RENO, Nev. – Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, the 22nd director of the Army National Guard, says the Army Guard is the best it’s ever been.
Jensen, who has commanded at the company, battalion, brigade and division levels since commissioning as an infantry officer in 1989, told National Guard members from the 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia that the Army Guard today is “so much better” than it was when he joined.
“Your talent, your experience, your abilities, everything that you bring to the table, is head and shoulders above the Army Guard that I joined in 1982,” Jensen told a room full of company grade officers at the annual National Guard Association of the United States general conference Aug. 18-21. “This is the best the Army Guard has ever been, and it’s, quite frankly, because of your leadership and what you’re doing to keep moving us forward.”
Jensen, who just began his fourth year as the director, has led the more than 300,000 members of the Army Guard through unprecedented times over the past three years. He took a moment at the 145th annual conference to reflect on these challenges and opportunities.
Since Jensen assumed responsibility as the director in August 2020, he has overseen tens of thousands of Soldiers deployed overseas in support of combat and peacekeeping operations and thousands more activated domestically in support of federal and state missions.
And Jensen doesn’t expect the need for the Army Guard involvement to decrease anytime soon.
“The demands on the Army Guard are not going down,” Jensen said. “I really deeply appreciate the traditional Guardsmen who continue to serve their communities and this nation while they are balancing full-time careers, as well as their family and everything else that you all are doing.
“What we ask you to do today is significantly different than was what asked of me when I joined,” he said. “I’m so proud to serve with you.”
As the Army’s integrated reserve, the Army Guard must continue to be ready to serve at a moment’s notice, according to Jensen.
Jensen isn’t the only Army senior leader to emphasize the readiness and relevance of the Army Guard.
Gen. Randy George, the Army’s vice chief of staff and nominee to become the next chief of staff, also spoke at the conference and reiterated how impressed he is with the Army Guard, which makes up roughly 40 percent of the Total Army.
“Our Army is the global Army. And we’re going to have to be ready to go wherever we’re going to go,” George said. “And wherever we go, it’s going to be a multi-compo(nent) solution. … The Army is as busy as ever, and the Guard is as busy as ever.”
To be able to support the Total Army and respond whenever and wherever, the Army Guard needs to continue to build generational readiness and be an integrated reserve, Jensen said.
“Every operation that the Army is doing across the entire globe, we are either directly involved in or supporting it in a way. We are integrated in everything that the Army does,” Jensen said. “The Army can’t do what our nation is asking it to do without an integrated reserve.”
To build the readiness needed, Jensen told conference attendees the preparation and training completed annually by the Army Guard is paramount to success.
Command Sgt. Maj. John Raines, the senior enlisted leader of the Army National Guard, said without the tough and realistic training the Guard conducts annually, the Army Guard would not be as strong and ready as it is today.
“When our forces go to combat training center rotations, we must take advantage of those events,” Raines said. “Our units that go there is just one example of how we build generational readiness. We’re about trying to be better and make sure that the leaders that replace us are falling into better formations than we fell into years ago.”
The Army Guard is good at training and building readiness, but also at winning, said Raines.
Raines excited the crowd on the final day of the conference when he listed many of the accomplishments the Army National Guard achieved in the past year.
Since the NGAUS general conference in 2022, teams from the Army National Guard have:
- Won the 2023 Army’s Best Sniper Competition
- Won the 2023 Army’s Gainey Cup Best Scout Squad Competition
- Won the 2023 Army Forces Command Best Squad Competition
As Jensen’s final NGAUS conference as the director of the Army Guard concluded, he had one message to leave with the attending Soldiers and leaders.
“When we give you a mission, you accomplish the mission. And that’s a testament to you as a professional but also to your families and your employers,” Jensen said. “It has been my honor to serve with you these last few years. … It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to stand up here, represent you, and acknowledge the great things you accomplish every day — so, thank you.”