National Guard October 2011 : Page 30

C ONFERENCE WR AP-UP Challenging Forecasts By Ron Jensen Despite perfect skies overhead, two ominous but very different kinds of storms dominated talk at the annual NGAUS conference MILWAUKEE OCALS IN THE Badger State said the blue sky and mild temperature that greeted attendees at the 133rd General Conference and Exhi-bition in late August was courtesy of Hurricane Irene chugging its way up the East Coast. Hurricanes in the East cause high pressure to hover over the Midwest, they said, which results in beautiful weather. Still, however, the wrath of Irene reached the city on the shores of Lake L 30 | Na tional Guard

Challenging Forecasts

Ron Jensen

Despite perfect skies overhead, two ominous but very different kinds of storms dominated talk at the annual NGAUS conference<br /> <br /> LOCALS IN THE Badger State said the blue sky and mild temperature that greeted attendees at the 133rd General Conference and Exhibition in late August was courtesy of Hurricane Irene chugging its way up the East Coast.<br /> <br /> Hurricanes in the East cause high pressure to hover over the Midwest, they said, which results in beautiful weather.<br /> <br /> Still, however, the wrath of Irene reached the city on the shores of Lake Michigan. Many East Coast states were low in attendance. Some guest speakers from Washington, D.C., cancelled or altered their schedules. And Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the NGAUS chairman of the board, was forced home on the conference's second day to take charge of National Guard response in Delaware, where he is the adjutant general.<br /> <br /> "I do appreciate the fact that you elected me chairman and I certainly take this sacred duty seriously," he told the conference at the end of the first day. "But I'm also sworn to serve and protect the welfare of the citizens of Delaware. I can't be here when their lives and property are threatened."<br /> <br /> Brig. Gen. John E. Walsh, the vice chairman-Army and the Montana adjutant general, and Brig. Gen. William R. Burks, the vice chairman-Air and the Nevada adjutant general, performed admirably pinch hitting for Vavala over the next two days.<br /> <br /> The hurricane was alluded to also during the frenetic Roll Call of States. The Massachusetts spokesman noted, "[H]opefully, the Bay State will remain the Bay State and not simply the Bay."<br /> <br /> Still, the presence of a major storm rolling up the coast 1,000 miles away provided an appropriate backdrop to the conference, which had as its motto The National Guard: Right for America. Nearly 8,000 Guardsmen were called to duty for the storm, which, fortunately, did not cause the widespread chaos and damage that had been predicted (Story, page 26).<br /> <br /> As Vavala said in his opening remarks, "Protecting the homeland is a core competency of the National Guard."<br /> <br /> Despite the intrusion of Irene, however, the show went on as planned in the city famous for beer, brats and bikes–the motor kind, specifically those named Harley- Davidson.<br /> <br /> Part of the rousing start was the introduction of Wisconsin-native Gary Wetzel, who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the war in Vietnam. He later led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance.<br /> <br /> One early technical glitch provided a moment of levity. When everyone stood to sing the Army song and the Air Force song, the words to the Air Force song failed to appear on the screen.<br /> <br /> Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, later explained, "I guess it's because the Air Force guys know the words to their song."<br /> <br /> The conference wasted no time getting to the point. Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, the Wisconsin adjutant general, who was introduced in a video by professional golfer Steve Stricker, welcomed people to Badger Country and then spoke of another kind of storm–the nation's fiscal crisis.<br /> <br /> "In fact, if Congress formed a think tank made up of the world's greatest thinkers and charged them to come up with a way to cut defense spending without taking unnecessary risks with national defense, they would come up with the National Guard," he said. "This is a crucial time for our nation. And we are needed more than ever."<br /> <br /> Dunbar introduced Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who compared the Guard to riding a Harley.<br /> <br /> "It's that tradition," the Republican said. "It's a sense of freedom, and it's the quality and everything else that becomes a part of that."<br /> <br /> As usual, the Roll Call of States proved entertaining, as well as enlightening. For example, attendees learned that a Nebraskan invented Kool-Aid, nylon was invented in Delaware, and Guam leads the world in per capita consumption of Spam.<br /> <br /> After all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia had had their moment in the spotlight, Vavala returned the session to the serious business at hand. He noted that despite 17 states with 100 percent membership, overall membership was at 57 percent, which, he said, "is not that great."