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The nation and your leadership at the state and national level are asking a lot of all of our National Guardsman these days. The catch phrase for the Guard for years has been one weekend a month and two weeks a year. I would ask each one of you is that true? The National Guard of today requires much more of each of us.
If you’re a member of the 69th Infantry, then you know it took extra training to get ready to spend three weeks in Australia as part of Talisman Sabre.
If you’re in the 27th Infantry Brigade headquarters or 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, then you know that a few months ago you were not thinking about a nine-month long deployment to Ukraine to train that country’s army. But now that is the priority mission.
If you’re in the 42nd Infantry Division, then you know that soon you’ll be gearing up for extra training time to get ready for Warfighter and a deployment in 2019.
If you’re in the 53rd Troop Command, then you know you were definitely not planning on spending a snowy March day sitting in a Humvee beside Interstate 84 so that you could shut down the highway. But you did.
If you are a member of the Air National Guard you know that to be able to deploy worldwide within 72 hours it takes more training time than one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.
We have the 105th Airlift Wing flying missions around the world working for the Air Mobility Command.
We have the 106th Rescue Wing who show up for a normal workday and within hours launch an Aircraft and Para rescue personnel to save the lives of two civilians who were involved in a ship accident half way across the Atlantic.
These Airmen turned what was supposed to be a training mission into a real-world mission with very little planning time. They are an example of the excellence which our Citizen Airmen and Citizen Soldiers display when called upon. The same can be said for the many members who have been called upon for the various domestic events.
We have the 107th Attack Wing who just started flying combat missions from Niagara Falls after spending the last two years TDY flying missions to support the war.
We have the 109th Airlift Wing who is training and flying Operational missions in Greenland until August and then will head to Antarctica from October until March.
We have the 174 Attack Wing training students and flying combat missions every day 24 hours a day seven days a week and have been since 2009.
We have the Eastern Air Defense Sector watching our nation’s sky everyday 24 hours a day seven days a week 365 days a year keeping us all safe.
For a couple of months this summer we had almost 1,000 National Guardsmen on duty working flood control along Lake Ontario, or working New York City security with Joint Task Force Empire Shield.
Our Soldiers and Airmen will continue to miss every holiday on the calendar, birthdays, graduations, weddings, family reunions, you name it we will miss it. I wish I could tell you that the pace of operations was going to slow down but as long as there is conflict in this world and domestic requirements in the State, we will be working.
Being a Guard Soldier is definitely a lot more than a weekend each month and two weeks a year. I appreciate the sacrifices you all make to serve: missed time with family and friends.
Recently Brig. Gen. Ray Shields, the Army Guard commander, teamed up with Brig. Gen. Steve Ferrari, the commander of the 42nd ID, and Brig. Gen. Mike Natali, the commander of the 53rd Troop Command, to write a letter to your employers explaining why we are asking you to spend more time training for missions and being on mission.
It’s a good letter and I urge you to share it with your boss. If you have not yet read it, check in with your first-line leader.
Make sure your employer understands why you may need to take more time off and make sure you give your employer a heads up way before scheduled training and deployments.
I know there are some units out there where things seem a little bit slow right now, but trust me that is likely to change.
For those of you who feel like you need to run hard just to stand still, because you’re so busy, hang in there. You’re doing important work.
If you’re a leader I am counting on you to spend time communicating with your troops. I want you to really listen to what they have to say.
Let them know about upcoming missions and likely missions and why we are asking more from them. Listen to their concerns. Make sure your troops know what is expected. Listen to their questions and concerns.
What do they need to do their job? How can you help that Service member succeed? Does the service member need to change MOS’s or AFSC’s?
I know it’s harder for Army leadership to circulate to five or six armories that are scattered across upstate New York, than it is for Air Guard leadership to talk to people all clustered together on one base. But I encourage all of you to get out and see the folks that make things happen.
We ask a lot of our Army Guard platoon sergeants and squad leaders. We should make sure that those E-7s, E-6s, and E-5s have our priorities and are treating our soldiers in a way that makes them want to stay in the Guard. Make sure those direct leaders have the information they need to help their Soldiers make decisions.
I’ve also got a special message for all you Army sergeants major’s and Air National Guard Chief’s out there.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of you since becoming Adjutant General, and you folks are an awesome group. You’re professional, dedicated, and experienced. And you can also be very intimidating.
You intimidate me sometimes, imagine how you come across to a young troop.
Keep that in mind as you’re out there mixing it up with the Soldiers and Airmen. We count on you to be our eyes and ears on the ground, but if you’re too scary, that young private or Airman isn’t going to honestly open up.
Communication is what makes our teams work, and when a team comes together, they can accomplish extraordinary missions.
Each of you are completing an extraordinary mission each day. It may not seem like it but we need to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice when called. We are all going to be busy. Our Soldiers and Airman are going to be asked to do more. You’ve all got an important mission to do. And it all matters to the people of this nation that we serve.
Thank you for what each one of you do every day.