By Donna Miles, American Forces Press ServiceJanuary 10, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, Jan. 9, 2007) - The National Guard may be operating at its busiest pace in years, but the new senior enlisted representative looking out for the troops said they're talking a lot more about pride than concerns as they juggle the demands of families, civilian careers and military responsibilities.
Command Sgt. Maj. David Ray Hudson, senior enlisted advisor to the National Guard bureau chief since August, said Guard troops recognize the country is counting on them at a critical time in its history.
"The Guard has always been there to serve America," Hudson told American Forces Press Service during one of the rare times he wasn't on the road visiting Guard Soldiers on duty. "And truly for 370 years, the National Guard, the Minuteman, has dropped the plow to pick up where America needs it."
Hudson said the Guard's dual roles as state militias and part of the national defense force make it uniquely suited to the country's needs. Because National Guard Soldiers and Airmen tend to be older than their active-force counterparts and hold down civilian jobs, he said they bring an extra measure of maturity and experience as well as specialized skills to the mission.
Hudson pointed to examples of the "extra something" many Guardsmen bring to the military. He recalled the Army staff sergeant who applied his experience working for a civilian fiber optics company to lay fiber optic cable for his entire camp during a deployment to Afghanistan. In another case, an Air Force sergeant who's a civilian attorney processed Freedom of Information Act releases during his deployment to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
These and other Guard skills come at a bargain to the country, because while National Guard members are always ready to serve, they get paid only when they're actually on duty, Hudson said.
"That's what the National Guard brings," Hudson said. "There is nobody else out there who can do that cheaper, quicker or better."
As the second person to serve as the National Guard Bureau's senior enlisted advisor, Hudson said his job is to bring the perspective of the enlisted troops to Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum as he makes decisions that affect them.
To get that perspective, Hudson spends more time away from the office than in Washington, talking with troops about their mission and where they fit in the defense picture and thanking them for their service. "I go out and visit with our Soldiers and our Airmen and find out what they're doing and how they're doing and let them know how much we appreciate what they're doing," he said.
When he visits troops, Hudson said he focuses on "warrior things" - issues that affect their ability to carry out the mission, ranging from physical fitness to military education to equipment and training.
But he also checks to make sure troops are communicating with their families and civilian employers and addressing concerns early on. National Guard officials call families, employers and a trained, well-equipped Guard force the "three-legged stool" they say is critical to the Guard's success.
As a long-time traditional Soldier who worked full time as an Alaska state trooper while serving in the Air Force Reserve, then Army National Guard, Hudson understands the balancing act his fellow Guardsmen carry out every day.
"One of the things we sometimes forget, but that we need to remember, is that the multitude of our members are not working full time in the Army or the Air Force and have careers and families and goals that are outside the military," he said. "So I hope I can bring that perspective here to the National Guard Bureau."
National Guard troops may serve part time, but Hudson said they're available full time, ready to respond to domestic crises or fight terrorism overseas. He noted some of the recent examples of stateside Guard missions: responding to a massive blizzard in the western United States, an earthquake in Hawaii and a stranded family and missing hikers in Oregon.
Meanwhile, Guard troops are conducting two other critical and high-profile missions as they provide border security support along the southwestern U.S. border through Operation Jump Start and serve as partners in the war on terror, he noted.
When he talks to these troops about the broad range of support they're providing both at home and overseas, Hudson said he's impressed that they express the same commitment the Minutemen demonstrated in America's earliest days.
"Our citizen Soldiers are doing what is being asked of them. They are true patriots, whether it be within the states or around the world," he said. "The Guard has always been there, and we will always be there when our country needs us."