Mobilized Soldiers Set Guard Re-up Pace
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 30, 2004 Army National Guardsmen who have seen the worst of war are re-enlisting in the military at a higher rate than those who haven't been mobilized, officials said July 29.
"Retention is higher in the units that have been mobilized than across the force, and across the force it is high," said Brig. Gen. Frank Grass, deputy director of the Army National Guard, during a July 29 interview with American Forces Press Service.
In an average year, the Army Guard sees about 18 percent of the force retire or separate. For fiscal 2004, officials estimate that only about 14 percent of mobilized units will leave, and 16.9 percent of the overall force will depart.
Grass said exit interviews from soldiers demobilizing indicate the guardsmen really do consider themselves a "Band of Brothers." "Part of what's happening here is this team that used to see each other one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, have just come together," Grass said. "Many of them have fought in combat side by side, and they come back and that relationship that they've built is key to them staying in."
Grass said the reception the soldiers get from the people of their states is also very important. He used as an example the 168th MP Company of the Tennessee National Guard that is returning home after more than a year "boots on the ground" in Iraq.
"Every county that they cross from the time they land until they get to their armory there is a welcoming committee," Grass said. The unit will receive state police and local police escorts.
"All this make the soldiers feel welcome and the families feel as if their sacrifices are appreciated," he said.
Grass said the two-year limit on mobilizations is also important. Units can plan on deployments, and the Army National Guard is aiming for units having one deployment every six years.
Grass said there are other policy changes in the works that will aid in reserve component retention. One such is the continuum of service policy. This will allow a soldier to change status more easily. A soldier could be in the National Guard and move to active duty.
Upon return from deployment, he or she could go back into the Guard or move to the Individual Ready Reserve. Grass said this type of set-up would help break down barriers among the components and erase remnants of the Cold-War-era thinking.