<br /> <br /> "We can do better," he said. A late addition to the agenda was a panel of former Guard leaders, who, Vavala said, represented a collective 386 years in uniform.<br /> <br /> Some of them spoke about their experiences during and after the Cold War in a roundtable forum the day before. The discussion was recorded for an audio history planned by the National Guard Educational Foundation.<br /> <br /> The men on stage were retired Lt. Gen. Herbert R. Temple, a former NBG chief; retired Maj. Gen. Philip Killey, a former Air Guard director; retired Maj. Gen. John D'Araujo, a former Army Guard director; retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a former Air Guard director; retired Lt. Gen. RussDavis, a former NGB chief; retired Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, a former Army Guard director; retired Maj. Gen. Paul Weaver, a former Air Guard director; retired Lt. Gen. Daniel James, a former Air Guard director; retired Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, a former Army Guard director; and Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, the Oregon adjutant general and a former Army Guard director, a two-time former NGB vice chief and a two-time former acting NGB chief.<br /> <br /> After each man spoke briefly, Temple again took the podium. Describing the challenges of the Cold War, he said, "Now, you must understand, in this era, we're talking about going to war every morning. Every morning when we got up to go to work, that was the day we were going to war. And it was a war we could lose."<br /> <br /> He warned today's Guardsmen that they will become a target for budget cutters as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq draw down.<br /> <br /> Following the panel's appearance, the conference crowd watched a video tribute to retired Brig. Gen. William W. "Bill" Spruance (related story page, 44) who passed away in January at the age of 94. A longtime Guardsman, Spruance was a mover and shaker in the early Air Guard, especially in Delaware, and a well-known proponent of air safety.<br /> <br /> Vavala said Spruance was a "giant among us, a guy who literally built this great organization that we have today."<br /> <br /> The keynote speaker of the session was Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr. Less than a month after taking the reins of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), he offered the Guard praise and a promise.<br /> <br /> He also spoke of the mutual goals of the Guard and NORTHCOM, calling them "oath-sworn brothers and sisters who protect Americans whose hard-earned taxes train and equip us both."<br /> <br /> Jacoby later said, "As someone who has fought alongside you and your fine men and women, it is my conviction to be a proponent for the National Guard, to maximize the adaptability, flexibility and economy of the Total Force."<br /> <br /> And he committed to "never stop listening and learning about the Guard, your capabilities and your concern."<br /> <br /> Ending the first day, Vavala encouraged people to attend the trade show, where more than 360 exhibitors were displaying everything from giant trucks to unit coins.<br /> <br /> One new exhibitor was Zanfel, which manufactures a soap that fights poison ivy. Steve Sisler, a vice president, said the military has been interested in the product for about one year and the Army is testing it now at Fort Benning, Ga.<br /> <br /> More than 800 tubes were handed out during the conference.<br /> <br /> "The interest level has been phenomenal," Sisler said.<br /> <br /> SEVERAL BUSINESS REPORTS began the second day of business in Milwaukee. Retired Brig. Gen. Ken Ross, the NGAUS treasurer, was brief with the good news he had to share.<br /> <br /> "We've got a great NGAUS organization that between its dues and its conference structure and other sources of income, it's operating within budget," he said. "So, the only thing I can report to you, Mr. Chairman, is that things are great in NGAUS, and as long as we don't change our business plan, they're going to continue that way."<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Bill Wofford, the Arkansas adjutant general, gave the report for the Adjutants General Association of the United States.<br /> <br /> "I will tell you that in the recent June conference of [AGAUS] that was conducted in Indianapolis, we reaffirmed our position that the National Guard needs to be supported and funded as an operational force in an open, transparent and accountable manner," he said.<br /> <br /> The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, too, was represented in the program. Retired Chief Master Sgt. Roger Hagan, shared one of his association's new projects–a commemorative musket for the Guard's 375th birthday.<br /> <br /> "The original is the very first item on display in the Smithsonian permanent exhibition on American military history," he said. It is a .75-caliber matchlock musket dating back to 1636. And it was traced to the New Town Colony of the Massachusetts Bay Colony."