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419th Fighter Wing hosts Employer Day

A light continental breakfast, then its off to the tanker! 419th Fighter Wing reservists and their civilian employers eat a light meal before the employers are treated to a show of a mid-air refueling flight. Photo by Senior Airman Daniel Durbin.

A light continental breakfast, then its off to the tanker! 419th Fighter Wing reservists and their civilian employers eat a light meal before the employers are treated to a show of a mid-air refueling flight. Photo by Senior Airman Daniel Durbin.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- "It was awesome!"  These were the words of many of the civilian employers who participated in the 419th Fighter Wing's annual Employer Appreciation Day activities, April 14.
Hill Air Force Base's Reserve wing rolled out the red carpet for about 45 civilian employers in an effort to promote a better understanding of the Air Force Reserve's role in national defense and to highlight the importance of employer support.

"Without support from civilian employers, the Air Force Reserve can't do its job," said Col. Gary M. Batinich, 419 FW commander. "By supporting their reservist, these employers are serving their country."

The wing's Employer Appreciation Day also serves to thank employers for their continued support.

"Civilian employers are asked to make huge sacrifices when their reservist employee takes time away for training or gets called to serve for an extended deployment," added Colonel Batinich. "We hope they know how much it is appreciated."

The day was packed full of activities that gave the employers a glimpse into the mission, training requirements and life as a reservist.

Employers boarded a KC-135 tanker aircraft from the Utah Air National Guard unit out of Salt Lake City, and flew over the Utah Test and Training Range to observe an F-16 aerial refueling flight. They also watched an F-16 capabilities demonstration flight by Viper West demonstration team, from Hill AFB's 388 FW, and got a chance to look inside the cockpit of an F-16 aircraft, and test some pilot life support gear.

The employers also received a 419 FW mission briefing and toured the work areas of their reservist.

The local Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve organization co-hosted the event, and provided breakfast, lunch and informative briefings aimed at educating the employers on various laws designed to protect those who serve as reservists.

1st Lt. Lance DeGraw, of the wing's Military Equal Opportunity office, said Employer Day is especially valuable to those who have employers with no military experience.

"It will really help justify (my employer) letting me go (for the once-monthly Unit Training Assembly weekend)," said Lieutenant DeGraw, who works for the Utah Highway Patrol. "I think it means a lot to them."

Many employers said they were surprised by some of the statistics provided in a briefing on the mission and accomplishments of the 419 FW.

Lynn McAffe, of the Utah Highway Patrol, said he was surprised to find out that while the Air Force Reserve only receives a four percent slice of the Air Force budget, it provides 20 percent of overall combat capability.

"It was also interesting to see how much (the 419 FW) did in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM," said Mr. McAffe. "It takes good people to do what they do."

Kim Casaday of Zions Bank said that the refueling flight was amazing.

"This has been awesome," said Ms. Casaday.

When asked what part of the day they enjoyed the most, employers invariably said the refueling flight was the highlight of the day.

Jim Tracy of the Utah County Sheriff's Office said he was impressed with the professionalism and precision of the 419 FW pilots.

"I liked seeing the planes stacked off the wing, that was pretty cool," said Mr. Tracy. "It takes an amazing amount of precision."

(Kari Tilton, 419 FW Public Affairs, contributed to this article)