Prior to 9/11 the National Guard was looked down upon by Active Duty forces. Since I served half my career in both both services I can tell you some of that was earned and some was just ignorance by active duty forces. When I was active duty we never took the National Guard (or as we sometimes called them “Nasty Guard, “No-Gos”, or “Nasty Girls” ) seriously. They never trained as hard as us, had as good equipment as us, or were as disciplined and professional soldiers as us.
However that was while I was active and I only had limited visibility of the National Guard and well, that visibility was not always good. Once I came into the National Guard I found there were many professional and technically expert soldiers who called the National Guard home. I have served with some awesome and highly motivated soldiers in the National Guard and I have also seen some pieces of crap (both soldiers and leaders). However I had also sen plenty of bad soldiers when I was active duty too.
After 9/11 the game changed, the “weekend warrior” was dead once our op-tempo kicked into high gear overseas while we also took on many new unforseen homeland security responsibilities. In 2003 my company deployed to NYC 3 times with two times having less than 12 hours notice. Think about that for a second. One day my soldiers left their campuses, cubicles, work-places, etc. thinking they were going home for the night and would be back the next day only to get a phone call telling them to bring any gear they had from home and report to the armory. I remember being on a bus to NYC handing my cell phone to soldiers so they could tell their bosses they would not be in to work and were not sure when they would be back. In addition to those homeland deployments, we also went to Germany for 3 weeks to help train up an active duty Brigade for an Iraq deployment and we were alerted 4-5 times ourselves for deployment. The last alert in November of 2003 finally came to fruition and most of the company deployed in January 2004.
We went from the standard “2 weeks a year” implying the amount of annual training we did and the longest timeframe we would be away from our families, work, college to “2 weeks a year” which now meant how much R&R leave each soldier would get at home to be with family.
The US Army leaned hard on the National Guard as two war fronts were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Those, in addition to other deployments like Kosovo, Sinai, Gitmo. That is not even the homeland missions like Noble Eagle, wildfires, floods, ice storms and of course hurricanes.Photo Courtesy of bigstockphoto.com
So for the years of 2003-2011 the National Guard was shoulder to shoulder with active forces. This was a great thing for the Guard because it forced the National Guard to flush its ranks of poor performing soldiers and get the “ghost soldiers” off of its rolls. There were many times when I had Active Duty leaders tell me they could not tell the difference between their soldiers and National Guard soldiers. The National Guard had earned the respect they deserved and accomplished pretty much every mission they were handed.
However lately I am starting to question the integrity of our DOD leadership as the National Guard appears to being put on the back-burner again. Almost like they are not worthy of being in the 1st class cabins anymore, but are being put down below the upper decks with the 2nd class guests.
The 27th BCT out of NY was scheduled for Afghanistan again, after getting back from there in January 2009 and now instead of going there they are going to Kuwait to sit on a huge camp and secure gates and towers. This is a Brigade whose soldiers were some of the first to respond to Ground Zero in NYC (before being ordered or asked to) and stayed there and in many other sensitive places around the city and the state for years. They have deployed several times on both stateside and overseas missions. They have a wealth of combat experience, yet now they have been given one of the worst deployment assignments there is. They will be doing the crap jobs and being the whipping boy for CENTCOM for a year protecting a humongous camp in the relatively peaceful Kuwait.
The 37th BCT out of Ohio was at the National Training Center in California when they got re-missioned like the 27th BCT. They were gathered up and asked who wanted to go home. From what I understand about 900 soldiers opted to go home rather than get stuck in some country waiting out a year away from their families for no good reason. Now the way I understand it, some of the 37th BCT soldiers will go into Afghanistan to perform mundane duties, but the rest will get stuck in a country in the mid-east to wait out their time.
For me personally if I am going to be away from family, home and work for a year I want it to be for a good reason and not because DOD is forced to do something with me. If I am going to a war zone, I want to do my trained job and not a job that nobody else wants.
I hear there is a National Guard aviation Brigade whose mission is also up in the air now (forgive the pun). I realize that the ideal world would mean the Active forces could handle the workload of the overseas mission and the National Guard would just handle the stateside mission and be on-hand in case a natural disaster happens. However these are highly trained units with soldiers and families ready for the deployment. The units have already received their warning orders, equipment and have been preparing for over a year for this war-time deployment.
Why wouldn’t DOD keep them on the deployment track they had planned for them? Why push these units off to bogus countries to sit and waste time just to call up active duty units that probably weren’t planning to deploy? It makes no sense to me. The DOD knows over a year out who is on the “patch chart” and will be deploying. In the 5-sided puzzle palace they track the units, their readiness status and when they are up for deployment. It is called ARFORGEN in the US Army.
The only answer I can come up with is that DOD leadership is now back to looking at the National Guard as 2nd rate and not their first choice for the needs of the country. If my suspicions are true, then that is a very sad state of affairs. I will truly be let down by this lack of respect of some of our greatest fighting forces.