Given the uncertain nature of the world today, the National Guard motto “Always Ready, Always There” is even more important than in the past, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel (left) told the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee this morning.
Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the guard is evolving quickly to meet the challenges posed by state actors, terror groups and natural or man-made disasters.
“The National Guard is more resilient, relevant and ready than ever before,” he said.
More Than a Reserve Force
The guard is no longer simply a reserve force. Rather, it is a force that combatant commanders depend on to accomplish their missions. “Our security environment is more dynamic and complex and our nation places greater reliance on its National Guard,” the general said in prepared remarks.
“This is why my focus every day is to ensure we are ready and we have the resources to accomplish our three core missions -- fighting America’s wars, securing the homeland and building enduring partnerships at the local, state, federal and international levels,” Lengyel said.
The attacks of 9/11 transformed the National Guard, he said. “Since then, guard members have deployed more than 850,000 times to locations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Balkans, Guantanamo Bay and the Sinai,” the general said. “On any given day, the National Guard has approximately 18,000 soldiers and airmen mobilized in support of combatant command missions overseas.”
Guard members fold seamlessly into the joint force when called upon, Lengyel said. “Our interoperability with the joint force will deepen and evolve as we confront future threats -- threats that are now global, emanate from all domains, and are adaptable and multi-functional in their forms,” he said. “Only a well-integrated and well-trained force will keep our nation safe and secure our national interests.”
Guardsmen are also integral to homeland defense, he said. They train constantly to respond to natural or manmade disasters, the general said. The guard plays a part in defending against cyber assaults and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.
The guard often provides the logistic support and communications to tie operations together and to get people and supplies where they are urgently needed, he said. On average, more than 4,000 guard members conduct operations here in the United States on any given day, Lengyel said.
In today’s interconnected world, guardsmen must develop contacts and partnerships within the military, within the local, state and federal government and within the international community, the general said. He cited the Guard’s State Partnership Program which pairs guard units in various states with units in nations around the world. The program now has 79 partners.
“The SPP allows us to partner with nations around the globe to realize mutual understanding, friendship and security cooperation,” he said. “This low-cost, high-leverage program has built enduring partnerships and bonds of trust with approximately one-third of the nations in the world -- relationships that assure our allies, deter our foes, and support the transition of many nations from security consumers to global security providers.”
Lengyel said he is as concerned about readiness as other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Readiness begins with our force structure,” the general said. “I am working with the Army and Air Force to have a balanced array of combat and enabling forces that largely mirrors the active component and is modernized concurrently. We must prepare by providing high-level collective training opportunities such as Combat Training Center rotations and Red Flag exercises. Realistic training improves the readiness of the National Guard and develops leaders that are able to support joint force requirements.”
By Jim Garamone
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