The director's perspective.
Just before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a little more than 4,000 Army National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were deployed around the world, performing various missions. Since 9/11, more than 259,000 Soldiers have been mobilized under USC Title 10 authority (federal orders), and more than 348,000 have been mobilized under Title 10 or Title 32 (federal and state orders).
From intense combat operations, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Army fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, to peacekeeping operations in the Sinai, the Army National Guard is answering the nation's call. At the same time, a rapid-response capability, which is available to our 54 states and territories, has never been more necessary.
While the Guard is operating at home and across the globe, it's also transforming to meet current and future goals. The National Guard's hurricane response in September 2005--with more than 50,000 Soldiers serving on relief and recovery efforts after hurricanes Katrina and Rita--exemplifies the Guard's transformation. Many of the men and women who responded were on the water and in the air conducting search-and-rescue operations within four hours of the hurricane's landfall.
The Hurricane Katrina effort, with more than 42,000 Soldiers on duty on Sept. 29, 2005, was the largest Army National Guard response to a natural disaster in the nation's history. Guard Soldiers searched for and rescued civilians trapped by floodwaters; evacuated patients from hospitals; halted lawlessness; delivered water, food, fuel, medicine and other critical supplies to displaced civilians; and provided temporary shelter and bedding.
Additionally, Guard Soldiers provided critical communications capabilities that allowed other agencies to coordinate relief efforts. They guarded relief workers who re-established critical communications nodes, assisted in repairing destroyed levees, and cleared debris from roads and highways to allow relief-effort expansion.
The Army National Guard saved more than 11,000 lives and assisted in the evacuation of more than 70,000 people. At the same time, we had more than 60,000 Soldiers supporting operations in Iraq and another 10,000 supporting operations in Afghanistan.
While not all of the Army National Guard brigades were employed as full-spectrum brigade combat teams, since 9/11 all of the Guard's brigades have been employed in full, or incrementally by battalion, both inside and outside the continental United States, supporting the war on terror. To date, 39 brigade equivalents have been used since 9/11.
Some brigades deployed in multiple operations, among them the 53rd Infantry Brigade from Florida, the 41st Inf. Bde. from Oregon, and the 40th Inf. Bde. from California. All three infantry battalions from the 53rd Bde. were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom-1, while the brigade headquarters has recently returned from its deployment to Afghanistan, where its Soldiers trained the Afghan National Army.
The 41st Bde. also deployed its infantry battalions to Iraq during OIF-1 and OIF-2, along with a rotation in the Sinai. The brigade headquarters is currently deployed to Afghanistan, where it replaced the 53rd Bde. The 40th Bde.'s units served in Operation Noble Eagle, the Balkans, OIF, Guantanamo Bay and Sinai.
Recently, President George W. Bush asked the National Guard to augment the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency so it might better secure our southwestern border. This initiative will allow the CBP to hire and train more agents over the next couple of years. In the coming months, this mission will require up to 6,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to support functions other than law enforcement, such as engineering, medical services, transportation and surveillance missions.
The future of the Army National Guard looks very bright. We've moved past the recruiting woes of the past couple of years, and we're meeting our recruiting objectives and retaining Soldiers at rates that exceed our expectations. Our volunteer ranks shine with some of the brightest, bravest and best-prepared leaders of today and tomorrow. And, at the same time, the record number of non-prior-service enlistees points toward a much younger National Guard force, led by the most experienced set of leaders we've had since World War II. This year, through May, we enlisted more first-time Soldiers than in 2004 and 2005 combined.
The Army National Guard end-strength, as of May 3l, 2006, was 340,044, and we're well on our way to 350,000 Soldiers. The Army Guard turned the corner with a net gain in end-strength for the last quarter of fiscal year 2005, the first gain after 24 months of declining numbers. This gain resulted from increased emphasis on recruiting and retention, and several new initiatives.
The Army National Guard increased recruiting and retention of non-commissioned officers from 2,700 in fiscal year 2004 to 4,600 by the end of FY 2005, and added an additional 500 in the first quarter of FY 2006. The Army Guard also increased bonus maximums to $10,000 for enlistments, $15,000 for re-enlistments and $15,000 for prior-service enlistments. It increased retention bonuses from $5,000 to $15,000.
The Guard has also implemented four initiatives to help achieve and maintain congressionally authorized end-strength levels--the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program, or G-RAP; Every Soldier a Recruiter, or ESAR; the Comprehensive Communication Skills program; and the "American Soldier" advertising campaign.
G-RAP is the Army Guard's adaptation of civilian contract recruiting, whereby traditional Guard Soldiers sign up to be recruiting assistants, or RAs, and provide localized recruiting services. RAs are imbedded in the local communities and are well positioned to reach target populations.
Comprehensive Communication Skills is a new recruiting program of instruction at the Strength Maintenance Training Center. The program was developed to train the full-time recruiting force on how to recruit in wartime. The "American Soldier" advertising campaign is refocusing the image of the Army National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational force. The campaign puts the rubber on the neighborhood road with emphasis on NASCAR, iTunes, event teams, pizza boxes, videogaming, theater and high-tech. The "American Soldier" theme relies heavily on Web-based advertising and the 1-800-GOGUARD Web site.
With more full-time recruiting and retention NCOs, ESAR and part-time RAs, the Guard has the nation's largest recruiting force, with more than 65,000 recruiters. All indicators point toward meeting congressionally mandated totals in FY 2006: 70,000 enlistments and an end-strength of 350,000.
In December 2006 the Army Guard will mark 370 years of service to America at home and abroad. But make no mistake: This is not your forefather's National Guard. Through years of transformation and evolution, we've become the Army National Guard of today and tomorrow. We prove time and time again, when you call out the Guard, you call out America.
LTG Clyde Vaughn is the director of the Army National Guard.