FARGO, N.D. - The acting director of the Army National Guard returned close to home today to address nearly 500 members of the North Dakota National Guard gathered at the Professional Development Workshop and Combined Associations Conference in Fargo.

Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter began his military career in May 1967, when he enlisted into the South Dakota Army National Guard. He later served as South Dakota's adjutant general before accepting his current position last year in Washington, D.C.

He didn't hesitate to compliment his neighboring state, saying "Some of the best engineers in the United States Army come from North Dakota."

He went on to talk about the operations, personnel, equipment and budgets that affect those engineers, as well as the military police, cooks, air defense Soldiers and more across the state.

Carpenter reminded the audience of Guardsmen that "we're a constitutionally-based organization that's 373 years old," but things have changed greatly over that time. "Over 60 percent of our formations have now deployed and have combat patches."

Those formations are full, too. Carpenter addressed strength levels across the Army National Guard, saying that levels had gone from their lowest in recent years in July 2005 to their highest and are now coming back down to 100 percent after exceeding recruiting goals.

That strength has been maintained at such levels as Soldiers and Airmen have fought in two wars. Carpenter called Iraq and the upcoming drawdown there "an incredible story," and acknowledged the many people in the room had contributed to the progress that has taken place. By Sept. 1, the mission currently known as Operation Iraqi Freedom will be called Operation New Dawn to reflect the changes there.

Rather than a drawdown, Afghanistan has seen an increase in troop levels and, in turn, a greater impact.

"We're going to see a larger involvement by the National Guard in Afghanistan," Carpenter said.

He especially highlighted the Agribusiness Development Teams as a "value-added" mission that will help against the insurgency. The teams, mostly filled with Guardsmen who farm at home, teach Afghan farmers improved methods for planting and harvesting their crops to make them more self-sufficient.

Carpenter stressed the need for equipment in making these missions a success, but emphasized that "we have more modern equipment in the Army National Guard than we've ever had before."

Funding for that equipment "is the best insurance this nation can buy for disaster response," he said - something else with which North Dakota Guardsmen are familiar and again preparing for as the threat of flooding in the state increases.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 800 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.

High-resolution photos to accompany this release will be available on Flickr later today. Go to www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard and navigate to the photo set titled "Professional Development Workshop."