ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First Army teamed with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to give Quad Cities businesspersons and civic leaders a better understanding of the needs and challenges of Reserve Component Soldiers during a "Briefing With the Boss," held May 5 in the Pershing Conference Room of First Army headquarters.

Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, First Army Deputy Commanding General for Operations, and a 30-year Army National Guard veteran, spoke about how he has benefited from an understanding employer.

"My employer of the past 30 years has seen me go on four deployments and in each of those I've had a growing responsibility. Because I work for a grateful company, it has not slowed me down a bit," he said.

Whittington acknowledged that business owners in attendance were likewise helping Reserve Component Soldiers to balance their military and civilian work obligations.

"What you do comes at a cost and I'm very grateful," he said. "In First Army, our customers are those Soldiers than you've sent as an investment. We help prepare the nation's Reserve Component forces. That is our sole mission, to ensure that the Reserve Component is ready if our nation calls. The Reserve Component has moved from being a national strategic reserve to an operational force. I'm grateful for your investment and we need you."

Just how much they are needed is made evident by the operational tempo of the Reserve Component, noted Ron Bacci. He serves as chair of the Illinois committee of the ESGR and is a retired Army Reserve colonel.

"Since 9/11, 945,000 of our Reserve Component members have been mobilized. Several of them have been mobilized multiple times," he said. "We're depending on these Reserve Component members to fill the shoes or our Active Duty Soldiers when needed."

He said teamwork is required to make is succeed: "Reservists are like someone who jumps in a hammock and it only works if you have a strong tree on either side to support it. And those trees are the employers and the families."

Retired Army Col. Alan Kruse is now a businessman who hires veterans exclusively and this currently includes two Reserve Component Soldiers. He said events such as the Briefing With the Boss are crucial to spreading the word about supporting Reserve Component Soldiers and their families.

"It is important to understand their needs and what they give to the country," he said. "And they're great employees. They show up for work, they're drug free, and they stay until they get the job done."

Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri added, "It's important to me as a community member and business owner to support this, and it's a win-win from my perspective. "These are wonderfully qualified individuals that have been trained to be good employees."