National Guard April 2011 : Page 30

STATE OF THE ARMY NATIONAL GUARD No Retreat Our force has never been stronger or more ready. Our challenge now is sustaining what we have created By Brig. Gen. John E. Walsh S ARMY NATIONAL Guard soldiers reflect on the current state of our force, most see a considerably different organization than the one they joined 10, 15 or, in some cases, 25 or more years ago. I joined the Army Guard in 1979 and there is very little resemblance between the organization I entered and the organization of today. I have witnessed the force slowly transform from a strategic reserve to what is now undeniably an operational force. Up until the late 1980s, the Guard was viewed as a Cold War strategic reserve that would be used only in the event of a major conflict. However, in the early 1990s and, more specifically, after Sept. 11, 2001, the paradigm shifted. Our force today is an operational force capable of defending the American homeland and protecting U.S. se-curity interests around the world, which we do every day. We are maintaining an unprecedented level of readi-ness as a result of years of hard work and increased em-phasis on manning, equipping and training. The experience level and quality of the men and wom-en serving in today’s Guard is remarkable. Approximately 60 percent of our soldiers have deployed at least once and a significant percentage have deployed multiple times. And despite all the nation has asked of our members, we are continuing to recruit quality men and women. Our nation now relies on the Army Guard for a variety of missions at home and abroad. The men and women who join now do so knowing full well that they will par-ticipate in ongoing worldwide military operations. A I have heard Vice President Joe Biden, the father of a Guardsman, say on numerous occasions, “This ain’t your father’s National Guard.” The Army Guard has contributed considerably to the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our men and women have been serving and fighting alongside their active-com-ponent brethren for nearly a decade. Along the way, much ground has been gained in over-coming many of the old cultural barriers that used to sepa-rate us and hinder the accomplishment of our missions. What does all this mean? It means that our force stands more ready, reliable, available, essential and accessible than at any time in its 374-year history. By any measure, we have the most professional and most capable Army Guard our nation has ever seen. Recruiting and retention in the force continues to exceed expectations. After nearly 10 years of deployments, our assigned strength remains above 362,000, which is 3,800 beyond our congressionally authorized personnel end-strength of 358,200. Since the beginning of operations in Iraq and Afghani-stan, the Guard’s mix of new versus cascaded equipment has immensely improved, thanks in large part to the Army Force Generation model. The ARFORGEN model outlines the details of equip-ping units in accordance with training and development timelines as opposed to whether a particular unit is desig-nated as active or reserve. The Guard’s funding for equipment has increased sig-nificantly over the past several years. 30 | Na tional Guard

