“We must maintain the level of efficiency and effectiveness that has been achieved today,” said Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, who spoke at the 38th annual conference of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS).
“We can’t be relegated to obsolete and incompatible equipment like we were during the Cold War,” he said. “We have proven that that old way of doing business does not work in today’s environment.”
This is, of course, true. Though at times the Guard appeared on the verge of breaking, it held together and is in pretty good shape considering the unexpected stress its been subjected to over the past few years.
This period in history is exactly what the Guard and reserve were built for, McKinley said. “We are shock absorbers in an all-volunteer force that allows us to go to this level of tempo.”
I suspect, however, that the current sorts of operations are not all that temporary. Even as deployments to Iraq are winding down, deployments to Afghanistan are ramping up. And who’s to say what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year? I think basically keeping the National Guard on constant call for deployment to hotspots is a bad plan.
For emergencies? Absolutely. But if this is going to be a way of life, and it looks like it might become just that, flare-ups in various dusty corners will no longer be considered “emergencies” and will certainly not be unexpected.
I’ve wondered before whether it might not make sense to designate most of the Guard as a heavy traditional fighting force. Lots of tank battalions. Tons of artillery. All of the good stuff for major army-on-army combat. Keep them equipped with good gear, keep their training up for major threats, and keep them home unless the big war is about to begin.
With a good, well-equipped and well-trained National Guard in reserve, the regular Army could shift priorities more easily. Lots of brush wars? Shed some tanks and artillery, add more counter-insurgency training and get the job done. Pre-position heavy equipment in strategic locations, and if the heavies are needed retrain a brigade and fly them in. The full-time Army’s schedule would allow such training (and re-training as necessary) much better than the National Guard’s part-time schedule. Make the most of the time Guardsmen put in by making them as good at one thing as possible, leaving the regular Army (recently enlarged, finally) to adapt to the standard threats as needed.