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Guard Chief Stresses Strategic Use of Force, Parity With Active Force

March 4, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

The U.S. military cannot do its job without the capabilities inherent in the National Guard, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel told the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee yesterday.

Pilots man F-35 aircraft.
Base Return
Pilots assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, return to base in their F-35A Lightning IIs during routine flying operations from the Vermont Air National Guard Base, South Burlington, Vt., Feb. 8, 2020.
Photo By: Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell
VIRIN: 200208-Z-MC713-2439

Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel that the National Guard is not just a reserve, but an integral part of the military that enables the whole force to deter enemies and win the nation's wars if deterrence fails.

"On any given day, approximately 30,000 guardsmen carry out federal missions around the world, and an additional 10,000 guardsmen conduct state and federal missions within the United States and its territories," Lengyel said in a written statement to the committee. "National Guardsmen are part of an operational force nearly 450,000 strong that provides strategic depth to our nation's Army and Air Force."

Airmen lift metal rods out of a large wooden box.
Tent Construction
Members of Florida’s Air National Guard practice building an Alaskan small shelter system at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Fla., Feb. 20, 2020. These heavy-duty tents can be equipped with electricity and climate control for use in deployed locations around the world.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Hancock
VIRIN: 200220-Z-BX441-1002A

While most Americans know the Guard for its role in aiding fellow Americans struck by disasters, the reason for the force is warfighting, pure and simple, the general said. "Being ready to fight and win America's wars drives our training, our equipment and maintenance requirements, and our recruitment efforts," Lengyel said.

The changing and global nature of threats shape the warfight, and the National Guard is evolving rapidly to meet new demands."
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau

From Africa to Afghanistan and from Europe to the Middle East, Lengyel said guardsmen serve alongside active duty personnel and bring their own unique expertise and experiences to complex problems of war and peace.

"Our current threat environment requires the National Guard to be prepared for complex, global operations in the most demanding conditions."

A helicopter flies over snowy terrain dotted with stunted-looking trees.
Destination Deadhorse
Soldiers assigned to the Alaska National Guard travel aboard a CH-47 Chinook from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Deadhorse, Alaska, Feb. 24, 2020, for Arctic Eagle, an exercise designed to increase the National Guard’s ability to operate in extreme cold-weather conditions.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Amy Picard
VIRIN: 200224-F-EY126-0504Y

The National Defense Strategy requires a total force effort and National Guardsmen are adapting to the return of great power competition with China and Russia. "China and Russia are undermining the international order through various means, exploiting all domains to change the character of warfare," Lengyel said.

The component will shift focus, but it still must keep an eye on threats emanating from Iran, North Korea and violent extremist organizations, he said. "The changing and global nature of threats shape the warfight, and the National Guard is evolving rapidly to meet new demands," Lengyel said.

Great power competition requires units to be ready to conduct high-intensity combat operations. The Guard is the principal combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. The Guard provides strategic depth to support combatant commands.

A soldier crouches on the ground with a machine gun.
Field Exercise
Army National Guard soldiers with the 1-118th Infantry Battalion, South Carolina National Guard, conduct a field exercise at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, S.C., Feb. 29, 2020.
Photo By: Army Spc. David Erskine
VIRIN: 200229-A-IB254-257

The terror attacks of 9-11 shredded the myth of the Guard as "weekend warriors," Lengyel said. Since that day, more than 1 million Guardsmen have mobilized and deployed — many multiple times.

A traditional Guardsman drills one weekend a month and two weeks a year. This is the foundation of the force.

But the demands of the future will require more from service members. "In order to fully leverage readiness that lives in the National Guard and to empower our Guard men and women, mobilization requirements need to be predictable," Lengyel said. "This structure, predictable in time but geographically agile, will afford the DOD greater flexibility during this period of great power competition. This flexibility in employment also requires an enterprise approach to modernization of the total force in order to remain deployable, sustainable and interoperable with the active components."

Soldiers fire cannon.
Howitzer Training
Soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard fire Howitzers to provide integrated fire support during Northern Strike 20-2/Winter Strike, a cold weather joint training exercise, Camp Grayling, Mich., Jan. 24, 2020. Northern Strike is the largest reserve-component DOD exercise.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. David Eichaker
VIRIN: 200124-Z-LI010-005A

To that end, the National Guard requires parity with active duty service members in training, facilities and equipment. "There is only one standard for readiness, and there should be only the highest standard for our equipment," the general said. "Without parity, we cannot integrate with the active components; if we cannot integrate, we cannot be the lethal force necessary to help deter, fight and win America's wars."