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Mullen Sees Operational Structure in Guard’s Future

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2009 – The National Guard’s transformation from a strategic reserve to an operational force since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, should continue beyond the current conflicts, the nation’s top military officer told Guard leaders yesterday.

As operations in Iraq and Afghanistan change over the next few years, the Guard should not be allowed to revert to being simply a strategic reserve, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience at the National Guard’s Joint Senior Leadership Conference at the National Harbor.

“Without leadership, we will snap back in too many areas to the way it was,” Mullen said. “So we have to look to the future and lead to the future, taking advantage of who we are, what we’ve become and what we think those challenges will be.”

Mullen said he’s considering what the military’s force structure should look like after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I’ve started to ask the question, ‘Well, what’s after Iraq and Afghanistan?’” the chairman said. “What does the force look like? How do we make sure that the lessons that we’ve learned, the best combat force we have ever fielded, … how do we make sure we retain the right individuals, how do we train them? How do we educate them? And what does it look like, and particularly on the Guard side, what does it look like in the future?”

Mullen said he foresees some sort of strategic reserve, but that the operational structure needs to be in place as well.

“I believe we should have some level of strategic reserve,” he said. “And yet, we have to have an operational response that keeps that strategic reserve healthy, tied to a training regimen and a preparation regimen that takes advantage of who we are and who we’ve become in these two wars and looks to a future that leverages that in preparation for what might be coming down the road.”

That does not mean a return to how things were before 2001, he said,

“As we look to a future … where the deployments aren’t as high as they are right now, the one thing I don’t want to do is … reset to 2000,” he said.

Mullen said the transition in the Guard has been “absolutely spectacular.”

“I’ve seen an awful lot of troops in theater … who … unless somebody told me they were in the Guard or the Reserve or active, I couldn’t tell,” he said, “because in the fight, everybody is the same: side by side, shoulder to shoulder and making such a difference.”

Mullen said maintaining that high level of readiness in the future comes down to leadership.

“Leading in a time of change – if you’ve spent any time in leadership – is the hardest kind of leadership there is,” he said. “And it is leadership that has been very well executed here, and will need to be in the future.”

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

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