By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard
In the 10 years since the terror attacks in New York and the Pentagon launched the global war on terror, the demand for the National Guard has been disruptive but not destructive, according to the commander of the Wisconsin National Guard.
"When the Army contemplated mobilizing the Army National Guard for operations in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, there were many who thought that would break the National Guard," said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, during a press conference Wednesday (Sept. 7). "On the contrary - it hasn't broken us. It has made us stronger."
Dunbar said it wasn't unusual for the nation to rely on the National Guard, even in a time of consistent conflict, but that the repetitive mobilizations are unique.
"It's really only since World War II that we've maintained such a large active duty standing military force," he explained. "I would suggest to you we're relying on the National Guard much like we've done throughout our history. I don't think it's much of an anomaly. And the proof's in the pudding - our retention is up, our recruiting is up.
"It's important to remember when the nation adopted the total force concept and moved to an all-volunteer force, the National Guard's participation was theoretical," he continued. "Well, it's theoretical no more. In these past 10 years we've become an operational National Guard, and our capability is proven."
Soldiers and Airmen who have joined the Wisconsin National Guard since 9/11 say they like the missions and being part of the fight overseas, Dunbar said.
"That's not to say we'd like to keep fighting a war," he continued. "But if the country's going to be engaged, the National Guard wants to be engaged with them."
Dunbar said that over the years, the National Guard has served many different functions, from colonial militia to continental army to Civil War combatants. This legacy, he said, has helped the Guard maintained its ability to respond to state emergencies even as it deployed units overseas in the global war on terror. The Wisconsin National Guard has responded to several declared state emergencies since 2001, and has also assisted other states with natural disaster response efforts, to include Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"Our National Guard has never been more ready, reliable or relevant," he said, "never more combat hardened or experienced, and never more accessible."
The adjutant general said the National Guard has proven it can continue its current operational tempo.
"When you look at the fiscal crisis we're in right now, I believe the nation can and should rely on the National Guard to continue to be an operational National Guard," he said. "That's not to say you don't need an active duty [military] - you do. But when you're going to try and balance fiscal crisis with national security, the National Guard has proven it can take more of that responsibility going forward."
Dunbar said that being the 30th adjutant general of Wisconsin, during this difficult time in history, is both humbling and a privilege.
|Wisconsin ARNG soldiers training|
Afghan National Army soldiers
"But the things I do pale in comparison to my commanders and what these Soldiers, Airmen and families do," he said. "From that perspective, my job's very easy."
Dunbar emphasized that the Wisconsin National Guard works very hard to make sure deploying units get the needed training and resources.
"When we send a unit to the mobilization station for final training, they meet or exceed every standard the Army wants them to have," he said. "Same thing with the Air Force."
Dunbar acknowledged that, even though Wisconsin National Guard troops are highly prepared when they deploy, he seeks additional help.
"Every day I pray for those Soldiers and Airmen," he said. "Every day."