<br /> <br /> Hagan said EANGUS received special permission from the Smithsonian to replicate what he called, "truly one of the first weapons made in America."<br /> <br /> He indicated the muskets would retail for $4,995, but offered a special advance-order price of $2,995 to NGAUS and EANGUS members, with $300 of the proceeds going to the National Guard Educational Foundation (NGEF).<br /> <br /> The EANGUS booth, where the musket was on display, took eight orders before the end of the conference.<br /> <br /> Retired Maj. Gen. Daniel B. O'Hollaren, the chairman of the NGAUS committee on by-laws, reported that 957 delegates had registered for the conference. Mississippi had the most with 49, followed by Tennessee with 44.<br /> <br /> In his State of the Guard speech, McKinley, the NGB chief, warned attendees about the past when the Guard was not allowed to maintain its momentum.<br /> <br /> "I ask every one of you in this audience to go home reinvigorated, rededicated to making sure the National Guard does not slip back into history … to that force that's third or fourth string," he said. "We're first stringers. We're PhD-ers. You all have earned it on the battlefield and I'm proud to be part of the team."<br /> <br /> Retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of NGAUS, introduced a stage full of special people. They were contributors to the Legion de Lafayette, which is reserved for the largest donors to the NGEF.<br /> <br /> Hargett said the people standing with him had donated $550,000 in the past year, part of the reason the NGEF has reversed its funding course, which was a major goal for Hargett when he became the boss at NGAUS last year.<br /> <br /> "We have made it a standalone organization that pays its own way," he said.<br /> <br /> CATHLEEN PEARL, THE NGEF deputy director, explained that some of the NGEF money will be used to fund the National Guard Memorial Museum's new 9/11 Era Gallery. The gallery, which will be the museum's largest renovation since its creation in 2003 and is expected to open next year, will highlight the work of the Guard abroad and at home in the decade since America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.<br /> <br /> "What we want is for visitors to come away knowing what we've known all along," she said. "And that's that no matter who you are or where you are, in times of need, you will have no greater friend than the National Guard."<br /> <br /> The first DRS Guardian Scholarship was presented to Nathan Alexander Smith, a 19-year-old University of Iowa student. The scholarship is funded by DRS Technologies and will be presented annually to children of Guardsmen who have died in the war on terror.<br /> <br /> Smith's father, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bruce Alan Smith was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2003.<br /> <br /> Rich Goldberg, the DRS senior vice president of public affairs and communications, said, "Our job at DRS, as a company, is to do our best to support all of you in achieving your mission. But we see it as our obligation as individual citizens to make sure that the families of fallen heroes will never be forgotten."<br /> <br /> Jim Tinkham, the executive director of the National Guard Youth Foundation, discussed the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program that helps teenagers who drop out of high school find the right path and earn a degree. He said 34 programs exist in 27 states, but more programs are in the works.<br /> <br /> Nine graduates of the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy at Fort McCoy were introduced. One of them, Joe McDonald, said later that the program diverted him from a life of marijuana smoking and law breaking.<br /> <br /> "It gave me the motivation and discipline I needed," he said, adding that he plans to join AmeriCorps in California to "help out young people like me who are struggling."<br /> <br /> The conference closed with the traditional States Dinner on the evening of the third day. Besides the introductions of those seated at the head table, it included a wonderfully funny performance by humorist Jeanne Robertson, who was Miss North Carolina in 1963.<br /> <br /> Referring to her beauty queen past, the tall, gray-haired 60-something Robertson said the crowd was probably expecting a younger, better-looking woman to appear on stage. When told she'd perform for an audience of Guardsman, she said, she was "expecting some younger, better-looking men."<br /> <br /> Spinning well-practiced yarns for about 40 minutes, Robertson had the crowd roaring with laughter. But her message was that humor is necessary and a great way to make it through life without going crazy.<br /> <br /> "Even in the stressful situations that the people in the Guard find themselves in," she said, "it is important to look for the humor in things." Ron Jensen can be contacted at (202) 408-5885 or at<br /> <br /> "I ask every one of you in this audience to go home reinvigorated, rededicated to making sure the National Guard does not slip back into history."