National Guard February 2013 : Page 22

PRESIDENT’S ANNUAL MESSAGE Prepping for What’s Next NGAUS continues to achieve big victories in Washington, but winning the tougher fights ahead will require a larger, more active membership By Retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr. O ASSEMBLE MY annual message to the mem-bership, I did more than examine my recent year at the helm of our association in Washing-ton, D.C. I went back more than 10 years to the start of the na-tion’s war on terrorism. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a terrible toll in lives and treasure. We can all be humbled by the sacrifice made by men and women of the National Guard and all of our armed services, along with their families. But because the nation has been at war, Congress and the Pentagon have been good to the Guard. Our motor pools are full of equipment. Our members enjoy improved benefits. And the Guard boasts a reputa-tion as a fighting force beyond any in its history. Credit for the Guard’s bounty over the last 10-plus years also goes to NGAUS. Those years have been among the most successful in our history, and our reputation in Washington, too, has never been greater. So, I am boggled by something else I noticed in my look back. I can’t understand why, during a time when our vic-tories are big and many, and Guardsmen have so few needs unfulfilled, the NGAUS membership rolls are in decline. That’s right. Our association membership has been shrinking while our Guard has been growing stronger. Since 2000, NGAUS membership has fallen from 71 percent of eligible members to 58 percent ( graphic, page T 24 ). Thirty-one states have seen their memberships fall an average of 29 percent. Twenty states have seen their mem-berships climb an average of 15 percent ( final 2012 state and territory totals, page 48 ). We’re not even treading water, folks. We’re sinking. Last year, we signed up 3,825 new members. But 6,955 active members did not renew. You might ask why this is important since, as I said, the Guard has reaped the reward for its good work. Here’s why: History. The war in Afghanistan now has an end date. When our troops come home for good with a victory under their belts, it will be a time to celebrate. But the glory of a new peace is nearly always accompanied by a decision to chop defense budgets, shrink the force and believe this war’s end is the end to all wars. Gone will be the easy sell on Capitol Hill for new aircraft and vehicles, for better health care and for more programs to educate and train our force. NGAUS worked hard even when the coffers were full, but we will be forced to work even harder when money is tight and other priorities take precedent with Congress. We’ll be further challenged by a Pentagon that always seems to target the Guard when resources become tight. Already, a Defense Department report has recommended cutting Guard drill pay in half. And the Air Force just took a run at the Air Guard. 22 | Na tional Guard

Prepping For What’s Next

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr.

