Army National Guard-A Critical Component of State and National Defense

By Schultz, Roger C. | Army, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Army National Guard-A Critical Component of State and National Defense


Schultz, Roger C., Army


The Army National Guard (ARNG) is a critical and necessary component of state and national defense. It has shifted from a strategic federal reserve to an operational force capable of executing state or federal missions. ARNG soldiers accomplish this in their dual roles as citizens and soldiers. They serve honorably in their communities and around the world to keep the United States and U.S. interests protected and secure. ARNG soldiers were heavily used throughout 2003 and 2004, and the ARNG anticipates a high operational tempo in the foreseeable future. ARNG soldiers excel in balancing the demands of family life, civilian employment and military service. In all facets, the ARNG remains committed to the Army values of loyalty, duty respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

Presently, more soldiers have been activated for war than at any time since World War II. The ARNG demonstrated its responsiveness by providing ready units in support of numerous overseas missions throughout 2003 and 2004. These missions ranged from combat operations to post-hostility and stability operations. As of August 2004, 78,405 National Guardsmen were on active duty overseas. The ARNG has been most active in Afghanistan and Iraq in the global war on terrorism. In Afghanistan, ARNG soldiers continue to engage in combat and train the Afghanistan National Army. There are more than 5,300 soldiers in Afghanistan today. In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the ARNG activated 82,868 soldiers, and 52,122 serve there today. In Iraq, the ARNG activated brigade-size units, attack Aviation battalions, Combat Engineers and Military Police. Most soldiers who were activated for the war served an average of 18 months, with 12 months of duty in Iraq. The war in Iraq and in Afghanistan has exacted a toll on our most precious resource: soldiers, and we solemnly remember those who lost their lives fighting in these two campaigns.

There is also an increased demand on ARNG Military Police units to guard enemy prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay. The National Guard remains the Army's primary force conducting operations in Kosovo, Bosnia and the Sinai. Just under 4,755 National Guardsmen serve in those locations today. What were once active duty missions are now primarily Guard missions.

The ARNG was also given the mission to protect ships in transit to the Persian Gulf and to protect Air Force bases abroad and at home. These unplanned missions demonstrate the accessibility, reliability and versatility of National Guard soldiers. The ARNG's overseas presence today supports missions on five continents, and the future will demand a similar level of commitment.

It is important to note that the ARNG's total commitment since 9/11 has been 201,944 soldiers called to federal duty. That represents 58 percent of the 350,000 ARNG force.

ARNG soldiers are trained and ready for all circumstances and situations. Support for warfighters is best accomplished by training the ARNG force with an integrated training strategy for individuals, leaders and units through live, virtual and constructive training. During 2003 and 2004, the ARNG prepared both units and soldiers for war and responded to the nation's call for contingency operations. Units trained at the ARNG training centers and at the Army's combat training centers. ARNG units participated in joint exercises and conducted training deployments overseas.

Another way the ARNG achieves training excellence is through distributed learning, which reduces the time soldiers are away from their home stations, eliminates excess travel time and costs, and takes less time than training in a formal school setting. The goal of this program is to maximize training time by providing greater local access to training and education at any time or from any location.

The ARNG's reduced training time, training dollars and sometimes limited access to training ranges has caused an increased reliance on low-cost, small-footprint training technologies. …

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