Award was given of Robbie Carabajal of AerSale, Anthony McCune of Chenega Security, Joe Portio of Dexter Police Department, Chad Smith of ENMU-Roswell, Stephen Cowart of Leprino Foods, Chris Lara of New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe, Ruben Bolaños of RISD and Chief Phillip Smith and Mike Taylor of the Roswell Police Department.
Recipients of the New Mexico Patriotic Employer Award included the Roswell Job Corps, Leprino Foods, the New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy, the Roswell Police Department and Wal-Mart.
The Seven Seals Award was given to Harvey Twite of New Mexico Radio, and Spirit of Volunteerism Award was given to Major Randall Bates.
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at