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Employers experience training demonstrations at Camp Ripley

A soldier prepares to fire a round of ammunition. The demonstration was part of 1 / 5
Local employers examine ammunition rounds that were later fired. The demonstrati2 / 5
A group of local employers listen to safety rules. The demonstration was part of3 / 5
Brandon Klinkhammer, top, and Kodjo Djondo run through modern Army combat moves 4 / 5
Soldiers hold ammunition rounds that were later fired. The demonstration was par5 / 5

Their formations were sloppy. Their aim, a little off.

But about 50 area employers got a taste Wednesday of what it’s like to be in the boots of a soldier — in a safe, more muted version, of course.

The event at Camp Ripley is to show local employers what their military employee goes through during training. That way, a culture is created where the employer better understands and appreciates what their soldier employee experiences.

It’s put on by a group called Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. Made up mostly of volunteers, the group advocates on behalf of employers, service members and their families.

Wednesday’s event gives employers a better feel for what their reserve soldier employee does, said Paul Monteen, state chair of the Minnesota Committee of the ESGR.

“It gives the employer a better concept of what training they’re getting here,” he said.

The group of men and women employers, most without any military background, climbed onto a bus, where they were assigned a “battle buddy.” This is the person that should never leave your side, they were told. If you go to the bathroom, they are there. On the field, they are by your side.

The first stop was at a combat training.

Battle buddies semi-close by, the employers made their way to a dimly lit room. In the center was a black mat. Soldiers sat in pairs on the mat, their shoes off and pant legs rolled up.

“Come on in. Don’t be scared. We won’t hurt you too bad,” a man on the mat joked.

The group was on the tail end of a one-week training course in modern Army combatives. These are the fighting techniques that involved weapons such as hands, knives and quick moves.

Their next stop would require ear plugs. The group headed to the firing range, where they saw a mortar fire demonstration. The ammunition, the group was told, can travel 2,300 meters and when it lands, it has a kill radius of 75 meters.

“It goes boom and kills a bunch of people,” one soldier broke it down for the group.

Next was an up-close view of pure fire power as the soldiers took the employers to a field. There, the soldiers put on a life-like simulation of firing upon enemy tanks.

Finally, a few employers got some hands-on experience in firing from inside a tank.

The experience is “eye opening” for employers, said Kathy Eken, owner of Jack’s Shack in McGregor.

“It’s nice to see what they’re really doing out here,” she said. “All we know is they are gone for a weekend. We don’t know what they’re doing. ...If we don’t understand what they’re doing, we can’t be as in tune.”

Eken’s son is her only employee who is in the service. She also wants to show her support of the troops by attending the event.

Keith Johnson of KJT in Brainerd hasn’t had any military members on his staff yet, but he’s looking for some.

It’s hard to come by a good employee who cares about their job, he said. So he’s looking to service members, who are trained with the skills he wants on his team.

“In boot camp you’re taught structure,” he said. “Then there’s qualities built in like pride.”

Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge gets a couple of active service members on its staff every year. That’s why Chris Ruttger and James Taylor joined in on the event.

Ruttger said it can be an inconvenience when employees are gone for the annual two-week training.

“We know it’s for a good reason,” he said. “That’s why we wanted more of an understanding of it.”

Taylor agreed, “It’s that perspective of what an employee has been doing when he goes away from us. We want to support them.”

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at