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Gates Says Guard, Reserve Roles Need Examining

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, June 6, 2011 – The Defense Department is taking a look at the roles of the National Guard and reserve components, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Gates spoke to the men and women of Task Force Currahee, a unit built around the 101st Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade, and based in Paktika province.

The secretary thanked the soldiers for their service during a town hall meeting and took questions. One soldier asked about the future of the reserve components.

Gates said he has been concerned about the Guard and reserves since he took office in 2006. “One of my concerns when I took the job was my concern that after 9/11, we pulled a kind of bait and switch on the National Guard,” he said.

Since World War II, the National Guard always had been a strategic reserve, and those signing up for service generally trained one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. They understood they would be called up for national disasters or great national crises. Instead, they “found themselves ultimately being deployed for 15 months in the field,” the secretary said.

Since then, of course, the reality is that everyone who has joined the Guard and reserve has known they were going in to the fight, he said.

But this is an issue for reservists. The department is asking what are the right roles for the Guard and reserve going forward, Gates said.

One suggestion is that the Guard be divided into a strategic reserve and an operational reserve, with each group trained, paid and equipped differently, the secretary said.

Another suggestion calls for moving more of the Army’s heavy infantry brigade combat teams into the National Guard.

“These are questions we are looking at, but we need to do some hard thinking,” he said, “because we could not have done what we did in Iraq and do what we’re doing here in Afghanistan without the operational engagement of the Guard.”

Whatever happens, the Guard is going to continue to have an operational role, Gates said. “How much of the Guard that involves, and how we situate the Guard and reserve going forward is still a question everybody is looking at,” he said.


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

6/22/2011 1:36:47 PM
When Congress wanted to cut DOD funding for the active duty, they cut the forces down. That looked to the world like it saved money, but all they did was shift those missions to the Civil Service and the Guard/Reserve forces; money for these come out of different pots. There was no net reduction in cost, and here we are how many years later needing a big professional military! On the flip side, many Guard/Reserve are under-employed and benefit financially from the long tuors for social security earnings as well as points for retirement. It also makes for funerals for under-prepared, unsupported familiies. For this we can think Bill Clinton, who said it was ok to send Guard/Reserve out into the world as emmissaries of democracy, under Federal control, wresting it from States, a truly unfunded mandate on states and our nation!
- K. Baumgarten, Plattsburgh, NY

6/8/2011 12:51:24 AM
I am retired, 6 yrs active duty VN and 24 yrs ARNG and have observations from experiences in both.I believe the NG should be formed and used for just what it was designed to do, to guard the nation on a state level, under the command of the Governors. They are more effective in this duty by being organized in Engineer unitis, Military Police units, Medical units, combat support units (not combat units of Infantry, armour, artillery ect.). such as transportation units, Signal, QM, Med., ect that are supportive of the combat arms which are active duty functions. Most NG are combat trained and can stand on their own in combat when needed but can be more effective in reserve in supporting roles when needed. Active Reserve is different. They are in reserve for combat and are expected to back up active duty in combat roles in Inf. Arm., and Art.
- Robert L Hooper, Brownsville, Tn. 38012

6/6/2011 5:13:51 PM
The National Guard has done an outstanding job in service to our nation. That is undeniable. They have been used far too much, in my opinion. I do not think those enlisted in the guard prior to 9-11-01 had any idea that they would be so involved in so many combat missions overseas. Something needs to change with that policy! I know they are fully capable, but they are completing many missions that one would think that Active duty military would complete!
- Amy, Kentucky

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