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Grand Forks business leaders experience military life for a day

The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program has been providing bosslift rides to various military bases and training sites.

Business leaders from Grand Forks and Minot watch a military exercise at the Minot Air Force Base.
Matt Henson/WDAY
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MINOT — It was an eye-opening experience for Grand Forks business leaders who saw firsthand what their employees, members of the military, experience.

About a dozen Grand Forks business leaders flew high above the Great Plains in a Black Hawk helicopter to the Minot Air Force Base.

"(A) phenomenal opportunity for us as employers, for us just to be able to see what they do," said Minnkota Power Cooperative CEO Mac McLennan.

This chopper ride is what is called a bosslift.

"To have an idea what they go through one weekend a month, two weeks a year or if they have to deploy," said Jon Fargo, the general manager at Retrax.


The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program put on a behind-the-scenes tour of the base. It's supported by the Department of Defense.

"Promote and give a greater understanding to business owners that employ guard and reserve troops, and help them understand what they do on their day-to-day activities when they are deployed, or on their weekend training or anything that has to do with service to our country," said John Oncken, a volunteer with the program.

The group toured the base, received a one-hour unclassified briefing of the base's nuclear mission and watched an enemy fire drill.

"How we bring them back into the workforce when they return from any kind of active mission, and a greater understanding so we don't have to go to some kind of a scenario where there is negativity between the employer and employee," explained Oncken.

For the general manager of Retrax, he says while this trip provided a really small glimpse of what the military does, it gave him a good understanding of a day in the life for a service member.

"So when they do come back to work for us, we are able to maybe have a little more appreciation for what they had to go through," Fargo said.

The CEO of Minnkota Power Cooperative said this eye-opening experience has him double checking that the co-op is properly supporting its employees who are members of the military.

"Spend a little time with our HR staff just to make sure we are supporting, in the way we should, those who have volunteered through the guard and reserve, and we are being supportive of their efforts," McLennan said.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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