For immediate release:
Jan. 14, 2009
Contact: CW2 Patrick Daugherty
609-530-6939 / cell 609-847-6093
609-530-6942 / cell 732-804-6782
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - On recent morning, New Providence Police Capt. E.J. Catallo climbed out of a New Jersey Army National Guard helicopter and onto a windswept airfield here. His mission: to see his department's schools resource officer, Investigator Chad Wilson, at his "other job."
In that other job, he's known as Spc. Chad Wilson, a Soldier with the New Jersey's National Guard's 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion. And by early Spring, that job will take him Iraq, a half a world away from the town where he's walked the beat for the past seven years.
Catallo said he jumped at the chance to travel to the Central Pennsylvania military installation to see Wilson, a 7-year veteran of the New Providence department.
"I wanted him to know we're all thinking about him," Catallo said.
Catallo was among a half-dozen employers who boarded UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters in Lawrenceville on Jan. 9 and made the 45-minute flight to observe their employees' military training The roughly 250 Soldiers from the unit, which flies helicopters, will deploy to Iraq this Spring for about 10 months. Before they leave, they'll spend about two months training at Fort Sill, Okla.
The trip was what's known as a "Boss Lift" and it was sponsored by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense organization that protects the employment rights of military reservists. One of the ways it does this is by making sure bosses know what it is their people do when they get called to military duty - whether it's to train at a military base in Pennsylvania or to deploy to war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Before the employers boarded the helicopters, Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the state adjutant general, told them that by supporting their employees, they are making a direct contribution to the state and nation's defense.
That's because nearly half of the combat strength of the U.S. military is in the reserves, which includes the National Guard. And unlike the other reserve components, the National Guard can also be activated by the governor in state emergencies.
"The nation and our state are asking a lot of our citizen soldiers," Rieth said. For example, two-thirds of the soldiers in the aviation battalion have served in Iraq at least once before. And another group of more than 2,800 New Jersey Army Guard Soldiers from the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team just passed the mid-way point of their 10-month mission in Iraq. By this Spring, no state will have a greater percentage of its Army National Guard force serving in Iraq than New Jersey, which has a total of 6,000 Soldiers.
So for the next year, employers like E.J. Catallo will be without some of their best employees.
Catallo said the students at New Providence schools will miss Wilson, who also runs the department's DARE program.
"The kids love him," Catallo said. "They know he's in the Army and they know he's going to be gone for awhile. They miss him."
Wilson said he'll miss the students as well.
"But this other thing is something I've got to do," he said. "I've been a soldier even longer than I've been a cop."