National Guard June 2011 : Page 30

Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith Alabama January 2011 Brig. Gen. David S. Baldwin California April 2011 Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. Florida June 2010 Maj. Gen. Benny M. Paulino Guam January 2011 Maj. Gen. Darryll D. M. Wong Hawaii January 2011 New Guard By Ron Jensen A big group of new adjutants general includes many who bring experience not afforded to their predecessors. It creates a potent mix atop the force HE U.S. SENATE is some-times called “the world’s most exclusive club.” But, in fact, that au-gust body of deliberation has nearly double the membership of an even more select group. Only 54 people are National Guard adjutants general—the senior of-ficer responsible for the training and readiness of Guard forces and military matters in each state and territory. And in the past 12 months, 17 states and territories bid farewell to their TAGs and welcomed a succes-sor, an unusually high turnover even following the election of new gover-nors. Thirteen adjutants general have stepped into their roles this year. Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., the Florida adjutant general, is among the senior of this new guard; he took office a year ago this month. At a con-ference he attended a few months ago, he recalls, “I looked around and I was the senior guy there.” T Asked in March, just as rebellion in Libya was taking hold, if a nearly 30 percent turnover among TAGs in one year is significant, Maj. Gen. Timothy J. Lowenberg, the Washington adju-tant general since 1999, said, “I think it is. It coincides with some major political adjustments at home and, as we see now, throughout the world.” He called the series of personnel moves that has taken place “a nice balance” of colonels moving into gen-eral officer slots and newer generals moving into senior leadership. Although the new adjutants general have diverse backgrounds, from combat commands to Pentagon assignments, they all have since faced a moment when they knew the buck now stopped on their desk. Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Reiner, Wyoming’s new TAG, recalls making a decision soon after taking over and then pausing to consider it. “I thought, ‘Who do I need to call to make sure this is good to go?’” he says. He quickly realized no further call was required. Maj. Gen. Deborah A. Ashenhurst, who became the Ohio adjutant gen-eral in January, says her moment of truth came after her first briefing. “I realized, ‘Oh, they’re looking at me for a decision,’” says the former NGAUS board member. But new TAGs have a support system at their disposable—the senior adjutants general. Reiner says, “They were all brand new TAGs at one time themselves. They’ve walked through this water.” Ashenhurst credits the patience of her predecessor, Maj. Gen. Gregory L. Wayt, now retired, for making that initial decision she mentioned easier. Prior to the change of command in Ohio, Wayt “sat with me day after day,” she says, to show her the ropes. “The TAG group is a very congenial group and I can call them anytime,” says Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong, who took charge of Hawaii in January. “They know what’s going on and they’re ready to help you any time.” Lowenberg confirms that his phone rings frequently with new adjutants general on the other end. “And I think that’s healthy,” he says. “I speak to a member of the incoming group several times a week.” So, too, he says, do other senior ad-30 | Na tional Guard

