By Army Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON (5/13/11) – As part of the Total Force, the National Guard has successfully transformed into an operational force – a transformation impossible without the investments made in the Guard and Reserve, the top National Guard leader said here May 11th.
During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the Guard must remain operational so “this significant investment is not squandered.”
McKinley said the Guard is in the midst of a transition “bordering on transformation” and must maintain readiness to continue to be a part of the national security framework.
“Through a number of National Guard-specific missions,” he said, “we’ve demonstrated the unique capabilities of our Citizen-Soldiers, who bring a unique blend of civilian skills.
“These missions include our support to the combatant commanders around the world, to the State Partnership Program, … the Agribusiness Development Teams in Afghanistan and as a critical partner in the Department of Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and High-Yield Explosive enterprise.”
These missions would not have been possible without the men and women of the National Guard, he said, and our transformation to an operational force has increased the stress on families.
“That is why it is critical that family programs in the [2012 fiscal year] request are fully funded,” McKinley said.
Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard, said it is imperative the needs of Soldiers and Soldiers’ families are taken care of.
“We need to make sure that our Soldiers are employed, that they are mentally and physically fit and that we understand the stress that we have them endure when deployed or here at home,” said Carpenter.
Therefore, “it is vital that we continue to fund Soldier and family outreach programs,” he said.
McKinley said the redesign of the Guard into an operational force took a heavy toll on families and employers as it has met the challenges of the 21st century.
One of the challenges has been how to integrate Guard members back into their families and communities, and the Yellow Ribbon program does a great deal to bring families back together as a team, he said.
“Yellow Ribbon has been critical in the effort to provide our Soldiers with the same access to services that active component Soldiers can find on installations,” said Carpenter.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry “Bud” Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, agreed that programs like Yellow Ribbon are critical “pre-deployment, during deployment and post-deployment.”
Wyatt said the program has played a major part in addressing suicides within the Air Guard.
Carpenter and Wyatt both said that even one suicide is one too many, but steps have been taken to reduce the numbers and results can be seen.
Both directors also addressed equipment concerns.
Carpenter said on-hand critical dual-use equipment percentages have increased, allowing the Army Guard to fulfill its commitments at home and abroad.
He said the Army Guard aviation program has also seen tremendous improvements in fixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft since 9/11 and the days of the “Hueys,” applauding the committee for its part in achieving this success.
“The Nation will benefit from the vast investment and experience in the Army National Guard in the future,” said Carpenter, “and in a budget-constrained environment, the Army National Guard is a cost-effective solution.”
Wyatt, on the other hand, said the main concern for the Air Guard is the age of its equipment. “Modernization is the key,” he said, “to remain an operational force.”
Both Wyatt and Carpenter agreed about the role the committee has played over the last decade in shaping the operational force the Guard has become.
“This operational force did not just happen,” said McKinley. “It came on the backs of taxpayers of this great country and this committee.
“The top priority [in] my tenure as chief is to ensure that the organization of the National Guard Bureau supports our new role as an operational force.”