Steve Schmidt was sitting in a computer simulation of a military vehicle Wednesday in Salina, with Scott Chipman seated next to him.


Steve Schmidt was sitting in a computer simulation of a military vehicle Wednesday in Salina, with Scott Chipman seated next to him.
    At that moment, Schmidt said he realized that the enemy was all around the two men and that they depended on each other for their lives — just as two real soldiers would rely on each other.
    "It definitely makes you appreciate the need for support and prayer for these individuals as they go in service for God and country," he told the Globe Wednesday afternoon.
    Schmidt and Chipman joined six other southwest Kansas employers Wednesday for the Boss Lift Project, which allows employers to experience the training that members of the Kansas National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve must complete before deployment.
    Employers from Burlington and Marion also participated in the program.
    Boss Lift is sponsored by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a U.S. Department of Defense agency that encourages employers to support and value their workers' military service.
    Participants rode on a Blackhawk helicopter to the Kansas National Guard Training Center in Salina, where they fired small-arms weapons and rode in Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and armored Humvees. The exercises involved computer-simulated equipment instead of real vehicles, just as soldiers use simulations before going out on field exercises.
    Burkhart-Ziegler Funeral Chapel owner Phillip Ziegler, who was one of the eight participants from southwest Kansas, said the experience was a lot of fun.
    "It's kind of like Nintendo or Playstation — whatever you'd want to call it — on steroids," he said. "Some of those simulators that they have are just awesome."
    Ziegler said his favorite moment from the entire experience was riding on the Blackhawk helicopter, seeing how the pilots and crew chief worked together on flying it.
    But the experience had a serious purpose as well. By giving businessmen a firsthand glimpse of military training, it aimed to educate them about supporting employees who serve in either the National Guard or the Army Reserve.
    "This is just an introductory way to get these people to understand a little better what's going on," said Tom Sanko, Area 2 Chairman for the Kansas Committee of ESGR. "It's mainly to see these young troops in training."
    Chipman, a member of the ESGR who completed his second Boss Lift program on Wednesday, said the participants enjoyed using the military simulators.
    "We're all grown men, but no matter how old you get, you still enjoy playing with those expensive toys," said Chipman, senior vice president of Fidelity State Bank. "But it's even more serious than that, obviously, because you just get a good feel for what these young people have to do as far as the technology and the learning curve that they have to pick up to operate this expensive machinery."
    Schmidt, the service manager for Lopp Motors, said that he had enjoyed the experience.
    "It was awesome," he said. "I wish every employer would have the opportunity to go through this course."

Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.