General Speaks On Guard
Gen. Craig R. McKinley, USAF, chief of the National Guard Bureau, opened the final day of Joint Warfighting Conference 2010 describing how the Army and Air National Guard has been seamlessly integrated into active duty forces. This melding between full-time and what used to be disparagingly called "weekend warriors" is the result of both dedicated leadership and willing U.S. citizens. The number of guardsmen involved in current military operations overseas is a prime example of this integration: between 55,000 and 60,000 of the troops in the Middle East today belong to the National Guard. This has allowed active duty personnel to spend more dwell time at home. "We have a mobilization effort that is fast and effective; mobilizations are streamlined so that the National Guard can give 12 months of boots on the ground to commanders," Gen. McKinley stated. In describing what the Guard will need in the next five years, Gen. McKinley echoed an fact stated by many: the defense budget will decrease significantly during the coming years, so the military must look very seriously at how it will operate under a constrained budget. "If difficult decisions are required, the National Guard will be part of that decision," the general stated. "We're going to have to face truths about how we look at legacy systems." National Guard priorities for the next five years include maintaining its role as a full-spectrum force. Commanders in current operations appreciate that guardsmen come into their units with across-the-board training and add to that training by melding them into their units. Unfortunately, fighting side-by-side with active duty warfighters means guardsmen also suffer casualties. "Full spectrum does not come easy. We have paid in blood and treasure to become a full spectrum force," Gen. McKinley noted. One of the general's prime concerns for the Guard during the next five years is its ability to continue to support current military operations while remaining prepared to respond to a catastrophic event in the United States. While being a full-spectrum force within the military has helped guardsmen, they must retain their ability to integrate with first responders, law enforcement and state officials, or the Guard has not done taxpayers justice, he stated. "We need to work on this." The general also complimented information technology businesses for their response to the Guard's needs. "Industry, we can't thank you enough for the great equipment and support. Battlefield casualties had reduced significantly because industry has turned out solutions quickly," he stated.