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State of the guard.

THE National Guard is stronger than it has ever been before, and its "'magnificent performance in combat will make it an even stronger force to help defend this country, said LTG H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Blum made many positive points about the state of the National Guard recently, based on its performance in the global war on terrorism over the past three years, when the number of Guard Soldiers deployed overseas increased from 5,000 to 120,000.

Blum--the Guard Bureau's chief and the leading advocate for the National Guard's 456,000 men and women for two years--predicted that people will continue to join the Guard and will remain in the ranks because the Guard has proven to be a "premier, winning, professional organization.

"People like to join and stay with a professional winning team," he said.

"We're reaching a point where almost 50 percent of the combat forces in Iraq belong to the Army National Guard," Blum said. "I think that is a significant 'high-water' mark for the Guard. It clearly dispels any misconceptions that the Guard is not capable of performing complex combat missions in a joint and combined-arms environment in which we operate today.

"All of the 15 combat brigades that have been called to the fight so far have performed in a magnificent fashion," Blum added. "They are making a significant contribution to the war fight. They have demonstrated their excellence in combat, as we have always demonstrated our excellence in combat-support and combat-service-support missions."

That was in keeping with President George W. Bush's observation in his state of the union address earlier this year.

"Right now, Americans in uniform are serving at posts across the world, often taking great risks on my orders," Bush said. "The volunteers of our military are unrelenting in battle, unwavering in loyalty, unmatched in honor and decency, and every day they are making our nation more secure.

"We've said farewell to some very good men and women who died for our freedom and whose memory this nation will honor forever," Bush said.

That included 189 members of the Army and Air National Guard, including the 138 men and women who haw thus far been killed in action during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

In assessing the Guard, Blum echoed the points and themes he has stressed during recent television appearances and before a Congressional committee with other Army and reserve-component leaders.

"The state of the Guard is that it has never been more ready. It has never been more accessible, reliable or essential at any time in its 368-year history than it is right now. The state of the Guard is solid and sound," Blum said.

"It is true that the Guard is being used at an unprecedented rate," he added. "But that certainly does not mean that it is not the best National Guard that this country has ever had to answer the call."

Getting down to brass tacks, Blum elaborated on his recent request for $20 billion to replace the Guard's weapons and equipment and on his intent to "reset" the National Guard so it is prepared for future operations.

He also addressed implications of the Army Modular Force for the Army Guard and the Air Force's Future Total Force for the Air Guard.

The $20 billion, Blum said, is the amount of money needed to purchase the equipment that is necessary for the National Guard to be ready and able to perform its many missions, both in the United States and overseas.

"I want to make sure National Guard Soldiers are ready when they come home to be able to perform any missions they may be called upon to execute, either in homeland defense or in support of homeland security, or to be ready the next time they're called to reinforce the Army or the Air Force overseas," Blum said.

Adjusting Guard units in order to fit into the Army Modular Force, he said, "will allow us to redistribute capabilities, so that each state and territory will be able to perform homeland defense, support homeland security, and still provide trained and ready forces for the Army to use overseas."

The National Guard, Blum said, has answered every requirement that the states and the nation have presented in the past three years.

"I have never seen the Guard more engaged, more professional, more needed, and making as much of a difference as it is right now," he said.

MSG Bob Haskell works in the National Guard Bureau's Public Affairs Office and is a frequent contributor to Solders.
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Title Annotation:National Guard
Author:Haskell, Bob
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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