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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2011

British Parliament member visits National Guard in Afghanistan

By Capt. Anthony Deiss Task Force Rushmore

CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan - British Parliament member, Mr. Julian Brazier, met with National Guard Soldiers stationed here Feb. 22 to help assess the future of Britain’s reserve component by gaining insight from reserve forces serving in Afghanistan.

Brazier, co-chair of the All-Party Group for the Reserve Forces for Britain, is part of a group of parliamentary members formed at the request of British Prime Minister David Cameron to look at ways its Territorial Army can expand their role and benefits to its members.

“The National Guard comes from a common root with the British Territorial Army ... and I believe [the National Guard] model is a very effective model,” said Brazier. “Prime Minister Cameron said he wants special work done on the reserves, and we can learn a huge amount from you.”

Brazier is looking at how the National Guard supports operations overseas and domestic operations and professionally develops its servicemembers and provides educational benefits.

National Guard Soldiers from South Dakota, Nebraska and Massachusetts shared their experiences with Brazier, and spoke openly about serving as Citizen-Soldiers.

“I believe we’ve helped to answer some of Mr. Brazier’s questions about the role of the National Guard and how we develop our people and provide benefits,” said Army Lt. Col. Andy Gerlach, 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, South Dakota National Guard.

Brazier was particularly interested in the use of National Guard units in a theater of operation, as well as how it professionally develops its officers and noncommissioned officers.

“I knew a lot about how reserve units were being used before coming to Afghanistan, but it’s very interesting to talk to someone who has actually been deployed here,” Brazier said. “Developing your people is also important, and there is a lot we can learn on the officer and NCO pieces.”

“The National Guard has been a leading component of the U.S. military in supporting operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, and is no longer a strategic reserve, but an operational force that deploys alongside the active-duty components,” Gerlach said. “Our men and women have done a tremendous job balancing their home lives, professional careers and obtaining civilian education in the midst of continuous deployments.”

Brazier also inquired about the role of the National Guard and their importance to state-specific missions.

“We are looking at providing more regional missions in Britain, which there is little of at the moment,” said Brazier. “The National Guard is such an asset to their communities during winter storms or floods, and we are interested in how you provide that support.”

Brazier said that while not everything the National Guard does or how it operates will cross over to how the TA will provide support to Britain in the future, and the most important part his visit is to gain lessons learned from these National Guard Soldiers and apply it to a model that works for Britain.

“The National Guard has a lot to offer those who fill its ranks, and the support we provide to our states and nation is invaluable,” Gerlach said. “I’m honored that Mr. Brazier sees the value in what our organization provides and wants to apply a similar concept that works for Britain’s Territorial Army and the British people.”