CORAOPOLIS, Pa. - With more than 200,000 Americans serving in the Army Reserve, and more than 75,000 serving in the Air Force Reserve, many civilian employers are regularly impacted by those within their workforce who have simultaneous military obligations. Few of these employers have an opportunity to see the other world in which their Citizen-Soldiers work.

That opportunity was given to 15 local leaders of 11 area businesses Aug. 13, as part of the 2009 Honorary Commanders Association. The HCA is an organization formed in cooperation between the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (U.S. Army Reserve), the 911th Airlift Wing (U.S. Air Force Reserve), and the 171st Air Refueling Wing (U.S. Air Force Reserve).

Through this cooperation, the local employers were flown on a day trip via an Air Force C-130 to Curtis Bay, Md., where they visited the 949th Transportation Company. The 949th is an Army Reserve transportation company that specializes in watercraft, both for harbor and ocean operations.

"It was extremely eye-opening," said Richard Dixon of the Pittsburgh Rotary Club. "Having spent four years in the U.S. Navy back in the late 50's, early 60's, I had no idea that the Army actually had ships. By the way, they call them 'boats' but we still call them ships. It was a wonderful experience. Being an Honorary Commander is something special for me."

Participants saw six Army vessels and toured the 949th's Large Tug 803, the MG Anthony Wayne. The 203rd Transportation Company, a neighboring watercraft unit, hosted lunch aboard their vessel, the LSV 8, MG Robert Smalls, which the guests also toured. Each tour provided HCA members a glimpse into the types of skills Army Reserve Soldiers during battle assembly weekends.

"Every leg of the journey was a learning experience, a hands-on experience," said Sally Haas, president, Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I would have thought, before I started this program, that I had a pretty healthy respect for the men and women in our armed services," said Kyle Fisher, chief marketing and public relations officer, Robert Morris University. "I have to say that after two experiences in the Honorary Commander organization, I've been educated, I've been moved, I've been entertained, and mostly I've been impressed and inspired by what I've learned... I would recommend it for other citizens. We need to understand what this important part of our culture is all about and why we should be so grateful."

The businesses represented by the Aug. 13 attendees were: CH2M Hill Inc.; Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh Airport.; Michael Baker Jr., Inc.; Mountain State University, Multi Print Media Inc.; P.B.S. & J.; Pepper Hamilton Llp.; Riverset Credit Union; Robert Morris University; Take Care Health Systems, and Victory Media Inc.

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Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16