<br /> <br /> –Gen. Craig R. McKinley<br /> <br /> Chief of the National Guard Bureau<br /> <br /> Schwartz: 'Restructuring must be done across the Total Force'<br /> <br /> The Air Force chief of staff promised to consider the entire Air Force as the flying service deals with the fiscal constraints the Defense Department is certain to face in the near future.<br /> <br /> But Gen. Norton A. Schwartz also told the NGAUS conference Aug. 28 that changes in missions for some states is almost certain.<br /> <br /> "Any restructuring must be done across the Total Force, consistent with future trends and potential threats, our collective priorities, our national security strategy and our collective capabilities," Schwartz said.<br /> <br /> Speaking to the conference via a video recording because Hurricane Irene prevented him from leaving Washington, D.C., Schwartz said the Pentagon is certain to lose "hundreds of billions of dollars" from its budget over the next decade.<br /> <br /> "Therefore, from an enterprise-wide perspective of the Total Force, we must sustain and institutionalize our efforts to scrutinize all of our business practices thoroughly, and to identify areas that are inefficient, needlessly redundant or, in some cases, both," he said.<br /> <br /> Ultimately, he said, the service will determine where the capabilities that survive should reside–in the active component or the Guard and Reserves.<br /> <br /> "As the implications of this reality compel us to reshape the Total Force, I call upon you to continue to expand the definition of the Guard's mission set," he said.<br /> <br /> He said it is natural to seek self preservation, but urged his audience to "consider our institutions less as two separate and distinct components and instead identify more with the Total Force itself as a larger remarkable institution that we all seek to preserve."<br /> <br /> –By Ron Jensen<br /> <br /> Army Session: Suicide Vigilance, Shorter Deployments, Value of Guard Connections<br /> <br /> Just as he did one year ago in Austin, Texas, Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter arrived at the conference's Army Separate Session in Milwaukee in grand fashion.<br /> <br /> Carpenter, the acting director of the Army National Guard, roared in aboard an intricately detailed custommade chopper.<br /> <br /> "When you are acting director, you can do stuff like that," joked Carpenter. "When you're the real director, you can't."<br /> <br /> All humor aside, Carpenter delivered his third address to the Army Separate Session since accepting what was to be a short-term role more than two years ago.<br /> <br /> He urged the soldiers to remain cognizant of suicide. While the number of suicides in the force is down this year, the Guard needs to stay vigilant, he said.<br /> <br /> "We have some messy lives out there, and that's just a fact of life," he said. "As a team, we need to spend a little more time with this."<br /> <br /> He also signaled that deployments could decrease in the coming year. Some units that may be mobilized could end up staying home. While that is a generally positive trend, Carpenter said that the Army and the Army Guard need to continue to work out a more predictable deployment system to help soldiers plan their lives.<br /> <br /> "If it is at all possible, we need to provide the predictability for these soldiers," he said.<br /> <br /> Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, the commander of First U.S. Army, said the Army is starting a transition to nine-month, "boots on the ground" deployment periods starting Jan. 1, with a goal of full transition by April. First Army is the unit that trains all reserve-component soldiers before deployment.<br /> <br /> Brig. Gen. Darryl Williams, the commander of the Warrior Transition Command, said Guardsmen who work in the warrior transition units "bring real value," not only as a result of their military experiences, but also from their civilian skills.<br /> <br /> Williams said the Army needs to continue to use the civilian connections Guardsmen have in their communities to improve care for wounded warriors.<br /> <br /> "We need to get better at collaborating and leveraging the 3,000 communities you represent," he said.<br /> <br /> –By Andrew Waldman<br /> <br /> Air Session: Importance of Air Power, High Expense of a Second-Rate Air Force<br /> <br /> Air power will remain critical to the nation's security and the Air National Guard's efficiency will ensure its role in that strategy, a retired active-component lieutenant general told the conference Air Separate Session on Aug. 29.<br /> <br /> Retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula warned, however, that airmen must remain vigilant and make their capabilities clear to the nation if they are to remain engaged in the fight.<br /> <br /> "Airpower shapes, deters and dissuades so we can attain fundamental national interests minimizing the need for combat operations," he said. "Then when combat is necessary, aerospace capabilities yield a variety of strategic operations and tactical effects that you are very familiar with, providing America its asymmetric advantage by projecting power while minimizing liabilities and vulnerabilities."