West Virginia’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve partnered with the Logan County Chamber of Commerce to host a BOSS tour Fri., July 25 at the W.Va. National Guard’s Camp Branch landing zone in Logan County.
The Camp Branch site is owned by Alpha Natural Resources. What used to be a surface mine has now been turned into an airstrip for the West Virginia National Guard. Alpha and the WV National Guard have been working together since 2005 to utilize the reclaimed land, and they are not finished yet. There are talks of bringing other training opportunities for the guard up on top of the mountain.
The event is designed to highlight the partnership between Alpha Natural Resources and the National Guard. These organizations have a history of land-use agreements that allow reclaimed mine property to be converted into valuable training sites for military organizations across the globe. Alpha is interested in working with the guard at other mines across the state and country to form similar partnerships.
ESGR is a Department of Defense office that was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment. ESGR informs and educates Service members and their civilian employers regarding their rights and responsibilities governed by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
Local leaders and area employees had the opportunity to see C-130 assault landings at the Camp Branch site. Camp Branch was developed for aircrews to practice their wartime skills in a non-hostile environment. The site has expanded to include short dirt landing strips — similar to those they may face in operations overseas.
What makes the Camp Branch site so important is the confidence and training the soldiers and airmen receive while working there. West Virginia terrain is similar to that of what the men and women see during war times.
“This particular training site replicates, almost perfectly, what we see while we are deployed,” Pilot Allen Tackett said.
Another airman chimed in agreeing saying the only thing missing is being shot at.
Also present for the event were many local politicians including County Commission President Danny Godby, Commissioner Willie Akers and Delegate Rupie Philips.
“Being retired Air Force, I am so happy to see this in Logan,” Phillips said. “This partnership also extends to the county politicians. Anytime the guard comes to us —the Commission, Senator Kirkendoll, Delegate Tomblin and myself — we do everything in our power to help.”
Phillips was thrilled with the experience to be part of such a great partnership to benefit the country’s defense.
“All this because of what used to be a coal mine,” Phillips said. “If you can use these mine sites and create jobs and revenue and have such a positive impact on our nation, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to take advantage of that.”
Not only is this partnership considered great because it assists the country’s national defense, it is also an opportunity for Logan County to bring in revenue and attention from outside of the state. The training site has caught national and international attention, hosting units from South Carolina and Missouri, a group of Marines from Texas and the Royal Air Force.
When the soldiers and airmen come to Camp Branch, they utilize the local economy by staying overnight in local hotels and shopping around the area.
For more information on the W.Va. ESGR, visit their website at esgr.mil/Contact/Local-State-Pages/West-Virginia