Guard Bureau Chief Visits Troops in Afghanistan
By Army Lt. Col. Paul Fanning
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan, Aug. 28, 2008 The chief of the National Guard Bureau came to see his troops serving here during a two-day visit that began Aug. 26.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Russell Hoyer from Voorheesville, N.Y., assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix Logistics Task Force, poses for a photo with Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum was accompanied by Army Command Sgt. Maj. David Ray Hudson, the Guard Bureau’s command sergeant major, during his visit with members of the New York National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and soldiers from other Guard units serving in Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII.
“The main thing I want to do is thank you,” Blum said. “I want to thank you for your service. I want to thank you for what you do every day back home to add value to America and to your communities. Thanks for being citizen-soldiers that are willing to do what the nation asks us to do whether it is overseas or right back home in the states.
“You are making a significant difference over here,” he said in reference to CJTF-Phoenix’s mission to train and mentor the Afghan national security forces. “You are probably America’s best goodwill ambassadors.”
He added that citizen-soldiers reflect more of what is right about America than anything else.
Army Col. Brian K. Balfe, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix and the 27th IBCT, thanked Blum for his visit. “National Guard troops from nearly every state are a part of this great team, and his visit is deeply appreciated,” he said.
The visit by the National Guard’s top leader included stops at Camp Blackhorse, Camp Alamo and Camp Phoenix, where task force soldiers were given the opportunity to listen to Blum and ask him questions during open forums.
But mostly the troops heard praises from Blum, who has led the National Guard Bureau for more than five years as historic changes and deployments have brought the Guard from its strategic reserve role to a position as an operational force.
“There is tremendous respect and admiration for the National Guard, probably higher now than at any other time in history,” Blum said. “The fact that you are all volunteers is amazing. The sacrifices you make, the commitment you make – you take it for granted. I don’t. It takes a special breed of men and women … [whom] I am proud to be a part of … that calls themselves the National Guard.”
The mission of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix is to mentor and train the Afghan National Army and police, and provide assistance to the government of Afghanistan and its people.
The task force is made up of nearly 9,500 servicemen and women from all U.S. branches, coalition partners and civilian professionals distributed throughout Afghanistan at nearly 260 forward operating bases, both large and small.
The task force is led by the New York Army National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which took over command and control responsibility April 26.
National Guard personnel from many states serve as embedded trainers and mentors, security force personnel, logistical and support staff and in assignments in the task force and subordinate regional security integration command headquarters.
(Army Lt. Col. Paul Fanning serves in the Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix Public Affairs Office.)