State Of The Army National Guard

Brig. Gen. John E. Walsh

No Retreat<br /> <br /> Our force has never been stronger or more ready. Our challenge now is sustaining what we have created<br /> <br /> AS ARMY NATIONAL Guard soldiers reflect on the current state of our force, most see a considerably different organization than the one they joined 10, 15 or, in some cases, 25 or more years ago.<br /> <br /> I joined the Army Guard in 1979 and there is very little resemblance between the organization I entered and the organization of today.<br /> <br /> I have witnessed the force slowly transform from a strategic reserve to what is now undeniably an operational force.<br /> <br /> Up until the late 1980s, the Guard was viewed as a Cold War strategic reserve that would be used only in the event of a major conflict. However, in the early 1990s and, more specifically, after Sept. 11, 2001, the paradigm shifted.<br /> <br /> Our force today is an operational force capable of defending the American homeland and protecting U.S. security interests around the world, which we do every day.<br /> <br /> We are maintaining an unprecedented level of readiness as a result of years of hard work and increased emphasis on manning, equipping and training.<br /> <br /> The experience level and quality of the men and women serving in today's Guard is remarkable. Approximately 60 percent of our soldiers have deployed at least once and a significant percentage have deployed multiple times.<br /> <br /> And despite all the nation has asked of our members, we are continuing to recruit quality men and women.<br /> <br /> Our nation now relies on the Army Guard for a variety of missions at home and abroad. The men and women who join now do so knowing full well that they will participate in ongoing worldwide military operations.<br /> <br /> I have heard Vice President Joe Biden, the father of a Guardsman, say on numerous occasions, "This ain't your father's National Guard."<br /> <br /> The Army Guard has contributed considerably to the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our men and women have been serving and fighting alongside their active-component brethren for nearly a decade.<br /> <br /> Along the way, much ground has been gained in overcoming many of the old cultural barriers that used to separate us and hinder the accomplishment of our missions.<br /> <br /> What does all this mean?<br /> <br /> It means that our force stands more ready, reliable, available, essential and accessible than at any time in its 374-year history.<br /> <br /> By any measure, we have the most professional and most capable Army Guard our nation has ever seen.<br /> <br /> Recruiting and retention in the force continues to exceed expectations. After nearly 10 years of deployments, our assigned strength remains above 362,000, which is 3,800 beyond our congressionally authorized personnel end-strength of 358,200.<br /> <br /> Since the beginning of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Guard's mix of new versus cascaded equipment has immensely improved, thanks in large part to the Army Force Generation model.<br /> <br /> The ARFORGEN model outlines the details of equipping units in accordance with training and development timelines as opposed to whether a particular unit is designated as active or reserve.<br /> <br /> The Guard's funding for equipment has increased significantly over the past several years.<br /> <br /> In 2005, it received approximately $1.7 billion for equipment. In 2006, that sum jumped to $5 billion. By 2007, it was $7.7 billion.<br /> <br /> Funding for 2008 was just over $9 billion. Over this past year, the force received new equipment valued at $8.76 billion.<br /> <br /> When our units deploy, they now arrive with the most modern equipment available.<br /> <br /> However, a significant amount of equipment remains unavailable to support our domestic missions due to continuing deployments and emerging modernization requirements.<br /> <br /> Many states have expressed concern about the resulting shortfalls of equipment for training, as well as for domestic emergency-response operations.<br /> <br /> The Army has programmed an additional $20.9 billion from fiscal 2009 through 2013 for the Army Guard to procure new equipment and modernize equipment on hand.<br /> <br /> We appreciate that support and also the strong interest of Congress and the Defense Department in closing the gap between our domestic requirements and the available equipment in our armories and motor pools.<br /> <br /> The Army Guard must continue to transform into a 21st-century operational force and progress with the planning, budgetary and management reforms necessary to make the operational force a reality.<br /> <br /> America can't afford to allow the Army Guard to regress to its former strategic-reserve status.<br /> <br /> Once the demand for Army Guard soldiers comes down in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must find ways to utilize the force on a rotational basis.<br /> <br /> The nation has made a significant investment in the readiness and capability of this force. So it makes good sense from an economic standpoint to get a return on that investment.<br /> <br /> Even more importantly, the men and women of our Army Guard tell us this is how they want to be used. They don't want to go back to the "one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer" paradigm.<br /> <br /> The bottom line is that as a nation, maintaining and employing the Guard as an operational force is mandatory, not a choice.<br /> <br /> One issue we must address head-on as an organization is suicide. Last year, 114 of our fellow soldiers committed suicide.<br /> <br /> This is unacceptable. One suicide a year is too many. For some of our soldiers, the rigors of service, repeated deployments, wounds and separations from families resulted in a sense of isolation, hopelessness and life fatigue.<br /> <br /> Some believe that there is a relationship between the number of suicides we are experiencing and the challenges and stress our citizen-soldiers are facing as members of an operational reserve.<br /> <br /> Eliminating suicides within our ranks must be the No. 1 priority for every soldier in the Guard.<br /> <br /> This will take leadership. Now more than ever, our soldiers need firm, fair and consistent leadership.<br /> <br /> The future of the Army Guard is an issue of strategic national importance. In today's resource-constrained environment, our active-component military cannot do all it is asked to do without relying heavily on the Guard.<br /> <br /> Over the next decade, I anticipate the demand for Army Guard forces will remain high. And because the active-component military is not likely to expand dramatically for a range of demographic and budgetary reasons, the Defense Department will have to continue using the Army Guard as part of the operational force.<br /> <br /> If the Pentagon does not continue to resource the Army Guard to support the significant role it is being asked to play as part of the operational force, our force will begin to falter. Combat effectiveness will begin to erode. Recruiting and retention will suffer, and, over time, the Army Guard will fall back into a Cold War-style strategic reserve.<br /> <br /> While this shift away from a strategic reserve is an imperative, it is by no means a risk-free endeavor. If the shift is not made successfully, the strength of the military as a whole will suffer.<br /> <br /> I am immensely proud to serve alongside each and every one of you and I can't thank you enough for your service and sacrifice to your state and nation.<br /> <br /> I am extremely honored to serve as the NGAUS vice chair-Army and represent the 362,000-plus men and women currently serving in the Army Guard, as well as thousands of retirees that have served and sacrificed so much.<br /> <br /> You truly are the best our nation has to offer.<br /> <br /> I can't emphasize it enough. Our Army National Guard today stands more ready, reliable, available, essential and accessible than at any time.<br /> <br /> This is due to the sacrifices and commitment of all the men and women that have served in the Army National Guard during its long and grand history.<br /> <br /> Thank you to you, your family and your employers for your continued service and sacrifice. God bless.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> Brig. Gen. John E. Walsh is the NGAUS vice chairman- Army and the Montana adjutant general. His earlier career highlights include command of the Montana Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry (Mechanized), in Iraq from July 2004 to November 2005.<br /> <br /> America can't afford to allow the Army National Guard to regress to its former strategic-reserve status.<br /> <br /> The men and women who join now do so knowing full well that they will participate in ongoing worldwide military operations. <br />

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