Return of Georgia Guard Units from Afghanistan reminds us of the vital role the Guard plays in the military reach of the United States. The Springfield unit and the Glennville units, as part of the 48th Brigade recently returned from a second deployment to a Middle East area where the United States is actively involved in fighting ISIS and terrorism.
These citizen soldiers gave up as much as 13 months of their lives to deploy to a dangerous part of the world and fill a vital role in the war on terrorism. Georgia’s National Guard sent 2100 troops in this latest conflict.
There are approximately 14,000 Army and Air Guardsmen and women serving in uniform in Georgia today. Since 9/11, some 21,000 Georgia Army and Air Guardsmen have deployed to the Mideast. Most (11,000) of these Guardsmen are “traditional” or part-time military men and women and hold civilian jobs or are students. Today, there are still 500 Guardsmen deployed around the world in Kosovo, Europe, the Pacific and the southwest border.
The Guard serves both state and federal missions
The missions of the Army and Air National Guard extend across Georgia and Guardsmen are called to state active duty whenever hurricanes or state emergencies call for their assistance in personnel and equipment. The Air National Guard even flew disaster relief supplies to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The Army and Air Federal missions can extend around the world with Army Guard units called to active duty in a number of contingencies over the past 3 decades and the Air Guard’s missions routinely extending to the four corners of the globe.
The Guard’s key role in national defense
My years in the Guard left me with several positive impressions of Guardsmen who quietly go about serving in both state and federal capacities and at the same time maintaining a citizen occupation. I would submit that these very special individuals succeed in both worlds.
There was a time when the National Guard played a very minimal role in national defense. They were poorly equipped, but that has changed over the years and today, the National Guard is not only better equipped, but plays a key role in supplementing the active force in military commitments around the world.
Attributes of a Guardsman
My years in the Guard showed me several qualities that Guardsmen seemed to share. These are:
➤ Perseverance or stick-to-it-ness
This resourcefulness has been greatly used in deployments to the Middle East and in the interactions with local indigenous communities, The “real world” experience of Guardsmen pays huge dividends in meeting these missions.
I found virtually every Guardsman to be uniquely special. The qualities we see in Guardsmen are also seen and valued by employers and that is why you see these individuals succeeding in both arenas.
Why do Guardsmen seem to have these attributes? Well, when you look at the Core Values of the Army and the Air Force, you can grasp a little of why those qualities exist and are so valued in the business and professional environment.
Army core values
➤ Selfless service
➤ Personal courage
Air Force core values
➤ Integrity first
➤ Service before self
➤ Excellence in all we do
Issues for those
serving in the Guard
A Guardsman gives up a lot to serve. There are weekends and training segments that often exceed two weeks yearly. More and more deployments extend for one year and more. The men and women of the Guard miss many special days, family events and business and job opportunities. (Most employers value Guardsmen as leaders in their businesses and support the Guard’s mission.)
That is getting harder to do given the extended deployments that have evolved as a mission of the Guard. Its active role in National Defense means deployments now often extend over holidays. Serving in today’s National Guard is a real life, real time experience where Guardsmen are held to the same standards as active duty personnel and they excel at their duties. Today, the Guard is a full partner with the active force and the pressure on Guardsmen has never been more intense.
We owe a great debt to Guardsmen who are balancing military duties with job and personal responsibilities. It takes an unusual person, truly unique, to succeed at all of these assignments. But as said earlier, “all Guardsmen are special.”