<br /> <br /> In an Air Force career of more than 30 years, Deptula is credited with planning the air campaign for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm 20 years ago and was a principal planner of air operations over Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001.<br /> <br /> His final assignment was as deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at Air Force headquarters. Deptula said funding will be a challenge in the years ahead. "Without adequate funding, we are destined to go down one of three paths," he said. "We get smaller. We get weaker. Or we get smaller and weaker."<br /> <br /> He questioned the cancellation of the F-22 Raptor fighter program and other weapons programs and said the military system is too slow to adapt to changing technologies.<br /> <br /> Deptula promoted a strong defense, but said too many people in leadership positions on Capitol Hill do not understand that requirement. America can remain the sole world super power only with a strong military.<br /> <br /> He said, "I will close by reminding you that the only thing more expensive than a first-rate Air Force is a second-rate Air Force."<br /> <br /> –By Ron Jensen<br /> <br /> Walz: 'The Guard Has 'Practical Answers to Our Nation's Security'<br /> <br /> U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, DMinn., had a message for his fellow lawmakers when he spoke to conference: The way the Guard does business should be a model for Congress and the rest of the nation.<br /> <br /> Walz, who retired as an Army Guard command sergeant major, said during the final business session of the three-day gathering that the Guard is a model in cost savings, cooperation and sacrifice.<br /> <br /> At a time when Congress has an historically low approval rating, he said, the Guard's success shines even brighter.<br /> <br /> "I would say that in this time of polarization … that not only [does the Guard] have practical answers to our nation's security, I would argue that the way you conduct your business is a model in how we need to conduct our business," he said.<br /> <br /> A member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Walz said Congress can continue to improve mental health care, education benefits, jobless aid and equipment funding for the reserve components.<br /> <br /> The power of NGAUS, he said, is its coordinated message. He urged Guardsmen at the conference to use their "built-in credibility" to make the case that the Guard should remain an operational force that can quickly and seamlessly provide assistance in both state and federal roles.<br /> <br /> Keeping the Guard operational, he said, saves money for the nation and provides a competent player in both the national defense and domestic response arenas.<br /> <br /> "[The Guard] can participate in both of them and be a part of that force," he said. "That's smart. It's cost effective. You've proven you can do it. It keeps us safe."<br /> <br /> –By Andrew Waldman<br /> <br /> Winnefeld: 'Returning Guard to a Strictly Strategic Reserve Role is a Nonstarter'<br /> <br /> Returning to the NGAUS conference for the second year in a row, Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. arrived in Milwaukee with a different job than he had last year in Austin, Texas.<br /> <br /> Winnefeld recently left command of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and began his role as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.<br /> <br /> In fact, he said, his appearance was his first speech in his new job. It was, he said, "no mistake, no accident."<br /> <br /> But it almost didn't happen. In something of a testament to his determination to speak to the conference, he flew out of Washington, D.C., to Milwaukee on Aug. 28 before the last remnants of the Hurricane Irene had cleared the nation's capitol.<br /> <br /> Known for building a good relationship with the National Guard while at NORTHCOM, Winnefeld promised to maintain that relationship. He drew applause when he said "returning the reserve component, especially the National Guard, in particular, to [a] strictly strategic reserve role is a nonstarter."<br /> <br /> He warned, however, that should cuts to defense spending go beyond those anticipated, it could require "a thorough . . . re-examination of our national defense strategy, with all the attendant, difficult choices that will entail."<br /> <br /> For both components of the military, it would require "a search for new efficiencies, a hard look at what we buy, a cautious examination of compensation that maintains faith with our all-volunteer force, and, ultimately, some tough choices on force structure."<br /> <br /> He urged the Guard to think creatively as it considers the challenges ahead.<br /> <br /> "You've got great minds in this organization," he said.<br /> <br /> –By Ron Jensen <br />

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