By Lt. Col. Les' A. MelnykJanuary 17, 2007
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Jan. 17, 2007) - The nation's governors and adjutants general have expressed universal support and appreciation for the recently announced change to Department of Defense policy that will limit total mobilization time of Guard and Reserve units to 12 months.
In a Jan. 11 conference call attended by representatives from every state, the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, answered questions and addressed concerns about the deployment extension in Iraq of Minnesota's 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' announcement that several Defense policies were changing.
About 4,000 Soldiers assigned to the 1st Brigade are affected by the extension and will now remain in Iraq through August for up to an additional 125 days. Most will be extended for between 30 and 60 days. About 3,000 of these troops are from the Minnesota Army National Guard, with the remainder from several other states.
"The requirement to extend boots on the ground time was understood, accepted and will be supported by National Guard leadership," said Blum.
The Guard's leadership in the states reacted enthusiastically to several policy changes announced earlier Thursday by Gates.
Chief among these were that, from this point forward, Guard and Reserve mobilizations will be managed on a unit basis, not an individual basis. Gates also announced that involuntary mobilizations would be for a maximum of one year. That is "in contrast to the current practice of 16 to 24 months," he said.
The defense secretary also stated that the goal would be to have five years of demobilization following every year of mobilization. He acknowledged, however, that "today's global demands will require a number of selected Guard and Reserve units to be remobilized sooner than this standard."
Gates further directed the development of an incentive program to compensate individuals who are required to mobilize or deploy early or remain on duty beyond the time limits set by the new policy. Details of the program have not yet been announced.
"What it means is that Soldiers who are extended will be paid for that overtime, so to speak," Blum said. So would Guard troops who get mobilized more than once every six years.
Governors and senior National Guard leaders have called for policy changes of this type for the last few years. Many Soldiers complained about the amount of time spent away from home in mobilization training before deploying overseas.
With the announcement of the new policies limiting total mobilization time to one year, Blum stated, "Your citizen-Soldiers will only be away from their families or jobs and their hometown units for the maximum period of one year in the future, starting with the next mobilizations coming up.
"The World War II and Cold War post-mobilization model is dead. The new model is right for an operational force of 21st century citizen Soldiers," Blum added.
Reducing total mobilization or remobilization time will have a dramatic impact on how Guard units train for and deploy to combat. Training conducted during inactive duty weekend drills and annual training periods will gain importance as a measure of readiness.
Unit commanders and their adjutants general will be the certifying officers for individual through squad-level readiness in all areas - medical, personnel, equipment and training, with the director of the Army National Guard, Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, validating the readiness level.
"This will mean that governors, as commanders in chief, and their adjutants general will take on greater roles in preparing, readying and certifying their forces prior to mobilization" said Blum.
Additionally, the need to conduct certification prior to mobilization provides extra stimulus for the Department of Defense to focus on re-equipping Guard units after they return from overseas deployments.
"It will mean that resources and equipment will have to move to the National Guard pre-mobilization so that we are ready when we're called to mobilize for that one year," Blum told the officials.
Unit readiness would be enhanced by the new policy specifying that whole units, rather than individuals, would be called up. Soldiers also complained about the tendency of cobbling mobilized units together from many sources, destroying the cohesion that was built up in peacetime.
"The new mobilization policy detailed by Secretary Gates was universally accepted and sincerely appreciated by the governors and adjutants general participating (in the teleconference)," said Blum.
"This is a historic and long-anticipated policy change that has been directed by our secretary of defense," Blum added. "It is clear evidence that he has listened, heard and considered our input, and has made courageous and tough adjustments that have been long-requested by governors, adjutants general, members of Congress and the reserve components' senior leaders."