New Guard

Ron Jensen

A big group of new adjutants general includes many who bring experience not afforded to their predecessors. It creates a potent mix atop the force<br /> <br /> THE U.S. SENATE is sometimes called "the world's most exclusive club." But, in fact, that august body of deliberation has nearly double the membership of an even more select group.<br /> <br /> Only 54 people are National Guard adjutants general–the senior officer responsible for the training and readiness of Guard forces and military matters in each state and territory.<br /> <br /> And in the past 12 months, 17 states and territories bid farewell to their TAGs and welcomed a successor, an unusually high turnover even following the election of new governors. Thirteen adjutants general have stepped into their roles this year.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., the Florida adjutant general, is among the senior of this new guard; he took office a year ago this month. At a conference he attended a few months ago, he recalls, "I looked around and I was the senior guy there."<br /> <br /> Asked in March, just as rebellion in Libya was taking hold, if a nearly 30 percent turnover among TAGs in one year is significant, Maj. Gen. Timothy J. Lowenberg, the Washington adjutant general since 1999, said, "I think it is. It coincides with some major political adjustments at home and, as we see now, throughout the world."<br /> <br /> He called the series of personnel moves that has taken place "a nice balance" of colonels moving into general officer slots and newer generals moving into senior leadership.<br /> <br /> Although the new adjutants general have diverse backgrounds, from combat commands to Pentagon assignments, they all have since faced a moment when they knew the buck now stopped on their desk.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Reiner, Wyoming's new TAG, recalls making a decision soon after taking over and then pausing to consider it.<br /> <br /> "I thought, 'Who do I need to call to make sure this is good to go?'" he says.<br /> <br /> He quickly realized no further call was required.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Deborah A. Ashenhurst, who became the Ohio adjutant general in January, says her moment of truth came after her first briefing.<br /> <br /> "I realized, 'Oh, they're looking at me for a decision,'" says the former NGAUS board member.<br /> <br /> But new TAGs have a support system at their disposable–the senior adjutants general.<br /> <br /> Reiner says, "They were all brand new TAGs at one time themselves. They've walked through this water."<br /> <br /> Ashenhurst credits the patience of her predecessor, Maj. Gen. Gregory L. Wayt, now retired, for making that initial decision she mentioned easier. Prior to the change of command in Ohio, Wayt "sat with me day after day," she says, to show her the ropes.<br /> <br /> "The TAG group is a very congenial group and I can call them anytime," says Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong, who took charge of Hawaii in January. "They know what's going on and they're ready to help you any time."<br /> <br /> Lowenberg confirms that his phone rings frequently with new adjutants general on the other end.<br /> <br /> "And I think that's healthy," he says. "I speak to a member of the incoming group several times a week."<br /> <br /> So, too, he says, do other senior adjutants general like Maj. Gen. Michael D. Dubie, the Vermont TAG and president of the Adjutants General Association of the United States (AGAUS), and Maj. Gen. Frank D. Vavala, the Delaware TAG and chairman of the NGAUS Board of Directors.<br /> <br /> One difference in the new crop of adjutants general is the number with combat experience, Lowenberg noted, a reflection of the battle-tested force of the past decade.<br /> <br /> "That's very helpful experience to add to the general-officer mix" and to the TAG corps, he says.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., the South Carolina TAG since January, and the nation's only popularly elected adjutant general, spent one year in command of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix in Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> "As a commander in combat, I saw firsthand what it took to win," he said in an e-mail response to questions while he was attending a course. "I also saw the cost of winning in human lives and suffering."<br /> <br /> Now, as adjutant general, when he trains and prepares his soldiers and airmen for deployment, he says, his experience will make his decisions in that process "more mature and credible."<br /> <br /> Reiner was in charge of Camp New York in Kuwait, where he housed and fed 10,000 troops moving to and from the war. He would never say a deployment is a requirement to become a TAG, he says, but it helps an adjutant general relate to troops "as you are sending them out the door."<br /> <br /> Other new adjutants general spent time in Bosnia and Kosovo, learning the ins and outs of deployments and commanding troops during lengthy overseas operations.<br /> <br /> "We really kind of cut our teeth in the peace enforcement and [peace] keeping missions," says Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, who has been TAG of Minnesota since November. He commanded troops in Bosnia and in Iraq.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., who has been the Virginia adjutant general since July 2010, spent time in Bosnia and Iraq and along the U.S. border with Mexico.<br /> <br /> "I think I'm typical of a lot of these adjutants general," he says.<br /> <br /> If there is a drawback to the high turnover, it is in the loss of "senior, well-connected adjutants general" who had built relationships on Capitol Hill and in statehouses, Lowenberg says.<br /> <br /> Reiner says that issue is "something that bears watching."