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New Jersey Employers and Elected Officials Travel to Visit Citizen-Soldiers

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A group of employers, and elected officials traveled here Jan. 16 to visit citizen-Soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard's 117th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion going through their de-mobilization process after an almost one-year deployment to Afghanistan.

Under the watchful eyes of Division West's 120th Infantry Brigade which oversees all demobilizations on Fort Hood, the employers got a snapshot of the meticulous and thorough process reserve component Soldiers go through when coming back from combat.

Annette Quijano
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano of New Jersey's Mercer and Middlesex Counties Legislature, talks with Master Sgt. Berto Diaz (standing), operations non-commissioned officer, and Master Sgt. Delroy McKay (seated), support operations non-commissioned officer, during de-mobilization of the New Jersey National Guard's 117th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center Jan. 16 upon their return from Afghanistan. The New Jersey Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a national organization that promotes support by employers of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, organized the visit. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

"Given what the Soldier and their family has to sacrifice to protect us, I thought it was important to give my time to see what actually happens and then figure out how we can help them as an elected official," said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano of Mercer and Middlesex Counties.

The New Jersey Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a national organization that promotes support by employers of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, organized the visit.

Quijano said the eye-opening de-mobilization took care of medical issues with things like hearing and medical exams. "I didn't realize how important it is to make sure that when our Guardsmen return that we make sure that there is a smooth transition for them," she said.

The 117th CSSB was deployed while Superstorm Sandy pounded the Northeastern United States, so employers felt relieved to find that the Soldiers' families and property were relatively safe from the storm. One Soldier had a problem with a roof, but family members took care of it.

Kyle Dowgin
Kyle Dowgin (center), 10, leads the Notre Dame High School football team out before a game in Lawrenceville, N.J. The American flag was presented to Coach John McKenna (far right), and was flown in Southern Afghanistan over the 117th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion's compound on Kandahar Airfield. Kyle is the son of Maj. Edward Dowgin, the 117th's executive officer. (Courtesy photo)

Maj. Edward Dowgin, the 117th's battalion executive officer, managed to mail an American flag flown over the unit's compound at Kandahar Airfield to John McKenna, strength conditioning coach at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, N.J.

The Soldiers also did strength conditioning with the high school's football players.

"He helped get us better-prepared for our deployment," Dowgin said.

Annette Quijano2
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano of New Jersey's Mercer and Middlesex Counties Legislature, talks with Master Sgt. Berto Diaz (standing), operations non-commissioned officer, and Master Sgt. Delroy McKay (seated), support operations non-commissioned officer, during de-mobilization of the New Jersey National Guard's 117th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center Jan. 16 upon their return from Afghanistan. The New Jersey Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a national organization that promotes support by employers of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, organized the visit. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

"I like to give back to people who make sacrifices," said McKenna. "His son plays youth football in the area, and I am also a football coach. I also believe in country first, so I try to teach my kids a little respect and a little commitment. When the Major sent that flag to me, what we did is carry that flag out onto the field every game."

The ESGR is also known as a "boss lift," a program used throughout the country to familiarize, educate, and promote military and employer relations, via employers, business and elected leaders connecting with their employees who are service members.

Division West routinely hosts boss lifts on Fort Hood and it's other active mobilization training center, Fort Bliss.

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