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NEWS | Sept. 18, 2006

Citizen-Soldiers vital to nation’s defense, Secretary of the Army says

By Sgt. Jim Greenhill National Guard Bureau

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Citizen-Soldiers are vital to the nation’s defense, and the National Guard is an essential part of the transformed U.S. Army of the 21st century, the secretary of the Army said here Sept. 17.

“The National Guard is an integral and indispensable part of the total Army team,” the Honorable Francis Harvey told the 128th General Conference of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS). “Quite simply, the nation and our Army could not execute its global commitment without the contributions of our Citizen-Soldiers.”

Harvey pledged to continue pushing for the resources the National Guard needs to fulfill its mission. “I have and will continue to fight hard for the resources needed to fully maintain, train and equip the total Army in general and the National Guard in particular,” Harvey said.

The Guard is a key player in the Global War on Terrorism, a war that Harvey said started long before Sept. 11, 2001.

“The terrorists were at war with America long before 9/11,” the secretary said. “They were on the offensive as early as 1983, attacking the Marines in Beirut; Mogadishu and the first Trade Center bombing in 1993; Khobar Towers in 1996; U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000 – well before 9/11.”

Calling the war on terrorism a long war, Harvey said the stakes are the nation’s survival. “This war is something that we did not ask for, but it is a war that we must win because the enemy’s stated intent is to destroy our free and democratic way of life,” he said.

The transformation of the Army – called “the Army plan” and including the National Guard as a core element of its success – is happening as the force wages a new type of conflict characterized by the necessity of continual adaptation and change and an enemy happy to attack civilians, Harvey said.

The combined active Army, National Guard and Reserve face an operating environment of uncertainty, unpredictability, misinformation and misconception, he said.

Against that background, the vision of the transformed Army is “to remain the pre-eminent land power on Earth … both ready to meet and [remain] relevant to the challenges of the dangerous and complex 21st century security environment,” Harvey said.

“This is the largest redesign of the operational Army – active, Guard and Reserve – since the eve of World War II,” the secretary told about 2,500 National Guard officers and others gathered for the annual NGAUS conference.

At its heart is the infantry, armor or Stryker brigade combat team (BCT) of 3,500 to 4,000 Soldiers. The active Army is scheduled to have 42 BCTs and the Guard 28. BCTs are organized the way they fight, self-sufficient and standardized.

“The overall number of BCTs goes up well over 40 percent, from 48 to 70,” Harvey said. “What we’re doing is taking the functionality that used to reside in the division and incorporating it into the [BCT] and transforming into a full-spectrum force that is a larger and more powerful, more flexible and – very importantly – more rapidly deployable force.”

Other elements of the Army transformation that Harvey highlighted included:

  • An Army National Guard changed from a strategic reserve to an operational force.
  • An Army National Guard that mirrors the active duty component. Borrowing from computer terminology, Harvey said the Guard should be “plug and play,” meaning that Citizen-Soldiers can be seamlessly incorporated with the active duty force when necessary, are organized the same way and use the same equipment.
  • $39 billion in spending on National Guard equipment from 2005 through 2013.
  • An Army National Guard of 350,000 Citizen-Soldiers. “In this day and age, we all know we need 350,000 [Army] National Guard Soldiers to protect this country and to support the state missions,” he said.
  • Cohesive National Guard units. “We need to move away from cross-leveling of individuals and units into ad hoc forces,” he said.
  • Training and deployment that is more predictable for Citizen-Soldiers, families and employers and allows for longer “dwell times” at home.
  • Improved technology that increases the effectiveness of Citizen-Soldiers and better protects them in close fighting.

The secretary singled out two areas for high praise. He called the Army National Guard’s recruiting success a “good news story” that demonstrates leadership, commitment and innovative thinking.

A year ago, the Guard was recruiting poorly. “They had a lousy year,” Harvey said.

“Instead of crying in their soup, they upped the game,” he recalled. “I said to Steve (LTG H Steven Blum, chief, National Guard Bureau) and Clyde (Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director, Army National Guard), ‘I don’t know if you’ve got your heads screwed on right, but I’m not going to argue with you.”

A year later, the generals are meeting the recruiting and retention goals they set, he said. “The Guard deserves a lot of credit.”

He also singled out the noncommissioned officer corps. “We know we have the best NCOs in the world,” he said. “We know that nobody is even close to us in the caliber and competence of our NCOs. We are the envy of the world’s armies, so we need to exploit, we need to use [NCOs] in other roles.”

Harvey said he had saved the most important component of the Army’s transformation for last.

“We are a values-based organization,” the secretary said. “Let us never forget that.”

 

 

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