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SERVING TWO MASTERS

 


By Geoff Metcalf

June 25, 2006

NewsWithViews.com

“Good masters generally have bad slaves, and bad slaves have good masters.” --Herodotus

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently rejected a request from the Bush administration to send an additional 1,500 National Guard troops to the Mexican border. Although arguably his decision may have been made for the wrong reasons, it was a good call.

National Guard troops serve two masters, and both have been very demanding. The Pentagon tasks guardsmen to meet national force requirements. The Governor tasks guardsmen in the event of statewide emergency (earthquakes, floods, fires, civil disturbance etc.).

Training is critical to citizen soldiers. Especially when the likelihood of them being deployed OCONUS (outside the continental United States) to function in their full time military occupational specialties is inevitable.

California has already committed to putting 1,000 troops on the border by July 31.

Initially, Schwarzenegger dissed the administration's plan to deploy troops to the border. However, he eventually relented when the Pentagon signed a deal promising to pay for the entire mission. That could exceed $1.4 billion nationally…but hey, if the feds were paying for it, Arnold apparently could live with it. Schwarzenegger signed an executive order saying he would not authorize the deployment beyond the end of 2008. He reportedly intends for the mission to be carried out mostly by troops who volunteer for the assignment…and he probably won’t lack for volunteers.

The Bush plan, which called for putting Guardsmen on border duty instead of their annual two- and three-week training exercises, was, and is, counter-intuitive, and a flat out bad idea.

Mission oriented training is imperative to all reserve component units. Once upon a time, reserve component units and individuals (National Guard and Reserve) were used primarily as ‘supplemental’ assets. They were used to replace stateside active duty troops during over seas deployments. However, as times, assets, reduction in forces, and priorities changed, so did the role of the reserve components.

Today, reserve component troops are used to ‘complement’ active duty troop strengths. The citizen solider is no longer ‘back fill’, they are on the front line.

Annual training (the two weeks each year of active duty training) is critical to all reserve component units. ANYtime, some ‘suit’ or chairborne military bureaucrat replaces ‘training’ with some ‘hey you’ mission, they are denying not only valuable but necessary training to troops who may well find themselves in ‘the sandpit’ expected to meet or exceed active duty combat readiness.

We are blessed with extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve in state National Guard units. Many of these citizen soldiers recognize that in the ‘war on terror’ they could (and probably will… be called to leave their jobs and family for a lengthy overseas deployment.

Many National Guard troops have already been to Iraq or Afghanistan…multiple times. My old battalion commander recently told me of an E-9 who is over ‘there’ on his 5th tour!

National guard commands, and the governor’s who have command over them, face a genuine unamusing ‘Catch-22.’

Governor Schwarzanegger should anticipate having to active National Guard troops at some time (sooner rather than later) to deal with statewide emergencies such as earthquake, fire, floods, and civil disturbance. He has a responsibility to the citizens of the state to see to it those assets are available when needed.

Conversely, even as Iraq and Afghanistan requirement simmers reserve component commitments, the international geopolitical macro picture suggests, ‘something’/’somewhere’ (Iran, North Korea, Syria, India/Pakistan, or even Africa) could require troop activations the Pentagon cannot meet with current force structures.

A potential solution to multi-front challenges is one neither states, nor the strategy wonks in the Pentagon are seriously exploring. Increase the size of some state national guard Table of Organization and Equipment.

Some states, which face a disproportionate number of state emergency activations, might even explore the benefits of creating disaster mission oriented ‘special units.’

A logistics challenge for both states and the feds is funding. Frankly, one of the reasons National Guard troops get federal money is the government investment in the potential of utilizing the mixed-use assets. States benefit from the military table of organization and equipment (airplanes, helicopters, vehicles, radios etc) without having to ‘pay’ for it. When state troops are ‘federalized’ the Pentagon gets to realize their cost benefit.

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States score if the Pentagon isn’t using reserve component resources. However, when (like now) state resources ARE being tasked by the Pentagon, states can (and will) be challenged with the potential of a statewide emergency with insufficient resources.

If states were to (wrongly) try to opt out of federal commitments, they would reasonably face the loss of federal money and equipment.

What to do? What to do? Governors won’t like hearing this, but states need to spend more money on the National Guard.

© 2006 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

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"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Visit Geoff's

Web Site: www.geoffmetcalf.com. While you're at it - pick up a copy of Geoff's latest book!  

E-mail: geoff@geoffmetcalf.com


 

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States score if the Pentagon isn’t using reserve component resources. However, when (like now) state resources ARE being tasked by the Pentagon, states can (and will) be challenged with the potential of a statewide emergency with insufficient resources.