By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 13, 2009 - The National Guard's noncommissioned officers should be proud of the leadership they provide both inside and outside the wire in the nation's combat zones, the National Guard Bureau's senior enlisted leader said here during a town hall meeting earlier this month. Army Command Sgt. Maj. David Ray Hudson recently returned from Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, where he lauded the work of citizen-soldiers and -airmen deployed in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Some 60,000 National Guard forces are serving in OIF and OEF.
"We have E-4s and E-5s running operations outside the wire in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in Djibouti and Kosovo," Hudson told Guard members of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix on March 2 on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. "So never forget to be proud of who you are and what you have done."
Hudson visited the countries with Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, from Feb. 28 to March 4.
To reach the Guard members, Hudson and McKinley traveled in military vehicles through a sandstorm outside Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, in the cargo bay of a C-17 Globemaster and a C-130 Hercules over Iraq, and on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters above Afghanistan's mountains and valleys.
As the Guard's senior enlisted leader, Hudson is responsible for advising McKinley on the enlisted affairs of about 460,000 soldiers and airmen in the Army and Air National Guard. Hudson said the overseas trips allowed him to personally hear the concerns of those deployed.
In their dozens of formal briefings, town hall meetings and tours, Hudson and McKinley opened the discussions to hear "anything on Guard members' minds."
"Our men and women are concerned about their future and where they will be a year from now ... two years and three years from now," Hudson said at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. "But they are also very proud of what they are doing here, and they will move on to do whatever their country requires of them."
Wherever he went, Hudson quizzed the soldiers and airmen on National Guard history, often lightening up moments with a joke and coining outstanding performers with a handshake and a "job well done."
"This is the 'Year of the NCO,' and we have a lot of great NCOs here and those who are going to be NCOs," he said.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)