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National Guard soldiers add to increasing number of war vets
November 05, 2015 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Veterans come in all shapes and sizes and walks of life, wearing different uniforms and bearing different patches and insignia.

Some of those patches and insignia belong to the 50 states and territories. Confused?

To clarify, some of our veterans are National Guard soldiers who serve both their respective states and, from time to time, the federal government, more specifically the Department of Defense.

I am a member of the Guard, having proudly served in the states of Nevada, North Carolina and now Wyoming, fulfilling a more than 20-year career.

To this day, National Guard troops continue to be called up to support missions around the world but primarily the conflict in Afghanistan. When that happens, the transition is called Title 10; an invisible line we Guard soldiers cross. Governors relinquish authority to the President of the United States to allow states’ troops to work alongside our active duty brothers and sisters in times of need, and in the majority of cases, conflict.

To further clarify, we are not Reservists. Although Guard soldiers are often categorized as members of the Reserve component. We are not Reservists in the sense that National Guard troops are always on call to serve during state emergencies.
National Guard soldiers serve both states’ governors and the President. Reservists serve in a backfill capacity for federal troops.

This is probably only important to Guard members, but Guard soldiers only achieve veteran status if they have served in some capacity on Active Duty, usually in combat, and on rare occasions after being deployed for humanitarian missions.

Hence, you may see more of your neighbors become veterans.

These days the National Guard has been relied upon more than ever, filling in for active duty shortfalls. However, the loss of full-time soldiers after they have served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan puts forces at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to passing along institutional knowledge. How, you may ask?

According to Gen. Frank Grass, Chief of the ational Guard Bureau, who wrote in his 2016 Posture Statement, “A strategic transition is underway – a necessary transition driven by constrained resources after over 13 years of sustained combat operations.
While we must deal realistically with budget limits and a volatile global landscape, we must always ensure that we are ready to do the three things we do extraordinarily well: fight America’s wars, respond in the homeland, and build partnerships.”

Gen. Grass further states, “Since 9-11, the Army National Guard and Air National Guard have met every deployment requirement assigned to them, with the broadest mission sets possible. … With nearly 770,000 individual overseas mobilizations, the National Guard has proven, time and time again, that we are and will remain ready if properly resourced.”

Clearly defining the Guard’s wide swath of support, Grass summarizes this group of soldiers’ importance as the “ability to meet all contingencies at home and abroad while enabling security around the world.

The National Guard has a special role as the original homeland security and defense force. Using our unique array of authorities, we respond to the needs of the nation and the states. The National Guard is positioned in nearly 3,000 communities to provide an immediate response to local, state, and national emergencies as well as ongoing domestic missions.
Whether responding to natural disasters such as severe storms, wildfires, and hurricanes or man-made threats to the homeland, the National Guard is the first military force to reach the scene, working hand-in-hand with state and local leaders and emergency personnel when called by the governor.”

According to news reports last Friday, the deployment merry-go-round may continue for Guard soldiers and airmen as U.S. Special Forces hit the ground in Syria to assist and advise rebels in the fight against ISIS. Varied reports also say the United States will rely more heavily on Guard and Reserve troops because of continued shrinking active duty forces.

How does this impact the Guard troops who have already deployed more than once? It’s no secret that soldiers who have served multiple deployments are leaving military service, and the possibility of deployment deters others from joining. Without experienced leaders, there’s, rest-assured, an inherent risk with deploying new soldiers to hostile lands without the wisdom and foresight of veterans to make proper decisions. In extreme cases, on-the-job training may end up costing lives, along with those who have returned home laden with the stresses at home and abroad. Along with answering the call of duty, the National Guard must also address the fallout of war, which includes suicide, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, among a range of other contentious issues.

National Guard Bureau Spokesman Maj. Earl Brown said, “The National Guard is committed to increasing resilience and strengthening its professionals. Our soldiers, airmen and civilians are our most precious resources. Suicide prevention is the responsibility of all Guard
leaders at every level who must embrace this issue and take measures to create a command climate that encourages service members to seek the help they need.”

It’s not a job everyone wants, but it’s a job someone needs to do. And I’m proud to step forward as one of American’s proud veterans.
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