ARLINGTON, Va. (National Guard Bureau, Dec. 28, 2007) - With 2007 drawing to a close, Director of the Army National Guard Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn looked back on the year and what it meant for the 350,000+ Citizen-Soldiers he manages.

Q: What have been the significant accomplishments for the ARNG in 2007'

Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn: The most significant accomplishment is being able to continue to support the federal and state missions as requested. When the nation calls, we are there to do whatever we are asked to do. The tornado in Kansas, the bridge collapse in Minnesota and the California wildfires are some of the major disasters we have deployed to, while continuing to deploy Soldiers into Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., at the same time.

Another significant accomplishment is the rebuilding of the force to 353,500 Citizen-Soldiers. This demonstrates the huge amount of pride the communities throughout the United States have in our formations.

This year also marked the conclusion of our force structure reorganization, one of the largest reorganizations that the ARNG has ever gone through. The result will be the most highly-trained, highly-resourced force for our nation at all times.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges of 2007, and how has the ARNG worked to overcome them'

Lt. Gen. Vaughn: The persistent conflict is the biggest challenge; the hardest thing is putting Soldiers into harm's way. We have deployed Soldiers into conflict by continuing to prioritize and by focusing on taking care of the families and the Soldiers - the states have some really remarkable programs.

Another challenge is implementing the Secretary of Defense's historical 12-month mobilization policy. It was not acceptable to send Soldiers away from their families and employers for 18 months, especially if they were getting mobilized again shortly afterward. However, implementing that policy requires significant change to our training structures. This policy will allow us to regenerate Soldiers in units when the nation requires them, so that we are always ready, always there.

Q: Where does the ARNG stand on its end strength' How did we accomplish this'

Lt. Gen. Vaughn: We are slightly over strength at about 353,500 Citizen-Soldiers. G-RAP has changed the face of the way the recruiting is done, and I can't recall a recruiting initiative that's made more of an impact.

Additionally, no matter the incentive, you wouldn't have new recruits if they didn't know they were joining a good team. I think young men and women place a high value on the ARNG and see their service as rewarding - both from personal pride and being able to serve their state and country while still living in their communities.

An incredible marketing strategy has also greatly helped to get the Guard name out there in new ways. The Guard incorporates early influence programs: helping youngsters get their GED (the ARNG runs the nation's largest GED program), appealing to conservation-oriented people through [our] fishing program, and identifying with one of [the] nation's largest spectator sports in NASCAR. All those things have come together to produce the tools that keep the ARNG at a high level of strength.

Q: In October, along with the vice chief of Staff of the Army, you signed a memo of understanding to formalize the Army's plan to rebalance its forces. What is the progress of that rebalance'

Lt. Gen. Vaughn: That document resulted from a council of adjutants general who worked together to reshape the ARNG. The document promises to fully equip and resource the ARNG in the same manner as active forces. It won't be until 2013 that the entire force is reorganized, but there will not be the same turbulence that there has been in the past with other reorganizations. This document ensures, with the signature from the Army, that these formations will be interchangeable with army formations and will be equipped at the very highest levels. The document puts the resources into the budget to make that happen. We are very proud of that particular action - it took a lot of people and a lot of teamwork to make that happen.

Q: There is criticism that the era of persistent conflict has stretched the ARNG too thin, and we are less capable to respond to domestic disasters. How do you respond to that'

Lt. Gen. Vaughn: I don't agree with that. I think that because of the level of troop strength today and the training we have had, we are probably better off today in responding than we've ever been. We do not have all of the necessary equipment, but it is improving quickly. These formations take a lot more equipment than the formations we had before. The requirements for our mobility, for example, are much greater than before. There is a stress on the force, but we have been able to man this force, and we're actually over end strength. I think because of the conflict, the pride in the force is probably greater than ever before. It takes a lot of care from support groups, families, and adjutants general in the field. I think we're a stronger force today; not as well-equipped as we'd like to be just yet, but that day is coming.

It is coming based on the great success that the ARNG had - the fact that the ARNG has met every mission and stepped forward when asked to.

Q: What has the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan been on the ARNG overall'

Lt. Gen. Vaughn: Overall, I think we are able to attract more young Soldiers to our formations because many of them want to be where the action is. Greater numbers will result in better equipment.

One of the big impacts that this war has had on the ARNG is the emergence of the family readiness groups/assistance centers. We have a strong set of family readiness organizations across the states, and I am so very proud of what the states have done. I think this conflict will only make the Army Guard stronger.

Q: What changes will 2008 bring for the ARNG' What goals do you hope to see accomplished'

Lt. Gen. Vaughn: This year will determine our ability to regenerate our forces on a predictive cycle, by implementing the 12-month mobilization training strategy. We will try to reduce turbulence, in terms of change and increasing the predictability, as much as we can.

We will continue to grow our end-strength at a solid rate, our equipment will continue to get better, and this year will be good for securing equipment for the states. We will continue to meet the requirements of the states and nation, and take the priorities assigned to us, and we get better at it.

Q. Is there anything else that you would like to add'

Lt. Gen. Vaughn: I would simply say that I could not be prouder of an organization. It goes to some deep patriotism in our communities, it goes to the parents, to the Soldiers, and it goes to the great leadership. We are the largest community-based defense force in this nation and we wear that with great pride. The longer you're in this, the more you grow to appreciate just how special Citizen-Soldiers are, what we have asked them to do over the centuries to support this United States and their governors. I think that sacrifice makes them the most special of all the people that we have in our country: the people who will make those kinds of sacrifices.