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National Guard Boss to Espouse Transformation to State AGs

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2003 – Each state National Guard will have to consolidate its top three headquarters into one "joint force headquarters," the head of the National Guard Bureau said today.

Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum briefed reporters in the Pentagon today that there are 162 headquarters units in the 54 state and territory National Guard entities. By Oct. 1, he said, 108 of these will no longer exist. He will share these plans with the state adjutants general at a meeting May 18.

Each state, the District of Columbia, and other territories currently has a statewide National Guard headquarters in addition to separate Army and Air Guard headquarters.

"That is just too excessive," Blum said. "And it's not in keeping with the direction the Department of Defense needs to go to deal with emerging realities and the way we will fight in the future."

He explained that these three agencies in each state will be combined into one joint headquarters. "We fight jointly, (so) we need to train and operate on a daily basis in a joint environment so we can make that transition (to active duty) very quickly," he said.

He said he plans to put resources saved in this consolidation toward shortages in operational units.

The general reminded the reporters that the National Guard's symbol is the Revolutionary War minuteman. "The minuteman is to symbolize the transition from a citizen to a soldier in minutes," he said.

Currently, there are 147,000 National Guardsmen deployed in 44 different countries. "The National Guard must transform for future threats and current realities," Blum said. "The world will not sit still, so the National Guard cannot sit still. We must adjust to those realities and those new and emerging threats."

Real transformation doesn't mean updating weapons and equipment. "Most real transformation happens right here," he said, pointing to his forehead. "It's about how you think. And we need to change the way we think."

In other Guard news, the 32 existing Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams are assisting state governors and local first responders every day, Blum noted. Plans are under way for each state and territory to have at least one such team. He said the Defense Department will soon announce plans for forming and training the additional teams.

He also noted that National Guard retention and recruiting rates appear to be highest in units that have deployed recently. The general attributed this to the feeling of satisfaction service members feel when they believe they're contributing to their nation's security.

"The people that are coming in want to serve," he said. "They want to serve their country in a meaningful manner, and by and large that's what they're doing."

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