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California National Guard thanks employers of ‘citizen soldiers’ with helicopter rides

The California National Guard showed its appreciation to employers of Southern California soldiers by offering free flights on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during the annual Boss Lift event Friday in Los Alamitos.

Flight crews with 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment piloted flights for about 135 employers, coworkers, and other guests, soaring so close to the Orange County coastline that passengers could see surfers waving at them from the Huntington Beach pier.

Helicopters flew in pairs to Crystal Cove State Beach before heading back to Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos.

With a price tag of $4,000 per hour on four helicopters, Friday’s event was no small gesture by the National Guard.

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Boss Lift
Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters fly over Orange County during the California National Guard’s annual Boss Lift event, which offered free rides to about 80 employers of National Guard soldiers.
(Drew A. Kelley)

In 1972, the Department of Defense created Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) to prevent and resolve conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment. Boss Lift was founded as a tangible benefit to employers across the country who hire reservists or National Guard members.

“We’re honoring the employers of these citizen soldiers that give up their time and take time away from you to do their military duty,” said Tom Lasser, a Vietnam War veteran and spokesman for California’s branch of the ESGR.

As the employers gathered for breakfast in a maintenance hangar, Maj. Daniel Goldsmith, commanding officer of the Archangels at 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, told them he appreciates their graciousness.

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Two flight crews from the Archangels were activated in October during the Kincade Fire and dispatched to Sacramento International Airport to help CalFire drop water.

Seal Beach Police Chief Phil Gonshak was among the passengers at Boss Lift because at least one of his officers is a part-time soldier. Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations arrived and departed from Los Alamitos in a blue and yellow firefighting helicopter after riding on a Black Hawk.

Amanda Kaleps, managing principal at Wolcott Architecture, and project manager Ami Madani attended Boss Lift at the invitation of their employee Christine Concepcion, who serves as an aircraft electrician with the California National Guard.

“I’m glad we did this because we have a better understanding of what she does when she leaves,” Madani said.

Concepcion left her job at the firm to train with the Guard for a couple of months.

“When she left, we suffered a little bit, but we had to make it work,” Madani said.

Kaleps described Concepion as someone who is extremely dedicated to her work, pays close attention to details and helps train coworkers. She added that it’s uncommon to have a reservist working in the architecture field.

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“I have family that has been in the military and happy to do anything we can do to support our troops,” Kaleps said.

Boss Lift
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flies over Orange County during the California National Guard’s annual Boss Lift event on Friday.
(Drew A. Kelley)

John Ventimiglia, an information technology manager at Boeing, said he hires members of the National Guard because they understand the culture of its biggest client — the U.S. military.

“They already have the knowledge of warfighting,” he said. “That experience is significant when we’re doing a war game.”

As someone who didn’t serve but comes from a veteran family, Ventimiglia is happy when he can hire a qualified candidate who still wears a uniform part-time.

“It’s a way we can give back by giving them an opportunity to transition into civilian life,” Ventimiglia said.

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