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EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Staff Sgt. Kendra Shingleton and Sgt. 1st Class Leanne Kehres of the 35th Infantry Division found the right people to listen to some of their longtime concerns at Thursday’s town meeting.

Shingleton and Kehres, both members of the 36th Infantry Division of the Kansas National Guard, were among 100 soldiers who had an opportunity to ask questions of top Reserve policy officials, including Albert Zapanta, chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board; Maj. Gen. Richard Wightman, the military executive to the board chairman; Maj. Gen. James Darden, senior reserve adviser in Europe; Col. Richard Roberts, senior policy adviser for the U.S. Air Force Reserve; and Lt. Col. Sean Brunetti, plans officer for European Command Reserve Army.

“I’m one of you; I understand,” Zapanta said, explaining his military background that includes active duty as a private in 1964 through years in the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard. “I want to hear good, concrete problems that we might be able to address.”

Issues raised during the one-hour meeting included: different promotion and pay standards between the National Guard, Reserve and active-duty components; differences in the medical requirements for full-time National Guardsmen and those with civilian jobs; training and education money for troops; health insurance; retirement; the possibility of giving government credit cards to spouses of part-time soldiers; and use of space-available travel.

“Some of the things that we talked about for years and years and years have finally been answered,” Kehres said.

Zapanta said the board was already working on some of the issues.

“Those are issues that are being worked as we speak,” Zapanta answered, referring to the issue of different standards for active-duty and Reserve troops.

He shared his business card with Shingleton to follow up on her question and encouraged other soldiers to use it, as well.

“That’s the first man that’s ever given me a card with an e-mail on it,” said Shingleton, who plans to share the contact with fellow soldiers.

In response to another concern, Zapanta said he understands employers’ issues when they lose workers to military deployments, but said he does not want to see the day come when employers stop hiring Reserve and National Guard soldiers.

At the beginning of the meeting, Zapanta told the troops: “… [W]e’re here to listen.”

Afterward, the troops felt that’s just what they got.

“He answered the questions,” Shingleton said.

“He didn’t let it go,” Kehres added.


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