National Guard April 2011 : Page 14

CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE Some Momentum S Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala Chairman of the Board NGAUS The president has said he would sign any legislation elevating the NGB chief. AYING NICE THINGS about Con-gress may be as rare for some people as snow in July. But I like much of what I see taking place in our nation’s capital. It shows we p have some friends on Capitol Hill who un-h derstand the National Guard and all it does d f for the nation. I’m particularly happy to see lawmakers p pushing to give the chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat on the Joint Chiefs of G Staff. S Sen. John D. Rockefeller and Rep. Nick R Rahall, two West Virginians, have intro-d duced bills in their respective chambers t that would give our chief the recognition the Guard deserves. NGAUS has pushed for this for years and we’ve had some pretty strong backing recently. At the association’s conference in Baltimore in 2008, Vice President Joe Biden, who was then a candidate for his current job, said, “It’s time for a change. Change begins with giving the Guard a seat at the table—that table in the Pentagon where the Joint Chiefs sit.” President Barack Obama said during the 2008 campaign that he would sign into law any legislation elevating the chief’s position. I think we’re moving in the right direc-tion here. It’s only a matter of time. You need this. And you have earned it with your blood, your sacrifice and your courage during this long period of warfare. Simply, it is time! Also, two bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would provide Guardsmen who fight those wars with great-er access to mental health counselors. We all know suicide and post-traumatic stress are taking a toll far from the battlefield. NGAUS believes the answer is to identify the at-risk soldier and airman sooner and get them started on the treatments that are known to work. These problems are pre-ventable and having a trained professional within reach during training and family readiness events can only help. We have Sen. Patty Murray from Wash-ington state, Sen. Claire McCaskill from Missouri and Rep. David Loebsack from Iowa to thank for taking the initiative on this important issue. Wait, there’s more. Few issues have generated greater re-sponse than the effort to change the legal definition of veteran. The way it stands now, a person who serves honorably for 20 years in the Guard but never does duty in a federal status is not a veteran. Yet if you serve 181 days in the active component and never go any-where, you are a veteran. Crazy, I know. Our attempt to change that law failed in the last Congress, but we have a new cham-pion for that cause in Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. He introduced a bill last month that would provide legal veteran standing to many of our retirees. Interestingly, no additional benefits are attached to this bill. It’s merely a pride thing. Yet our members have responded to this issue almost like no other. To me, that speaks volumes about how our veterans feel about their service in the Guard. There are other bills making their way through the legislative process that we’re keeping in our sight. They pertain to every-thing from retirement to the counterdrug program. To me, this is all good news. We know that the Guard is a cost-effective solution to many of the budget problems challenging the nation. And we think the NGAUS presence in the shadow of the Capitol helps us keep that idea in front of the men and women who make the laws and control the purse strings of our country. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is seeking efficiencies in the defense budget. Here we are, Mr. Secretary. The answer to your problem. We are the solution. For that reason and more, I’m proud to be a Guardsman. The NGAUS chairman can be contacted at frank.vavala@ngaus.org. 14 | Na tional Guard

Chairman’s Message

The president has said he would sign any legislation elevating the NGB chief.<br /> <br /> SAYING NICE THINGS about Congress may be as rare for some people as snow in July.<br /> <br /> But I like much of what I see taking place in our nation's capital. It shows we have some friends on Capitol Hill who understand the National Guard and all it does for the nation.<br /> <br /> I'm particularly happy to see lawmakers pushing to give the chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.<br /> <br /> Sen. John D. Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall, two West Virginians, have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would give our chief the recognition the Guard deserves.<br /> <br /> NGAUS has pushed for this for years and we've had some pretty strong backing recently. At the association's conference in Baltimore in 2008, Vice President Joe Biden, who was then a candidate for his current job, said, "It's time for a change. Change begins with giving the Guard a seat at the table–that table in the Pentagon where the Joint Chiefs sit."<br /> <br /> President Barack Obama said during the 2008 campaign that he would sign into law any legislation elevating the chief's position.<br /> <br /> I think we're moving in the right direction here. It's only a matter of time.<br /> <br /> You need this. And you have earned it with your blood, your sacrifice and your courage during this long period of warfare. Simply, it is time!<br /> <br /> Also, two bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would provide Guardsmen who fight those wars with greater access to mental health counselors. We all know suicide and post-traumatic stress are taking a toll far from the battlefield.<br /> <br /> NGAUS believes the answer is to identify the at-risk soldier and airman sooner and get them started on the treatments that are known to work. These problems are preventable and having a trained professional within reach during training and family readiness events can only help.<br /> <br /> We have Sen. Patty Murray from Washington state, Sen. Claire McCaskill from Missouri and Rep. David Loebsack from Iowa to thank for taking the initiative on this important issue.<br /> <br /> Wait, there's more.<br /> <br /> Few issues have generated greater response than the effort to change the legal definition of veteran.<br /> <br /> The way it stands now, a person who serves honorably for 20 years in the Guard but never does duty in a federal status is not a veteran. Yet if you serve 181 days in the active component and never go anywhere, you are a veteran.<br /> <br /> Crazy, I know.<br /> <br /> Our attempt to change that law failed in the last Congress, but we have a new champion for that cause in Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. He introduced a bill last month that would provide legal veteran standing to many of our retirees.<br /> <br /> Interestingly, no additional benefits are attached to this bill. It's merely a pride thing. Yet our members have responded to this issue almost like no other.<br /> <br /> To me, that speaks volumes about how our veterans feel about their service in the Guard.<br /> <br /> There are other bills making their way through the legislative process that we're keeping in our sight. They pertain to everything from retirement to the counterdrug program.<br /> <br /> To me, this is all good news. We know that the Guard is a cost-effective solution to many of the budget problems challenging the nation.<br /> <br /> And we think the NGAUS presence in the shadow of the Capitol helps us keep that idea in front of the men and women who make the laws and control the purse strings of our country.<br /> <br /> Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is seeking efficiencies in the defense budget.<br /> <br /> Here we are, Mr. Secretary. The answer to your problem. We are the solution. <br /> <br /> For that reason and more, I'm proud to be a Guardsman.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> The NGAUS chairman can be contacted at frank.vavala@ngaus.org. <br />

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