NGAUS continues to achieve big victories in Washington, but winning the tougher fights ahead will require a larger, more active membership<br /> <br /> TO ASSEMBLE MY annual message to the mem- bership, I did more than examine my recent year at the helm of our association in Washing- ton, D.C. I went back more than 10 years to the start of the na- tion’s war on terrorism.<br /> <br /> The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a terrible toll in lives and treasure. We can all be humbled by the sacrifice made by men and women of the National Guard and all of our armed services, along with their families.<br /> <br /> But because the nation has been at war, Congress and the Pentagon have been good to the Guard.<br /> <br /> Our motor pools are full of equipment. Our members enjoy improved benefits. And the Guard boasts a reputa- tion as a fighting force beyond any in its history.<br /> <br /> Credit for the Guard’s bounty over the last 10-plus years also goes to NGAUS. Those years have been among the most successful in our history, and our reputation in Washington, too, has never been greater.<br /> <br /> So, I am boggled by something else I noticed in my look back. I can’t understand why, during a time when our vic- tories are big and many, and Guardsmen have so few needs unfulfilled, the NGAUS membership rolls are in decline.<br /> <br /> That’s right. Our association membership has been shrinking while our Guard has been growing stronger.<br /> <br /> Since 2000, NGAUS membership has fallen from 71 percent of eligible members to 58 percent (graphic, page 24) . Thirty-one states have seen their memberships fall an average of 29 percent. Twenty states have seen their mem- berships climb an average of 15 percent (final 2012 state and territory totals, page 48).<br /> <br /> We’re not even treading water, folks. We’re sinking.<br /> <br /> Last year, we signed up 3,825 new members. But 6,955 active members did not renew.<br /> <br /> You might ask why this is important since, as I said, the Guard has reaped the reward for its good work.<br /> <br /> Here’s why: History.<br /> <br /> The war in Afghanistan now has an end date. When our troops come home for good with a victory under their belts, it will be a time to celebrate. But the glory of a new peace is nearly always accompanied by a decision to chop defense budgets, shrink the force and believe this war’s end is the end to all wars.<br /> <br /> Gone will be the easy sell on Capitol Hill for new aircraft and vehicles, for better health care and for more programs to educate and train our force.<br /> <br /> NGAUS worked hard even when the coffers were full, but we will be forced to work even harder when money is tight and other priorities take precedent with Congress.<br /> <br /> We’ll be further challenged by a Pentagon that always seems to target the Guard when resources become tight. Already, a Defense Department report has recommended cutting Guard drill pay in half. And the Air Force just took a run at the Air Guard.<br /> <br /> That’s why we need to expand our membership. NGAUS needs a stronger voice to be heard above the other interests shouting for the same finite funds.<br /> <br /> Certainly, the members we have do love to be heard. We counted more than 172,000 contacts with Congress from our members last year through the Write to Congress feature on our website, www.ngaus.org. <br /> <br /> That has impact. Just think if it was twice that number. Or three times. Or more.<br /> <br /> We are looking at ways now to grow this organization, to maintain the momentum that has brought us this far.<br /> <br /> It is the No. 1 issue as I continue my time atop our operations in Washington, D.C. <br /> <br /> And NGAUS should be an easy sell. Our association has a history of coming through for the Guard, from the Charles Dick Act of 1903 that created the modern Guard to the first Guard and Reserve retirement program in 1948 to expanded commissary and exchange privileges in the 1970s and beyond.<br /> <br /> You may not know that an attempt was made in 1948 to fold the Army Guard into the Army Reserve. NGAUS prevented it.<br /> <br /> But I don’t have to go back that far. NGAUS has had some great moments since I last wrote on these pages.<br /> <br /> Members can now see the world via space-available travel. Our efforts in Congress earned additional dol- lars for military construction for both the Air and Army Guard. The congressionally funded National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account has a total of $500 million in funds for the Guard.<br /> <br /> But victory sometimes is what you prevent from hap- pening. We turned back most of the Air Force’s scheme to reduce the Air Guard fleet and personnel strength. And we stopped Congress from ending the Guard’s sponsor- ship of NASCAR and IndyCar racing.<br /> <br /> Our legislative scorecard from last year is pretty good.<br /> But our success is possible because the men and women of the Guard have performed at a high level for a long time on far away battlegrounds.<br /> <br /> I’m also proud of our accomplishments with the Na- tional Guard Educational Foundation.<br /> <br /> For one thing, our Legion de Lafayette continues to grow. This honor for our largest benefactors attracted 39 donors in 2012, each giving at least $10,000 to the foun- dation and some giving more or adding to a previous gift.<br /> <br /> Since 2010, more than $2 million has been raised for the NGEF . This allows the NGEF to better tell the story of the Guard, all 376 years of it.<br /> <br /> One positive trend I see is the state associations of those states or territories that host our annual conference are joining the Legion de Lafayette. Maryland joined last year, sharing the proceeds from a wonderful conference in Balti- more in 2008. Tennessee and Wisconsin did the same after hosting conferences in 2010 and 2011. Hawaii, which will welcome us in September, has already joined.<br /> <br /> I mentioned earlier the sacrifice of our men and women who go to war. Let me invite all of you to the National Guard Memorial Museum here in our building where we opened the 9/11 Era Gallery in November.<br /> <br /> This handsome addition to our museum describes the Guard’s role in America’s defense following the attacks on 9/11. It includes the Guard’s participation in natural disas- ter relief at home and in the wonderful State Partnership Program that continues to grow.<br /> <br /> But at the heart of the exhibit is a wall containing the nearly 800 names of Guardsmen who have died fighting the war on terrorism. It is a sobering sight, but one that is alone worth the visit.<br /> <br /> We are doing more work on the museum. The Vietnam exhibit is being renovated and should be open in March.<br /> <br /> This work has been par- tially funded by retired Lt. Gen.<br /> Roger C. Shultz, a former Army Guard director who is a Vietnam veteran. In fact, he also donated artifacts for the exhibit.<br /> <br /> Here’s something else I take particular pride in talking about. Last year, we presented seven DRS Guardian Scholarships. Funded by our good friends at DRS Technologies and adminis- tered by the NGEF , this program helps pay for a college education for children of Guardsmen who died in the war on terrorism.<br /> <br /> Our Insurance Trust is also a success story. We have created a partner program that provides a one-time payment of $50 to the state or territory association for each new technician it signs up for our long-term disability plan.<br /> <br /> So far, we’ve returned $30,150 to state and territory as- sociations for 603 new technician policies. This is a good Product and we want our technicians to have the protec- tion they deserve.<br /> <br /> We even found time to redesign our website.<br /> <br /> So, with all of this going on, the legislative successes, the world-class museum and programs designed to help individual Guardsmen, why are we struggling to maintain our membership?<br /> <br /> This is a serious question. I want to know your thoughts. How can we do better?<br /> <br /> It’s been suggested that our success in the past 10 years or so has given young Guardsmen who enlisted during that time a sense that if they need something, they get it. For them, it’s been pretty much that way.<br /> <br /> But they should ask their colleagues who joined 15 or more years ago how things were back then. The Guard had to fight for such things as G.I. Bill benefits and in- creased retirement points for inactive-duty training.<br /> <br /> NGAUS has the scars from those battles to prove that nothing comes easy. And it will soon be that way again.<br /> <br /> We want to recruit new members, better communicate with the current ones so they know what’s being done on their behalf and stay connected with the entire force that benefits from our work in the nation’s capital.<br /> <br /> We live in a new age of communication, so doing this should be easy. But we need to know you are out there and how to let you know what we’re doing here. That’s why I urge each of you to make sure we have your email address.<br /> <br /> Our goal this year is to grow our membership by 5 percentage points. And we’ve created an incentive program to encourage states to get on the stick and sign up some new members.<br /> <br /> We’ve divided the 54 states, territories and District of Columbia into three categories, large, medium and small. And we’re offering cash prizes to the state and territory associations that bring in the most new members, with $5,000 going to the first-place winner in each category. We’ll award the top four finishers in each category.<br /> <br /> We’re putting our money where our mouth is, you might say.<br /> <br /> But this is just one idea. I want to hear more. Please contact me at president@ngaus.org and tell me how NGAUS can increase its membership for the big fights ahead.<br /> <br /> And thank you for all you do for NGAUS, for the National Guard and for the United States of America.<br /> <br /> <br /> Retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr. Is the president of NGAUS and the National Guard Educational Foundation. He is respon- sible for the daily activities of the association and NGEF staffs at the National Guard Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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