<br /> <br /> But no one expects it to take long for relationships to be built. Some know their congressional delegations already from previous positions and others have been quick to make contact.<br /> <br /> "I've had experience in previous jobs that help me deal with folks on Capitol Hill and the Pentagon," says Long. "I'm comfortable with [the political side of the job]."<br /> <br /> Some don't think the turnover matters when it comes to influence on Capitol Hill.<br /> <br /> "The adjutant general is the adjutant general," says Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, who took charge in Alabama in January. "It's more, I believe, a function of the position rather than a function of the person. I don't believe there's a lot lost."<br /> <br /> Smith is probably right. And that's good. This is a critical time for the Guard and the new TAGs know it.<br /> <br /> They are coming to office primed to see the decade-long transformation of the Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational force face its first stern test. The war in Iraq is nearly in the military's rearview mirror. The death of Osama bin Laden last month has put pressure on the administration to bring the Afghanistan operation to a close.<br /> <br /> That could put these new adjutants general in the middle of answering the pending questions: What next? What will the National Guard look like a few years from now?<br /> <br /> And they will likely provide a collective response. The adjutants general will help answer that question. They meet via video teleconference regularly and in person a few times a year under the auspices of the AGAUS–including this month in Indianapolis–to deliberate on such matters.<br /> <br /> Their current fear is that history will roll backwards and the advances made in resourcing the Guard will make a sudden U-turn as the country deals with a diminishing pot of money.<br /> <br /> That's the challenge and the new adjutants general know it won't be a cakewalk.<br /> <br /> "Some of the older TAGs tell me it's always easy to be a TAG when there is a lot of money," says Wong.<br /> <br /> But he says the new adjutants general have seen the transformation from various angles and appreciate what it represents. And they are determined to preserve those gains.<br /> <br /> "I think knowing the history, you understand where we are," Wong says. "You understand how we got to this point."<br /> <br /> Livingston says, "We are in a tough business and the challenges will only get rougher as the budgets contract. At the same time, this is a great opportunity for us to excel as an organization. . . . We represent a highly efficient and effective force that is connected to the community."<br /> <br /> And Smith says, "The National Guard the past 10 years has proven that we're an operational force. We intend to remain an operational force."<br /> <br /> But he knows the preeminent obstacle. When money gets tight, he says, "The active duty protects their rice bowl."<br /> <br /> Reiner agrees, but says, "As a nation, we cannot afford to take that approach."<br /> <br /> Instead, these leaders plan to push the idea of the Guard as an efficient force, a better buy for the American taxpayer than the sprawling active-component force that doesn't punch the time clock.<br /> <br /> "It's an argument we make every day," says Ashenhurst.<br /> <br /> It's not original, but it's an idea they absolutely endorse.<br /> <br /> "It's only in our lifetimes that we've had this expensive standing army," says Smith.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, he says, the Guard can do the same job for pennies on the dollar.<br /> <br /> And that's the argument they intend to make on Capitol Hill. In fact, they've already been making it and they think they've found a receptive audience.<br /> <br /> "I'm seeing a lot of head nods," says Titshaw.<br /> <br /> What helps, of course, is not just the efficiency, but the performance. The new TAGs have been in position to see the force improve since the war on terrorism began. They have a perspective that goes back decades.<br /> <br /> "I think the Guard is as well-trained and prepared with experienced leaders as I've seen in my 47 years," says Long. "There's not a person I know of that doesn't want to be a part of that."<br /> <br /> The performance overseas and the Guard's increased profile with the active components and the nation are positive factors when making the case that the Guard is the force for the future.<br /> <br /> "[It] brings credibility when we're looking for missions, training, equipment and resources," says Nash.<br /> <br /> The new TAGs seem suited to the task ahead of them. In interviews, they expressed a confidence in the force and in their own skills. And they put great stock in their new positions as platforms from which to make things happen on Capitol Hill.<br /> <br /> Ashenhurst says she doesn't feel like a member of an elite group, but she feels like she belongs now to "a powerful group." A letter signed by every adjutant general is sure to get the attention of decision makers in the halls of Congress, she says.<br /> <br /> Titshaw says, "The key to the success of the National Guard is the unity of message that we have as 54 adjutants general."<br /> <br /> Ron Jensen can be contacted at (202) 408-5885 or at ron.jensen@ngaus.org.<br /> <br /> "As a commander in combat, I saw firsthand what it took to win. I also saw the cost of winning in human lives and suffering." –Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr. The Adjutant General, South Carolina<br /> <br /> "The key to the success of the National Guard is the unity of message that we have as 54 adjutants general." –Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. The Adjutant General, Florida <br />

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