Holding a 100-pound artillery shell, Jody Guinn of International Paper in Kansas City, learns how the 1-129th Field Artillery operates when firing M777A2 lightweight howitzers during their two-week annual training. Guinn took part in an Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve Boss Lift that traveled to Fort Chaffee, Ark. and saw firsthand what his employee Sgt. 1st Class Troy Shipley does as a Missouri Guardsman. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)
By Jennifer Archdekin
FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. - Citizen-Soldiers with Missouri National Guard's 1-129th Field Artillery and 1128th Forward Support Company recently had the opportunity to show their employers what life is like when they step away from their full-time jobs and serve as modern day Minutemen.
The Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve recently organized a Boss Lift for about 20 employers to travel to Fort Chaffee, Ark. via a C-130 airplane from Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph and see firsthand a snapshot of what their training entails.
National Guardsmen typically serve part-time, enabling them to also have a career or continue their education. Traditionally Guardsmen serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year, and in doing so they are called away from their jobs.
These employers observed the field conditions the 300-plus Soldiers temporarily called home and were seated front row for a live-fire exercise showcasing M777A2 lightweight howitzers.
Rose Aker is the service coordinator manager with Progressive Community Services in St. Joseph which supports individuals with developmental disabilities. She met with Spc. Josh Young, one of her supervisors and who also serves with Battery A in Albany. Aker was astounded by the experience.
"I was clueless," said Aker. "Absolutely clueless. It takes a lot of coordination and teamwork. They obviously are very well trained and knowledgeable about what they are doing. It's pretty fascinating."
Young has only worked for Aker since August 2011. She said she knew before bringing him on board that there could be challenges juggling his civilian work schedule with his military schedule, but she was more than happy to accommodate him.
"If he was going to make the commitment to us, we were going to make the commitment to him," said Aker.
Jody Guinn, manufacturing manager of International Paper in Kansas City, was also able to visit his employee, Sgt. 1st Class Troy Shipley, who serves in the headquarters battalion located in Maryville. Though a veteran himself, Guinn was still impressed with the operation.
"I was in the military, Air Force, but I've never seen anything like this," said Guinn. "The sheer power of the guns was amazing."
Guinn was in awe at the coordination of all the moving parts that went in to firing the guns and the many safety checks that are factored in to keep the troops out of harm's way.
"It's pretty cool," said Guinn. "It's nice to see the organization and how they communicate."
As the purchasing agent, Guinn said Shipley handles a lot of logistics for the company. He tracks equipment and parts and coordinates with others to make sure things happen in a timely manner. Shipley is missed when he is away from work, but Guinn is proud of him at the same time.
"It's never a problem," said Guinn. "Having a military background I can appreciate what he is doing. He's a hell of a worker for me and I can definitely see how this helps his job. There's definitely a parallel to that. It works out well."
The 1-129th Field Artillery is headquartered in Maryville and maintains three batteries in Albany, Chillicothe and Independence. The 1128th Forward Support Company, based in Marshall, sustains the artillery unit with essential supplies and services while they are training or on a real-world mission.
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After receiving a fire mission, Missouri Guardsmen from Battery A, 1-129th Field Artillery based in Albany, prepare to fire one of their M777A2 lightweight howitzers during their two-week annual training at Fort Chaffee, Ark. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)
A cloud of smoke billows out of a M777A2 lightweight howitzer immediately after Missouri Guardsmen from Battery A, 1-129th Field Artillery fired the gun. The Albany-based unit, along with the rest of the battalion, spent their two-week annual training at Fort Chaffee, Ark. honing their skills. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)