National Guard August 2011 : Page 36
A conversation with Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter ‘We provide a huge value and capability’ 36 In May 2009, Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter of South Dakota received a signiﬁcant but short-term assignment: keep the seat warm atop the Army National Guard until the new director arrives. More than 26 months later, he’s still at his post, and he’s done more than just occupy the chair. Today, the Army Guard enjoys un-precedented levels of on-hand equipment and personnel retention, even after nearly 10 years of war and without a permanent three-star director the last two. Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, the previous director, may have laid the groundwork for this success, but Carpenter maintained the momentum—no small feat at a time when plans and programs change as eas-ily as the direction of the wind. But the headlines haven’t been all good. Suicides in the force nearly doubled from 2009 to 2010 and the sun may be setting for much of the ﬁxed-wing aviation ﬂeet. Carpenter sat down recently with National Guard at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., to talk about the issues above and the way ahead. | Na tional Guard
'We provide a huge value and capability'
A conversation with Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter Acting director of the Army National Guard
In May 2009, Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter of South Dakota received a significant but shortterm assignment: keep the seat warm atop the Army National Guard until the new director arrives.
More than 26 months later, he's still at his post, and he's done more than just occupy the chair.
Today, the Army Guard enjoys unprecedented levels of on-hand equipment and personnel retention, even after nearly 10 years of war and without a permanent three-star director the last two.
Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, the previous director, may have laid the groundwork for this success, but Carpenter maintained the momentum–no small feat at a time when plans and programs change as easily as the direction of the wind.
But the headlines haven't been all good. Suicides in the force nearly doubled from 2009 to 2010 and the sun may be setting for much of the fixed-wing aviation fleet.
Carpenter sat down recently with National Guard at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., to talk about the issues above and the way ahead.
A couple years ago, the Army committed to spend more than $35 billion on vehicles and equipment for the Army National Guard. We know some of it has already arrived. Given the current fiscal environment, is it realistic to expect this to continue?
Over the last six or seven years, the Army invested about $37 billion worth of its budget on equipment for the Army National Guard, which is historic. I'm not sure when, except for maybe World War II or sometime in that era, we have seen a comparable amount of equipment come to the National Guard. And I'm not sure we even saw it then.
The time lag between the time the equipment money is appropriated and the time when the equipment is actually delivered is, on average, 18 months. So, we are just now receiving the equipment here in [fiscal year] '11 that was purchased, in some cases, in FY '09 and, conceivably, maybe even before that. This equipment tidal wave is likely to continue for the next 18 months or so.
We are seeing the budgets go down in equipment acquisition as we look out across the [five-year program objective memorandum]. Our biggest problem is not going to be equipment fills. It's going to be modernization. We still have some of the older models of the medium tactical vehicle and heavy tactical vehicle.
We're in pretty good shape in many of our other lines of equipment. We have seen the equipment fills go from somewhere in the less than 50 percent/60 percent [range] four or five years ago to where it's now at 89 percent. That's pretty darn incredible. Much of that is critical dual-use equipment that is available to the governors for emergencies and disasters, which we seem to have every shape and kind going on right now.
The Army Guard has a great deal of equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan. How much of this equipment will not be coming back to the states as the wars wind down? And how will that affect the equipment level of the force?
There are probably three dispositions of the equipment depending upon what theater.
For the equipment in Iraq, a lot of that's either going to Afghanistan or its being turned over to the Iraqis, or its coming back to the United States where it's going to go through reset and will be redistributed across the Army. The Army is in the midst of doing that now.
In Afghanistan, we saw a little different strategy on how we equip units. A theater-provided set of equipment is in place in Afghanistan. So, for the most part, except for individual equipment–weapons and those types of things–the soldiers that are going to Afghanistan fall in on equipment that's already in theater.
Most of that was provided out of the active force. So, in terms of what we expect [to see] come out of that is probably going to be minimal, at least from the standpoint that we didn't contribute a lot to that set of theater-provided equipment. So, we may be a beneficiary in some form, but it won't be in any major form.
Will that 89 percent level on-hand at home stay the same?
It will rise, because as we see this equipment go through reset, as it goes through the depots or some of the other facilities, you'll get a piece of equipment that comes out the other end that in many cases has zero miles, zero hours. It is, for all practical purposes, a brand-new piece of equipment, and the Army will redistribute that based on the priority list.
Our concern is to make sure we get the equities that are in 1225.6 DoD Directive [of 2005], which ensures that if we offer up equipment to the active component or another component, there's a payback time and place. We had a bit of a rough start with the equipment that was left in Iraq. We've seen that process mature, and it's actually pretty good at this point.
Fixed-wing aviation in the Army Guard is a concern. The C-23 Sherpas are set for retirement and have no replacement. The Army also has indicated it wants to cut the Guard's C-12 and C-26 fleet. What is being done to retrain the Army Guard's fixed-wing capability?
The C-27J was, at the time that it was developed, supposed to be the modernization strategy for the C-23. The secretary of defense weighed in on that, decreased our MDA to two, which transferred the mission for that particular aircraft to the Air Force and the Air National Guard.
