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Guard Transformation of Command Structure Seen As Important Chapter

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., May 28, 2003 – National Guard transformation took a big leap forward when leaders from the 54 states and U.S. territories supported the historic initiative for changing their organization's command structure earlier this month.

The National Guard's adjutants general reached consensus with the ideas put forward by Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, the Guard Bureau's new chief, to consolidate separate state headquarters for members of the Army and Air Guard into joint, or combined, headquarters.

Idaho's Maj. Gen. John Kane said the National Guard generals agreed the time is ripe for change and that they support the requirements for the 21st century that Blum presented during the spring conference of the Adjutants General Association of the United States. Kane is the association's president.

Blum has advocated transforming the command structures for the 460,000 members of the Army and Air Guard since becoming the Guard Bureau's 25th chief April 11.

He has emphasized that idea to members of Congress, to the national news media and to many National Guard members. He has also insisted that the National Guard retain its warfighting capabilities.

"Homeland defense is the National Guard's most important priority. Make no mistake about that. We have been performing that mission since 1636, and the American people expect no less of the National Guard during these trying times," said the no-nonsense Blum about the war against global terrorism.

Some 148,000 citizen-soldiers and airmen were serving in the United States and in 44 other countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Blum pointed out during the adjutants general meeting.

"We will continue to honor that commitment by transforming into a more efficient and accessible force," he said. "We are not going to let turf and parochialism get in the way of doing what is right for America.

"We fight jointly, and we need to train and operate on a daily basis in a joint environment so we can make the transition (from citizen to soldier) very quickly. After all, our symbol is the Minuteman," Blum said during a Pentagon press briefing May 16.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also addressed jointness at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement in Annapolis, Md., May 23. "The wars and conflicts in this 21st century will not be fought by individual serviceswhether Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines," Rumsfeld told graduating midshipmen. "Rather, they will be fought by joint and, often, combined forces.

"You will have to think, train and exercise jointly," he emphasized, "because, let there be no doubt, that is how the wars of your future will be fought."

"We will be better understood by our active duty counterparts," Blum predicted. We will then be seen for what we are -- reliable, ready and accessible."

Blum has ordered the National Guard Bureau, which currently consists of a joint staff and separate directorates for the Army and Air Guard, to become a joint headquarters by July 1. He has asked the states to establish joint headquarters, and do away with state area commands for Army Guard forces, by Oct. 1.

Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, Army Guard director, and Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, Air Guard director, will serve as Guard Bureau deputy chiefs, Blum explained. The next vice chief of the Guard Bureau will become the chief of staff for the joint bureau, he added.

Blum is also urging the states to include members of other military components, including the Coast Guard, in their joint headquarters. He said he would do that at the Guard Bureau base in Arlington.

"We will not fund state area commands by Oct. 1. We will fund joint headquarters," Blum said in central Ohio. "The joint world is no longer a theory. It's a reality."

"The adjutants general accepted very favorably the things that Lt. Gen. Blum laid out for them," said Kane, Idaho adjutant general. He noted they could meet the Oct. 1 deadline for reorganizing the state commands into joint headquarters.

"It will push us, but that's fine." Kane said. "Sometimes it's better to be pushed than to be pulled."

Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, Hawaii's adjutant general, said he has already begun forming a joint National Guard headquarters in that state.

"I didn't know how far I could go with it. But Lt. Gen. Blum has made it clear I can make our headquarters as joint as I want to," he explained.

Lee, who commanded U.S. Army Reserve forces in the Pacific Command before becoming Hawaii's National Guard leader, predicted he could easily entice other reserve components to assign representatives to his state's headquarters.

Officials claim this transformation is as significant for the country's largest military reserve force as are two other chapters of National Guard history.

One was the Militia Act of 1903, also called the Dick Act, that established federal guidelines for organizing, training and equipping the Guard in line with standards established for the regular Army. The second was the creation of the Air National Guard in 1947 that led to separate Army and Air Guard directorates.

The adjutants general, 34 of whom belong to the Army Guard, hope that forming joint headquarters that are more in line with the active forces will streamline the process for mobilizing Army Guard soldiers for federal duty.

"We don't need to be double checked and triple checked every time our troops get activated," Lee said. The Air Guard routinely deploys troops from their home stations, it was pointed out.

The adjutants general also heeded Blum's proposals for improving the Guard's capabilities for defending the homeland.

Homeland defense, he explained, ranges from full-scale combat operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to flying combat air patrols over U.S. cities, providing security along international borders and at ports of entry, and safeguarding air bases in this country.

It reflects the National Guard's dual role as state forces commanded by the nation's governors and as a federal force when ordered to active duty by the president.

Blum's proposals focus on enhancing capabilities, adding to mission-essential task lists for combat arms units, and task organizing. They include:

Organizing chemical, biological and incident response task forces to include assets from the Guard's 32 full-time civil support teams, enhanced medical companies that can decontaminate and treat 150 people per hour, engineer companies with special search and rescue equipment, and combat units trained to support law enforcement agencies.

Expanding the Guard's involvement in ground-based missile defense over and above the unit that is currently being formed to staff a facility that is expected to be operational in Alaska by Oct. 1, 2004.

Creating quick and rapid Guard reaction forces that are immediately available to state and federal governments and that are trained for both combat and security duties.

These new forces can be formed with personnel and resources that are already available to the Guard, Blum said. They will not require a lot of new, expensive, sophisticated equipment.

"This will require a new way of thinking," the Guard Bureau chief added. "Most real transformation happens right between your ears. It's not about hardware, and it's not about information technology. It's about how you think. And we need to change the way we think."

(Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office in Arlington, Va.)

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