By Staff Sgt. Jim GreenhillAugust 28, 2007
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Army News Service, Aug. 28, 2007) - Domestic equipment shortages remain the barrier to even greater excellence from a transformed National Guard, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said here Aug. 25.
"We know what we do. We know why we do it. We know what we need," Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum told National Guard officers and others attending the National Guard Association of the United States' 129th General Conference. "Imagine what we could do if we had what we needed to do it."
For the second year running, domestic equipment levels were the lone dark cloud over Lt. Gen. Blum's "State of the Guard" address.
"You are truly amazing," he told conference attendees. "If you are ever given the equipment, the resources and the authority - a seat at the table - nothing will stop the National Guard."
An annual NGAUS almanac of Army and Air Guard equipment highlights shortages of radios, trucks, helicopters and other materiel, including:
Aca,!Ac Nearly 70,000 single channel ground to air radio system units used by deployed Guard units and the regular Army. The missing radios meant "some Guard units couldn't talk with their active component counterparts on the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina," NGAUS reported.
Aca,!Ac About 3,300 heavy, expanded-mobility tactical trucks used domestically and abroad, 30,000 medium tactical vehicles and 19,000 Humvees.
Aca,!Ac Some 28 CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 119 UH-60 Black Hawks.
Aca,!Ac Other shortages include night vision devices and weapons, said Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard. Equipment shortfalls are "a product of many decades of under-resourcing the Guard and thinking that it was a strategic reserve, not an operational force," Vaughn has said.
The 460,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard are a team pulling together at a time when the nation needs it most, Lt. Gen. Blum said.
"This is a very important time for the National Guard, maybe more important than any other time since before we were a nation," he added. "The Guard's probably needed more today than at any other time, maybe since Lexington and Concord. It is more vitally involved in everything that we're doing to make our homeland safe and free here at home and abroad.
"We have almost 70,000 Citizen-Soldiers in harm's way while we're down here enjoying this conference in Puerto Rico. They're serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Sinai, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa and 40 other countries doing amazing things. They're serving on the Southwest border, and the day that I left to come here, 30 of your governors had their Guard called out. And the country was not in crisis, it was normal. That's what we do every day. It's value-added to the communities, the states and the nation, and it also reduces the strain on the full-time forces."
Almost 300,000 National Guard members have been deployed in support of the war on terrorism, yet both the Youth ChalleNGe program that gives at-risk youth a second chance and the State Partnership Program that strengthens international relationships have expanded, Lt. Gen. Blum said.
"The National Guard is committed to defending the homeland as our number one priority, and if we have one job to do that we must get right the first time, it's the defense of our American citizens right here at home," he said. The National Guard stands ready to tackle threats from Mother Nature or domestic or foreign terrorists, he added.
Lt. Gen. Blum highlighted the no-notice transformation of the National Guard since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - civil support teams, chemical, biological, nuclear and high-yield explosive enhanced response force packages, computer emergency response teams, critical infrastructure protection-mission assurance assessment detachments, reaction forces, joint operations facilities and other capabilities.
"The National Guard is no longer a strategic reserve that would be used only in the late innings of major wars," he said. "What we're talking about is an operational force that is used every single day."
That transformation happened because the nation's adjutants general committed to it at their annual conference in Ohio in May 2003, Lt. Gen. Blum said.
"You have defied gravity; you have defied the conventional wisdom, and you are providing your sons, daughters, grandchildren, neighbors and friends a way to respond if we're attacked in the United States, and right now the National Guard has made a serious effort to guard the nation. I salute you," he said.
NGAUS includes nearly 45,000 current and former officers. The nation's oldest veterans or military service organization, it was created in 1878 to provide unified Guard representation in Washington with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources.
(Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill writes for the National Guard Bureau News.)