They are in the middle of standing that up and the first several C-27Js are scheduled to go to theater out of the Air Guard sometime in the next several months.
For us in the Army Guard aviation business, we have 43 C-23s still in our inventory. We're scheduled to park four of those at the end of FY '11 here. Congress has weighed in and asked for a study [by the Defense Department] that incorporates what the C-23's capability is, what it delivers to the homeland and the value of that aircraft.
Part of that also has to do with what the expected savings are by divesting the C-23. The C-23 capability provided incredible support to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year [and is] working right now with floods and fires. Those airplanes are value-added in the homeland mission.
And the arrival of the C-27Js, which are supposed to provide the same capability or similar capability to the homeland, they don't come to the United States–to continental United States–in any significant numbers until all the C-23s are divested.
What we see is a reduction in capability that, in some form or other, puts the homeland mission, maybe not at risk, but degrades it at least from that perspective. We're going to do what Congress directs, we're going to do what secretary of defense directs. Right now, we've been directed to begin parking those aircraft and do total divestiture by FY '14. If Congress provides some different guidance, obviously we're going to comply with that.
What is the future of other fixed wing aviation in the Army Guard, specifically the C-12 and C-26?
The numbers and the kinds of organizations that those aircraft reside in and that capability resides in is under review by the Department of the Army.
The vice chief of staff of the Army is taking a look at the distribution of C-12s across the United States. He's asked for some analysis of efficiencies we can provide. We have a responsibility to show him what capability they deliver and how much use they're getting, and we're in the midst of that right now. We think we are going to see some reduction in C-12s in the Army National Guard.
All of this is going to play into the efficiencies and what we see in the out years as a reduced budget. We are championing the cause for Army Guard aviation because we think we provide a huge capability that's not necessarily provided in some other form.
Relative to that, we're partnering with the Air National Guard in terms of a study that's gone to the House staffers on aviation supporting domestic environment.
Despite seeing the light at the end of both tunnels overseas, how concerned are you about the stress the wars have put on the force? And have your soldiers developed too much of the warrior ethos, perhaps, to feel fulfilled in the Guard if they are solely concerned with domestic missions, like responding to floods, fires or tornados?
That question is probably better posed to someone who has been in the Army Guard for three years. I think that they identify strongly with the Army, but are proud of their service in the National Guard.
Those soldiers want to be out there. The professionalism and the skills they developed from their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are directly applied to what they bring to the table in emergencies and disasters.
We hear time and time again when the National Guard shows up at a disaster site that there's a level of comfort that's brought to those affected by the disaster. And I think that has to do with the credibility that the Guard has. That credibility is there whether it was developed in the overseas activities that we're doing right now in Afghanistan or Iraq, or whether it's here in the United States.
I'd like to believe that people are proud of being in the Army, but they're also proud to be in their National Guard.
You've been acting director for two years. How does it impact the force to not have a permanent three-star director sitting in your chair?
First of all, I never expected to be the acting director from South Dakota. To get to serve at this level is a huge privilege and honor for me. I'm motivated by the fact that there are 362,000 soldiers out there that are dependent on my ability to represent their equities, whether it happens to be at the Army level, the Department of Defense level or at Congress.
And whether I've got two stars or three stars, my effort is to be vocal and to represent their equities and have people understand the importance of service in the National Guard and the value that the National Guard brings.
There are some forums where two stars are less than three stars. We are in a hierarchal organization, that's just kind of the fact of life.
My strategy, whether I was going to be the acting director for 60 days, six months, now a little over two years, was to set a course for this organization so that when the permanent director arrived on the scene that we would not miss a beat, that we would continue to deliver service to the soldiers and the soldiers deliver the service to our nation.
I really do believe that when the permanent director gets here, you'll see a seamless transition to leadership.
What has been your proudest moment on the job?
I have gotten a number of compliments from the Army staff, and that's really been pretty gratifying for me.
At one point, Gen. [George W.] Casey, at the time the outgoing chief of staff, commented to the adjutants general when he recognized me for my service as the acting director. And he said, "Ray has managed to keep us from picking your pockets."
Most recently, Gen. [Martin E.] Dempsey [Army chief of staff] commented in that same kind of forum in front of the adjutants general that my service as acting director was worthy of an Academy Award.
I think that the credibility I have managed to bring finds its roots in the service of our soldiers to the Army and to the Department of Defense, and that is probably what I see as my biggest accomplishment.
The Army has long doubted the Guard's ability to command larger formations. You are around Army senior leaders. How do you think they view the performance of the Army Guard's battalion, brigade and division commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan?
I think the Army, at the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, was waiting to see how the National Guard would perform. I think that probably to their amazement in some cases, we did very well. "Surprised" may be a better term.
I think over time they came to believe that the National Guard is fully a partner in this business. Now, more than anything else, delivery of mission accomplishment by the Guard is expected. If for some reason or other that didn't happen, there would be equal surprise that we didn't meet our responsibilities or didn't accomplish the mission. By the way, I don't see that happening.
The importance that the Army places on both the National Guard and the Army Reserve is why we're having this discussion about the operational reserve and what an operational reserve is and then how much does it take to fund that operational reserve.
