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'Bosslift' sheds light on homeland defense mission

ROME, N.Y. -- More than 30 Central New York civic leaders and employers of the Guard and Reserve experienced a two-day orientation of homeland defense assets located in Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

The "bosslift" tour, sponsored by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, was designed to educate community leaders and employers of Guardsmen and Reservists about military missions. The bosslift program facilitates a better understanding for employers and civic leaders on the critical roles that Guardsmen and Reservists play in the Total Force effort.

The group flew out to Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., for an orientation of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command homeland defense assets. Additionally, the group toured the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate and U.S. Air Force Academy.

"Because the Northeast Air Defense Sector supports the NORAD-NORTHCOM mission, educating Central New York employers and civic leaders facilitates a greater understanding of the big picture and shows them first hand just how many agencies are involved in the homeland defense of our nation," said Col. Clark Speicher, Northeast Air Defense Sector commander.

The employers and civic leaders were able to learn how NEADS contributes to the homeland defense mission while touring NORAD-NORTHCOM assets in Colorado Springs.

"It was especially interesting to see how connected NEADS in Rome (N.Y.) is to NORAD-NORTHCOM," said Dot Hall, manager, Office of the Chairman and CEO at O'Brien & Gere Engineers. "I am proud to work with these dedicated people and am proud to call them our military."

The trip to Colorado Springs began with a five-hour flight aboard a C-130 from the N.Y. Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing located in Scotia, N.Y. The turbo-prop engine aircraft took off from the Griffiss Business and Technology Park airfield with the employers and civic leaders as well as military and civilian escorts from NEADS.

During the five-hour flight, the tour attendees got to experience what it was like to fly on a C-130 as well as take turns checking out the cockpit and talking with the aircrew.

"The bosslift to Peterson was an incredible, eye-opening experience," Ms. Hall said. "Seeing first hand the tremendous efforts of NORAD-NORTHCOM and how they work tirelessly to safeguard our national security issues was amazing. To add to the experience, the ride on a C-130 made me more aware of the feelings our Guard and Reserve have when they are deployed."

"Without exception, everyone from the two-star general down to every Airman, Seaman, Soldier, Marine, U.S. Air Force Academy cadet, and local Military Affairs Committee members were outstanding hosts," Colonel Speicher said. "The NORAD-NORTHCOM hosts treated each one of us as distinguished visitors and the agenda was excellent."

The group interacted with local Military Affairs Committee members during a dinner in downtown Colorado Springs Oct. 31 and then toured NORAD-NORTHCOM and Cheyenne Mountain Nov. 1.

The bi-command NORAD-NORTHCOM briefing, which was facilitated by Maj. Gen.
Paul Sullivan, NORAD-NORTHCOM chief of staff, helped one civic leader and employer understand the level of commitment needed to perform the homeland defense mission.

"It was a unique opportunity for me to understand the role and commitment our employees make, and what we can do as an employer to support them," said Kathryn Ruscitto, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Organizational Development at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center Foundation, Inc., in Syracuse, N.Y. "The time and high-level content of the briefings was something I will never forget because it changed my understanding of both the military and civil response roles of the Air Force."

During the tour Nov. 1, the group was able to experience lunch at the Aragon Dining Facility. The dining facility is for enlisted personnel, and the civic leaders/employers were able to interact with Airmen of various ranks. The Airmen selected to attend the lunch were outstanding performers, and many of them garnered quarterly awards for their dedication and hard work.

"The group was especially impressed with the quality, maturity, and positive attitudes of the outstanding Airmen who ate lunch with us," Colonel Speicher said.

The group also visited the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate, or CMD, located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. The tour at CMD covered a lot of the industrial aspects of the mountain as well as NORAD-NORTHCOM organizations that utilize information about air defense provided by operators at NEADS.

The evening after the tour of NORAD-NORTHCOM, several members from the group signed statements of support for the ESGR. The statements that employers sign show their level of support for their employees that serve in the Guard and Reserve. The group flew back to Griffiss in the C-130 Nov. 2.

NEADS, a NYANG unit, provides air sovereignty and executes counter-air operations over the eastern United States, directs the employment of 94 sensors, eight fighter alert locations, AWACS aircraft, a Battle Control Center and joint air defense artillery assets to defend one million square miles, 16 major cities and adjacent seas. NEADS also supports the NORAD Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment and NORTHCOM Homeland Defense Missions.

"The command's missions came across loud and clear and the trip was a huge success," Colonel Speicher said.