STOYSTOWN — Bob Miller has never flown in a Chinook helicopter or trained to operate a Bradley tank.
He'll have that chance May 8-9 at Boss Lift, a program set up to give employers a firsthand look at the training and leadership activities of their employees in uniform. The event will be held at Fort Indiantown Gap north of Harrisburg.
"I'm old enough that I missed Vietnam," he said. "And I was too (out of shape) and old for Desert Storm.
"Not being in the service myself, this is all new to me."
The by-invitation-only event is sponsored by Pennsylvania Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, also known as ESGR. Miller said he signed a pledge from this group stating his dedication to employees who could be deployed to active duty.
"If one of our people had to go, we'd gladly hold their job for them," he said.
According to Miller, the helicopter ride was the most appealing aspect of the program.
"It'll be interesting," he said.
Marty Kuhar — volunteer chairman of the Pennsylvania ESGR'S Mountain Area — said Miller is just one of several Somerset and Cambria county residents who have registered for the event.
He said Boss Lift is an important teaching tool for the military. The Daily American will be reporting from the event with additional coverage and photos.
"They basically want to give you various demonstrations on what the reserves are doing every day," Kuhar said.
According to David Donate, participating in this program is a privilege.
"I consider it a real honor to be even asked," he said, thanking local ESGR administrative support technician Greg Simmons. "It's not something a lot of people can experience outside of the military. I think that was a very generous gesture."
Donate is the owner of The Orchard, a bar and restaurant in Richland Township. For the past few years he has offered a free lunch to veterans on Veterans Day. He said he feels it is only appropriate for people to show their support to the men and women who serve.
"I never had the honor of serving in the military," he said. "I think it would be very interesting and even insightful to see what these men and women do."
Donate added that he's looking forward to the weapons, flight simulators and "really big toys."
Richland Township police Chief Mike Burgan is also attending. The retired Marine said he simply wants to show his respect.
"The Guard and Reserve has changed dramatically over the past 10 and a half years," Burgan said. "Now they have an international role in our active military."
"We've been in conflict for over 10 years and they are all volunteers," he added. "This generation makes you proud."
Civilians invited to train at Fort Indiantown Gap
Bob Miller stands among high-voltage insulators made by Glow Manufacturing in Stoystown. (Staff photo by Roger Vogel)