Iowa bosses step into their National Guard employees' shoes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa bosses step into their National Guard employees' shoes

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DYERSVILLE (KWWL) -

Several eastern Iowa employers now have a better understanding of what their employees face while serving in the Iowa Army National Guard.

Many Guard members are away from their workplace right now, performing their required annual two week training.

One Department of Defense organization called Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is showing employers that their workers' time away is well spent.

ESGR provides a program called Boss Lift.

Tuesday morning, 21 Iowa employers loaded onto a Chinook helicopter at the Waterloo National Guard Armory and flew to Camp Ripley, Minn., where they observed members of the Iowa Army National Guard, including their own employees, perform training exercises.

Jane Ertl is Vice President of Dyersville Die Cast and went along on the trip.

"We got to see, you know, a simulation in progress," she said, recounting the several-hour trip Wednesday afternoon.

Dyersville Die Cast currently employs one National Guard member and has hired others in the past. Ertl said the qualities required of National Guard members translate to the workforce.

"I look at it from a manufacturing standpoint of safety," she said, "You know, following directions, leadership and doing tasks, completing tasks. Showing up on time."

In Dubuque, Glen Gassman is the veterans representative at the Iowa Works office plus a volunteer with ESGR.

"Doctors, nurses, teachers, production workers. Anything you can think of, I mean, there's people in the National Guard," he said at his desk Wednesday afternoon.

He has accompanied two Boss Lifts and seen employers' reactions.

"They get a whole new perspective of the dedication and sacrifice that their employees are giving to the military, and that light bulb goes off, and you can almost see that on top of their head. They think, 'Wow, he's giving that to my company, too,'" Gassman said.

It's a significant realization, considering employers know hiring a National Guard member could mean occasional and possibly long leaves of absence.

"You have to be flexible in that respect," Ertl said. "I really feel that we are receiving some leadership qualities from people who have the discipline to be in the guards."

She said she suggests the Boss Lift to "other employers who have guards on their employment or are considering it."

A federal law protects employees' jobs during their military leave, but employers aren't required to compensate them.

After this Iowa Army National Guard training period wraps up later this week, members will return to monthly weekend drills for another year.

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