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Civic leaders 'Go Guard'

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Louisville, Ky. -- Area employers and local civic leaders received a first-hand introduction to National Guard life July 17 when they participated in a civic leader/employer support tour hosted by the Kentucky National Guard.

After some initial briefings, participants flew out of the Kentucky Air Guard base aboard one of the unit's C-130 aircraft en route to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky.

There, they received an overview of the Kentucky National Guard mission, a lunch of Meals Ready-to-Eat and orientation flights on a Blackhawk helicopter.

The Greenville facility, operated entirely by the Kentucky National Guard, was established in 1969 as a 29-acre weekend training site. Today, it has grown to become a premier mechanized infantry and armor training location, providing effective and cost-efficient facilities for National Guard, Reserve and active-duty units from every branch of the service, officials said.

An aerial tour of the facility -- aboard a Blackhawk helicopter -- was one of the day's highlights, according to participants.

"It was really cool," Ms. Karen Albers of the Mirazon Group said of the flight. "It's kind of like floating."

Ms. Albers said she learned a lot about the Guard and its mission during the day's events.

"I couldn't sleep last night waiting for this," she said. "The MREs were amusing, and the ride up here on the C-130 was amazing. I've never been on a plane like that."

Each guest had his or her own reasons for attending the tour.  Harold Hall, a scout master for local Troop 315 of the Boy Scouts of America, noted that several of his former scouts went on to join the military.

"A lot of the older boys that I'm affiliated with have aspirations of joining when they get of age," he added.

The Jefferson County public school system was represented by Ms. Jennifer Shumaker, a volunteer there. Ms. Shumaker, who grew up in San Diego near a heavy military presence, has a son in the Air National Guard.

"I'm very patriotic," Ms. Shumaker said. "I wanted to see what good the National Guard does for us. I'm very much in favor of it."

She added that the National Guard has had a very positive impact on her son.

"It helped him focus on the development of his personal life and the growing up process," Ms. Shumaker said.

After the Blackhawk flight, the group toured other facilities at the Wendell H. Ford training center, including a mock forward operating base, before returning to Louisville via C-130.

According to tour coordinator Col. Steve Bullard, the Kentucky National Guard's director of doctrine and training, the program was designed to develop community support.

"We want to bring (employers and civic leaders) out and show them what (Soldiers and Airmen) are sacrificing on behalf of their country and state," Colonel Bullard said.

"It's an opportunity for them to see the real mission these Soldiers and Airmen do when they're out here flying these aircraft and setting up a tactical operations center in 94-degree heat and full combat gear to prepare them for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan."

"It's not a game that we do," he said.  "It's not a game that we do," he said. "It's not G.I. Joe. This is real."