‘Boss Lift’ gives employers insight into deployment

February 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Media joins visit to National Guard training camp in Camp Shelby, Miss.

Attendees of Friday’s Louisiana National Guard Boss Lift embark on a C-130 aircraft headed to Camp Shelby, Miss. Flights left from Alexandria, Lafayette and New Orleans. Those on the trip were media representatives and employers of Guard members. BY ELONA WESTON

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — Some bosses of members of the Louisiana National Guard now have a better understanding of what their soldieremployees are doing to prepare for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

A group of bosses from around the state took part in a “Boss Lift” to Camp Shelby, Miss., on Friday.

The visit, according to the National Guard, was intended to provide a better understanding to the communities and businesses that are impacted by deployed employees and the role they play in current overseas conflicts.

Employers, as well as members of the media, were flown to Mississippi aboard a C-130 aircraft which picked up passengers in Alexandria, Lafayette and New Orleans. They were accompanied by Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard as well as some other Guard officials.

At Camp Shelby, attendees were briefed on the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s training by Col. Jonathan T. Ball, commander of the 256th.

Ball said that currently in Iraq, the U.S. military is transitioning forces to Iraqi forces and that the 256th will be part of that effort.

He said soldiers have conducted 17 new equipment fieldings at Camp Shelby and that they will have the “latest and greatest gear available for U.S. soldiers” when they enter Iraq.

“We will not be going into theater lacking. We’ll be very current as far as what’s available in the Army system,” he said.

Ball said the last day of the training will be March 8. He said soldiers are now in their “collective training” phase which involves training geared toward working in teams.

To see and hear the bosses, CLICK HERE.

Those attending Friday’s Boss Lift also got a close-up view at a mock “complex ambush” which involved a scenario where soldiers from New Orleans’ Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery had to shoot insurgents without harming Iraqi villagers during a convoy escort mission.

The villagers were played by native Iraqis who work at Camp Shelby, helping to train American forces.

The soldiers on Friday were “attacked” by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as small arms fire.

Col. Tom Friloux, brigade operations officer, said realistic training exercises like the one on Friday helps prepare soldiers for what they may encounter in Iraq.

“One of 256th’s tasks in Iraq will be escorting key logistical convoys throughout southern Iraq,” he said.

Attendees on Friday ate a gumbo lunch with soldiers before heading back to Louisiana.

One of the bosses, Shelton Cobb of the Lafayette Parish School Board, told the American Press that Friday helped open his eyes to what soldiers are doing in preparation for Iraq. He said it also reminded him of soldiers’ sacrifices.

“The guys and girls are making a big sacrifice, leaving home, family and everything else to serve the country, to go to Iraq. I can’t do anything but keep praising them for their efforts,” he said.

The 256th, headquartered in Lafayette with subordinate units spread throughout the state, is comprised of about 3,400 troops, including about 3,000 Louisiana Guardsmen and about 400 troops from the Virginia National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 256th for the duration of the deployment.

Virginia’s 1-116th is headquartered in Lynchburg, Va., with subordinate units in Bedford, Farmville, Lexington, Clifton Forge, Christiansburg, Radford, Pulaski and Martinsville, Va.

The 256th, a light infantry brigade combat team, has units in Lake Charles, Abbeville, New Orleans, Shreveport, Plaquemine and Alexandria, in addition to the unit from Virginia.

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