National Guard Spreads Positive Image, NGB Chief Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2005 Performing its mission around the world in 2005 has allowed the National Guard to spread a positive message about the military, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said here Nov. 30.
With almost 80,000 citizen-soldiers deployed overseas in the global war on terrorism and thousands more responding to natural disasters in the United States and abroad, 2005 has been an unprecedented year for the Guard.
"Nothing has happened this year that the Guard hasn't been part of," said Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum in a Pentagon Channel interview. "The best part of it is, when we're responding to these kind of disasters, everybody understands why you're needed. Everybody supports what you're doing; nobody questions how you're doing it. When you're out there saving lives instead of taking lives, it makes those that you're saving feel very, very good about you."
In disaster relief efforts for hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the earthquake in Pakistan, the National Guard is sending a significant message, albeit unintentionally, about the quality of America's military, Blum said.
"When (people) see the uniforms and they see the military equipment being used as a force for good, it sends a very positive message to them about what's right about this country," he said.
The National Guard's response to Hurricane Katrina was the largest, fastest response of the U.S. military to a natural disaster in the country's history, Blum said, and it really was amazing in its scope.
"It is a difficult thing to do, but it didn't look difficult," he said. "The way the states responded, it actually looked rather effortless."
One phone call with the states' adjutants general was all it took to generate 50,000 guardsmen to respond to the disaster, Blum said. Every state, including U.S. territories and commonwealths, participated in the disaster response, while still supplying troops to the global war on terrorism, he said.
The concerns people had about disaster response being affected by overseas deployments were legitimate, Blum said, but were not realized.
"As a matter of fact, the deployments did have an effect on our response - they made it better," he said. "Over 60 percent of the people that responded were veterans of at least a year 'boots on the ground' (in Iraq or Afghanistan) if they were Army National Guard and at least one, two or more Air Expeditionary Force rotations overseas. They brought those same skills to Mississippi and Louisiana, and they were invaluable."
Blum said he is immensely proud of the National Guard response to Katrina, because it was on target, on time and more than sufficient. All the U.S. governors agreed the troops were needed, and not one doubted the mission at all, he said.
"It should make every American immensely proud of their National Guard and of their military," he said.
This year's missions have caused an increase in recruitment and retention for the National Guard, Blum said. He attributes that to the value of what the Guard is doing, he said.
"I think a lot of that is, people see the goodness of what we're doing on the TV screen and they read about it in the paper, and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves -- something that will make a difference for them and for other people," he said.