I think it is recognized at that level as being a capability and a quality that needs to be preserved [beyond] the two wars we're in right now. The question is how much money does it take to sustain that and are we going to be able to support that that in a budget-constrained environment?
But the leadership of the Army does recognize the value of this operational reserve, and I think their challenge is to figure out how to continue to sustain it. And from our perspective in the Guard and Reserve, we have built a huge capability.
We think we provide a huge value and capability. And for a very modest investment, we can sustain that capability.
During the years of war, the active component and the Army Guard seem to have built a good and strong relationship. Is it strong enough to survive as resources get scarce or is it likely to revert to pre-9/11 period when the two forces were not always so friendly?
I think the relationship has been developed between our leaders– brigade commanders, battalion commanders and company commanders– as they deploy downrange and work for each other and have a common goal. With the success we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a respect that's been built among all the components of the Army.
The Army does not want to see the Guard go back to a strategic reserve and we do not want to see the Guard go back to a strategic reserve for a couple reasons. The soldiers we recruit into this organization, they joined us to do something. And if we somehow go back to a strategic reserve, that's not what they signed up for and we will probably see soldiers say, "You know what, I'm probably not going to stay in the Guard because I'm not feeling like I'm getting what I signed up for here."
On the other hand, I think that the investment that's been made in our formations, the equipment, the training, all those kinds of things, if we go back to a strategic reserve, we won't maximize our investment. We won't get the bang for the buck out of it.
Some on Capitol Hill have questioned the value of recruiting sponsorship deals, like those with NASCAR, IndyCar, pro wrestlers and others. How do you answer their questions?
You have to understand how we got into this business to start with and the ways we ended up in NASCAR and the Indy Racing League. We were desperate in 2005. We found ourselves at a national level in terms of soldiers of 330,000 against a required strength of 350,000. So, General Vaughn put his best effort toward figuring out how to turn that around.
One of the ways we used to turn that around was to go where the young people were. In 2005, NASCAR was the fastest-growing sport in this country. If you are trying to maximize recruiting, it only makes sense that you would go to the fastest-growing sport to get your name out in a larger audience and to try to attract people to service in the National Guard.
Over time, we have had huge success in terms of the following, for instance, of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is the most popular NASCAR driver out there and we're fortunate to have him drive cars that have the National Guard logo on them.
Anyone who pays any attention to NASCAR knows about Dale Jr. and knows he drives for the National Guard. I think it has been a great relationship on all levels, whether it's pro wrestling or fishing or motorsports. I think we have benefited greatly from that.
I think probably it's time for us to take a long look at where we go in the future here. What's the right investment to make? Where do we get the most for the money we invest? Congress is looking at that. Frankly, we're looking at that. We think it makes sense to stay in some of these venues and we think we can make the justification for that.
But we are also going to be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars and we're going to make sure we are doing the right thing. I don't think we can get out of all of these completely because what's going to suffer is the recruiting and the branding of the National Guard and the military at large.
We have been the beneficiary of people who want to come and serve in the National Guard. And we don't want to get out of that business because if we don't have people that come to the National Guard and the Army and want to serve in sufficient quantities, we're not going to be able to sustain this very capable force we've built up.
I think the trick here is, [staying] where we're at against going to no participation at all. What's the right venue to be in and at what level?
Like other forces, the Army Guard has been touched by suicide. You have addressed the problem on many levels, but suicides persist. What is your personal take on the reason for this?
Well, if you have heard me speak about this subject, you know we saw a doubling in the suicide rate in the Army National Guard from 2009 to 2010. We set a goal to reduce that number to somewhere about half in 2011.
I'm happy to report to you that we're trending in the right direction. We've got to date 37 suicides reported in 2011 against somewhere around 56 this same time last year. That's good news.
But the bad news is we still have 37 soldiers who committed suicide this year. The adjutants general are energized to a person across the board on this issue. I think the reason why we're trending down right now is because of the engagement of the TAGs, their chains of command, the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, the company commanders, the squad leaders.
They are out there. They understand and are making a special effort to know their people, know their problems, know if they're unemployed, know if they are having relationship problems, know if they are having [post-traumatic stress disorder] or residual effects of some sort from a deployment. I think all of that together is going see us turn this problem around.
I still do believe that we must build a little more resiliency into the generation we are recruiting. We recruit some very, very bright people, and in some cases, they are not as resilient as we'd like them to be.
So, inside of the Army, we have spent a lot of time in the last year talking about resiliency, putting resiliency training into our basic-training programs, our NCO programs, our officer programs.
We have a broad-based approach to cover down on this effort to reduce the number of suicides in the Army National Guard, and I think that's what's responsible for the trend we're seeing right now and ultimately that's what's going to allow us to get this terrible problem under control.
Director of the Army National Guard
A Title 10, lieutenant general position at the National Guard Bureau, a joint activity of the Defense Department at the Pentagon, the director is responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating all federal policies, plans and programs for the Army National Guard in the 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.
If we go back to a strategic reserve, we won't maximize our investment.
Our biggest problem is not going to be equipment fills. It's going to be modernization.
We recruit some very, very bright people, but in some cases, they are not as resilient as we'd like them to be.