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Employers get glimpse of N.C. Guardsmen training for Iraq

Posted May 19, 2008
Updated May 20, 2008

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— Soldiers with the North Carolina National Guard who deploy to Iraq in early 2009 must leave behind not only their families, but also their jobs.

To help ease the transition from work to war, the Guard invited several employers to watch the soldiers from the state's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, the "Old Hickory" brigade, training up close.

Employers joined Guardsmen this weekend while they were training at Camp Shelby, Miss., the largest National Guard training site in the country.

"It's not an easy thing for any business, whether large or small, because that person's critical to the operation of the business, and the work must go on," employer Neal Grimes said.

Grimes said he faces a particular challenge – because his employee is his son, Lt. Col. Mac Grimes.

Despite the professional and personal difficulties, both father and son said they can finds points of pride in the situation.

"It's just about the best thing there is," Neal Grimes said. "I'm an old field artilleryman, and I'm reliving my experiences through him right now."

"He's my boss. We have a small, family-owned business," Mac Grimes said. "And him coming out as an employer, he's given me all the support in the world to be able to continue (in) the uniform."

The Grimes' double connection – family and business – was hardly typical of North Carolina Guardsmen in Shelby. One worked for public transportation in Wilmington, another worked sales in a pet store, and a third drove trucks delivering cars to dealerships.

All, though, said that knowing their jobs are secure once they get back is just as important as their mission abroad.

"You can't pay truck payments, vehicle payments, insurance, anything," Pfc. Darryl Burnett said. "You can't provide for your children. I have a son. You can't do any of that. That's probably the most miserable feeling you'll ever have."

The federal Uniform Services Employment and Federal Reemployment Act requires that employers reserve positions held by soldiers when they are called up to active duty or provide soldiers with a comparable job when they return. Businesses are also banned from discriminating against someone based on military status.

Guard officials said they hope the session at Camp Shelby will help lessen soldiers' anxiety and ease the concerns of companies as they have to make do with fewer employees for a while.

"We're alerted about a year out, so it gives you a lot of time to be able to prepare for moving away from your job," Maj. Bill Gray, of Clayton, said. "Working that peace with your employer and also preparing your family and children is the toughest."


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  • 5-113 FA Retired May 19, 2008

    ifcdirector Give it a break! Posters like you sound like a broken record. Why not focus your energy is a positive direction if that's possible. This is not the time or place.

  • deltadawn May 19, 2008

    I love to read about our heros. A family member is there as we speak getting ready to deploy and he could not be more ready to defend our freedom. God Bless Our Troops.

  • Worland May 19, 2008

    Glad to see the Guard get some positive headlines.

  • ifcdirector May 19, 2008

    This war is a waste of everything. Our Founding Fathers would be spinning in their graves to know that this nation has been in Iraq occupying it for this many years and engaged in this war period. The blood and treasure expended for this hole in the ground isn't worth the whole population of that place for that matter. It's time to end this mess and let people get on with their lives as best they can. If you want to wage war then use the weapons that give us the edge and completely annhilate and destroy their country until it's a burning cinder or until someone gives up. End of war. It worked for Japan and Germany. What you don't do is give up those weapons and go to ground toe to toe on the enemy's terms. That's a recipe for losing and we are losing daily.