Keeping the Guard Sharp

Chief says Guard cannot go back to strategic reserve

An M-60A3 main battle tank of the 1st Bn., 108th Armor, 48th Bde., Georgia National Guard, waits in a defensive position during a training exercise. The unit is preparing for its annual exercises to be held this year at Fort Irwin, Calif. Photographer's Name: Long Location: FORT STEWART Date Shot: 7/15/1983

An M-60A3 main battle tank of the 1st Bn., 108th Armor, 48th Bde., Georgia National Guard, waits in a defensive position during a training exercise. The unit is preparing for its annual exercises to be held this year at Fort Irwin, Calif. Photographer's Name: Long Location: FORT STEWART Date Shot: 7/15/1983

“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.

Comments

  1. Sorry, but with the cuts to the size of the active duty forces in the 1990s, the US cannot fight any decent size conflict without using the gaurd and reserve. The point is that the guard and reserve need all of the same gear and training as the active service in order to do their mission. I’m a reservist, and I can tell you that our standard gear at the unit is far from top of the line, but if/when we get deployed next, then we’ll get the new gear. That’s the way it works unless you manage to fall under a command that has a huge budget.

  2. Those 90’s cuts also killed procurement of new gear for the Gaurd. Want new rifles, body armor, APC’s, whatever for your Gaurd unit? The only way to get new stuff (not obsolete used regular army cast-offs) is to get your unit deployed.

    Tank battalions are being converted to Infantry and MP’s because new tanks are not being procured.

  3. Actually the M-60 tank is still better than most of what we face around the world, it just isn’t as good as it once was, to quote Toby Keith. Can still turn most t-series tanks inside out. Look what the Israelis are doing with theirs. The idea among the “strategic planners” is that National Guard and Reserve should be support troops only, not forces that are front line fighters. I think that’s a load of crap. What was the first wave at normandy? Activated NG units. Where would we be without our citizen soldiers? How many wars would we have lost? I also think that somebody took a good hard look at what was going on to their side of the political spectrum and asked themselves “what else can we do to make a government controlled society unstoppable?”. They then determined that privately owned guns were bad, standing up for yourself/defending yourself was bad, hurting anyone’s feelings was bad, and providing top of the line military equipment where citizens could get at it was also bad. Just my two cents worth.

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