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'Connecting our businesses': Montana Army National Guard invites Billings business leaders on helicopter ride

Participants line up for a photo in front of a Chinook
Posted at 3:46 PM, Jul 14, 2023

BILLINGS — It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Chinook helicopter.

On Friday, the Montana Army National Guard, in collaboration with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), invited local business leaders to take an up-close look at daily operations.

“Today we have our Employer Support of the Guard Reserve event, so we’ve invited the members of the community that employ National Guard members, Air National Guard members, and reserve members, to come up and show them what we do in aviation here in Billings,” said Maj. Dustin Horswill, commander of the Limited Aviation Support Facility in Billings, on Friday. “ESGR events are incredible events. The atmosphere with the people that are here is just great because they really want to be here and see what we do."

View from inside of the Chinook mid-flight
View from inside of the Chinook mid-flight

It was a unique opportunity to see operations firsthand.

“On a day-to-day basis up here, we have 13 employees. But on a drill weekend, that surges to 40-60 people that we’ll have in Billings. Especially when we get our new facility built out here in the next couple years, then that will surge some more of that 60," Horswill said. “We fly out of here daily doing training missions. We do progression, making sure that our pilots and crew chiefs receive the training that they need to do to be fully qualified. That’s actually what we’re doing here today, is training missions. We just invite other people along to go out and see what we do."

Dustin Horswill
Dustin Horswill

The event at the Limited Aviation Support Facility in Billings, located at 2121 Hanger Dr., welcomed more than 80 local employers.

“I was invited because of our involvement with the Chamber of Commerce. I am the co-chair of Billings Next Gen, and I sit on the DEI Advisory board for the Chamber as well, so I was extended the invite through those groups,” said D'Vaughn Hayes, field marketing manager at TDS Fiber, on Friday. “I think that events like this are a great way to further the connection with the community. Having as many business members as they do here today shows that that support is growing, and we’re really proud to be a part of that at TDS Fiber."

D'Vaughn Hayes
D'Vaughn Hayes

Hayes said this opportunity was a dream come true.

“It’s an honor, honestly. I’m really excited for the opportunity to fly on one of these bad boys because that’s always been kind of like a childhood dream of mine," Hayes said. "To be one of the organizations to get to hear the presentation of how we can collaborate with the military is incredible. I’m honored to be here."

A thought echoed by Chamber representative Isiac Hammer.

"The Billings Chamber is all about business development. Connecting our businesses. So the great thing about the presentation that ESGR’s done, is we brought in all of our major employers. We sent an invite out to our major employers to come and learn from this presentation of what ESGR is to support the National Guard and the employees of the National Guard. So it’s a really unique scenario to do business-to-business and really connect them in that route,” Hammer said. "They want to make sure that they’re building connections with major employers, so it’s really unique."

Isiac Hammer
Isiac Hammer

Hammer explained he believes one of the main reasons for this event is to bring the businesses and local Army National Guard together.

“I think a big portion of it is the connection, right? When you see Billings and you see Yellowstone County, it’s connections," Hammer said. "We can connect with our military with our businesses. And so, I think that’s a big portion of what this presentation is, is just connecting the two of them together.”

Connecting—while enjoying a rare opportunity.

"We’re really excited to kind of showcase our helicopters, our job. Really talk about how we can support the state of Montana, the city of Billings, and the local populous,” Horswill said. “It’s great, these are awesome events. We really enjoy it."