ST. PAUL, Minn. - Taking a few days of leave from his federal position as the chief of the National Guard Bureau, four-star Gen. Frank J. Grass returned to meet with the leadership of the Minnesota National Guard and visit his alma mater, Metropolitan State University, on Oct. 17.
The chief's day started at a roundtable breakfast meeting with the Minnesota National Guard's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, and a panel of senior guard officers and civilian leaders known as the Minnesota National Guard Senior Advisory Task Force.
Formed in 2011, these advisors represent state government, education, judiciary, law enforcement, education, employers and clergy. These advisors assist the Minnesota National Guard with its objectives including increased diversity, cyber security, and veteran employment.
Reemploying returning Soldiers is probably the most easily identifiable success of the task force said Don Kerr, executive director, Department of Military Affairs. "Soldiers were returning at a roughly 28% unemployment rate," said Advisory Task Force member Don Shelby. "By the end of our campaign their unemployment rate was not four times the civilian rate, but three points lower."
The chief provided an overview of federal military budget issues and the potential impact of cutbacks on the readiness of the Army and Air National Guard. "One area where we may see some growth is cyber," Grass said.
Cutbacks have been debated in areas like equipment updates, Army aviation and full-time staffing. "You've got to get out and see our troops and our units," Grass said. "They are the best buy for the nation right now. You can't buy the Cadillac that you want. You can't afford it and probably don't need it as the war draws down, but you can buy this really solid force in the Guard and Reserve for less money and you can sustain it for the very unknown world we live in today. So, 'don't take the Guard down' is always my message."
Grass, his wife Patricia, and Nash then met with Gov. Mark Dayton at the Minnesota state capitol to discuss National Guard and veteran issues at state and federal levels. "It was important to have the chief of the National Guard Bureau in Minnesota to discuss the current challenges, priorities and objectives of the National Guard," Nash said.
Later, Metro State officials honored Grass during their annual University Foundation Scholarship Luncheon. He was designated the 2013 Alumnus of the Year. Grass was a Bachelor of Science Graduate in 1985. "We're extremely proud not only to award General Grass as Alumnus of the Year, but also have the opportunity to witness the proclamation of his alma mater as a Yellow Ribbon Company," said Dr. Sue K. Hammersmith, Metropolitan State President. "Our veteran's services department is a robust and active part of who we are, and we couldn't be happier to welcome Gen. Grass and our local elected officials to our campus to recognize the support we provide our military community."
Grass and his wife accompanied by the Minnesota National Guard leadership were introduced to the administrators and student veterans at Metropolitan State University.
The day's culminating event was the ceremony proclaiming Metropolitan State University as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organization. In addition to the Metro State officials, the speakers included Grass, Nash, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Don Shelby was master of ceremonies.