Wednesday, October 28, 2009

'Boss Lift' flight heads to nation's capitol

An Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon gets refueled by a KC-135 Air Tanker

I'm on a mission for the next three days. As a radio reporter I've always hoped that one day I'd be embedded on a military mission. Today, I am - sort of.

After being escorted by military police to our rendezvous location at Kirtland Air Force Base, 45 local business leaders and service-disabled veteran owners of small businesses in New Mexico, along with this reporter, boarded an Air National Guard KC-135 Air Tanker after receiving a briefing just before sunrise.

The group, I'm with, has joined up with New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services Cabinet Secretary John Garcia and members of the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) for a special “Boss Lift” flight. Now, our Air Force crew is taking us to Andrew's Air Force Base and the nation's capitol for face-to-face meetings with federal agencies.

The flight itself is a chance of a lifetime, and sometime, on today's mission we'll experience an actual “real world” refueling by both F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots, from Kirtland's 150th Fighter Wing (known as the Flying Tacos in the NM National Guard), and by F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft pilots from Holloman Air Force Bases.

Of course, this trip is special because the F-16's are being phased out by the Air Force and the Flying Tacos have been assigned a new mission.

“The flight itself will surely be one that these business owners will never forget,” said Secretary Garcia. “But the real purpose for getting on this plane is two-fold: For the non-veteran business owners, it’s a chance to learn more about the National Guard. And for the service-disabled veterans, it’s a chance to meet federal procurement officials and sell their companies.”

The ESGR Boss Lift program is designed to educate and familiarize employers, who hire reservists and guard members, by letting them see, up close, what their employees do while on temporarily leave from their civilian jobs.

Typical Boss Lift flights also include the chance for employers to watch military training exercises, tour bases installations, and learn about the military and its mission.

While in Washington, our New Mexico group will also get a tour of the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, and will take part in a first-ever ESGR wreath-laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery honoring the service of all New Mexico veterans and soldiers.

I'll be taking videos and pictures, and recording audio interviews for reports here and on 770KKOB. Stay tuned.

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