Walk a mile in my shoes: Young Presidents’ Organization spend a day in the life of their guardsmen

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  • By Master Sgt. Elizabeth Holliker
  • Public Affairs
The continuing success of the National Guard to support the total force mission doesn't always come easily. For the members of the Ohio Army and Air National Guard, maintaining the delicate balance between their families, their civilian careers and employers, and their military careers is what makes each member and the National Guard organization so successful.

This balance is often referred to as the three-legged stool concept. "The three-legged stool is a visual representation of a recognized concept that all traditional guardsmen have three major groups that help them achieve success," said Col. Steven S. Nordhaus, 180th Fighter Wing Commander. "The three groups are family, employer and military."

Col. Nordhaus goes on to explain how each of these groups is critical to the guardsman and the guardsman is critical to each of the groups.

"Our guardsmen have to ensure they are maintaining a balance with each of these groups," said Nordhaus. "To not give proper time and attention to any one of these groups could impede success in the life of the guardsmen. The overall success of the Guard is counting on each leg of the stool."

The National Guard strives to help its members maintain the balance of these three critical areas by reaching out to members, their families and employers. This time, the employers reached out to the National Guard, eager to learn about the missions of the Army and Air National Guard, how the guard brings leadership training and education into the mix and how these civilian employers can model leadership training within their organizations after that of the National Guard.

"As leaders, we provide support in each of these areas to help ensure the success of our organization," said Gen. Mark E. Bartman, the Assistant Adjutant General for Air, State Headquarters, Ohio National Guard. "Employer support includes programs and activities aimed at gaining and maintaining strong employer relations. Without employer support, our troops will not feel inclined to join or stay in the Ohio National Guard. It is an essential support element that helps maintain the critical balance required to sustain readiness."

After reading "Battle-Tested: How a decade of war has created a new generation of elite business leaders," in FORTUNE magazine, Jeff Kasper, president of Harmon Signs in Toledo, OH and the Chapter of Education Chair for the local Maumee Valley Chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization, was determined to learn about the military and military leadership.

Mr. Kasper reached out to Maj. Gary Bentley, executive officer at the 180th Fighter Wing, in an effort to coordinate an event where presidents of several northwest Ohio companies could learn about and from the Ohio National Guard and its elite servicemembers and leaders.

"YPO is an international organization with 15 thousand plus members with a mission of better leaders through education and idea exchange," said Kasper. "Members are typically between the ages of 35 and 50 and must have a minimum of 50 employees and at least eight million in revenue."

The local Maumee Valley Chapter currently has 40 members.

"When Jeff Kasper contacted me about his desire to have an event tied to the military, I was very excited," stated Bentley. "We are very proud of the many accomplishments of the 180th Fighter Wing and the Ohio National Guard, and to be able to host a group of top corporate executives is an opportunity we were very interested in."

With the help of Lt. Col. Kathy Lowrey, director for community outreach, Ohio National Guard, Maj. Bentley and Mr. Kasper were able to create an event where 28 local employers were able spend a day learning about the missions and leadership that make up the Ohio National Guard.

"We were all pleased with the event and the overwhelming positive feedback
from our guests," said Bentley.

The 180th Fighter Wing hosted the Young Presidents' Organization event April 13. The 28 young presidents were greeted at the 180th with a continental breakfast catered by The Flying Joe, a local coffee shop owned and operated by Maj. Becky Ohm, a traditional guardsmen F-16 fighter pilot and her husband John, also a traditional guardsman who flies A-10 Thunderbolt with the 127th Fighter Wing, Michigan Air National Guard.

While the presidents enjoyed breakfast, they received a briefing on the Ohio Army and Air National Guard from Brig. Gen. Bartman and a briefing about the 180th Fighter Wing from Col. Nordhaus.

Following the briefings, the group boarded two Chinook helicopters for their flight to Camp Perry, Ohio Army National Guard, Port Clinton, OH. There the presidents enjoyed a combat dining experience, opening, preparing, eating, trading and bartering for different items from a wide selection of meals ready- to-eat (MRE) while being briefed on the overall operations of the base.

After lunch, they split up into two smaller groups and participated in break-out sessions. Members toured the improvised explosive device training range with some of Camp Perry's range controllers followed by throwing training grenades and then taking turns firing a variety of hand and shotguns in the Engagement Skills Training Center.

The afternoon at Camp Perry culminated with a Military Leadership Training Panel where the YPO members asked multiple leadership related questions to a panel of six leaders of the Ohio National Guard. Maj. Bentley worked with Lt. Col. Lowrey to assemble a panel of individuals who had extensive knowledge of the leadership requirements of today's military. "We wanted our panel to be able to clearly articulate the many reasons military members ultimately are or become outstanding private industry employees," said Bentley.

"The military experience and educational levels of our panel members clearly demonstrated the value we placed on this event," said Nordhaus. "We were able to articulate very clearly why American businesses should consider hiring military members of the National Guard and veterans for positions requiring leadership."

The day concluded after the panel and YPO members returned back to the 180th Fighter Wing via Chinook helicopters where they listened to closing comments by Gen. Bartman before departing.

"These events continue to foster the partnerships and relationships that are critical to ensuring support from the community and our employers," said Bartman. "Continuing the exchange of information and ideas is critical to the overall mission of the Ohio National Guard."
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