The National Guards gets its four star general in a looong time

Reply Tue 18 Nov, 2008 10:17 am
November 17, 2008
The National Guards gets its four star general in a looong time
Posted by Nancy Youssef
McClatchy Blog

The Pentagon these days is on a four-star bonanza. Last week, the Army named its first female four-star Army general, Ann Dunwoody, in an emotional ceremony that sparked hopes across the ranks that the military was finally turning another historic corner. Today, the military appointed its first four-star chief of the National Guard bureau in a long, long time, Gen. Craig R. McKinley. He replaces Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum.

So why is this a big deal? That the chief is now a four star is a bold statement about the growing role of the National Guard. In a way, the job of the National Guard is far more complicated than the other forces. After all, they are no longer tasked only with dealing with domestic emergencies and preparing for the off-chance they are called overseas. These days, they traverse both worlds. They have literally deployed to Iraq one month and returned to the United States the next to handle a natural disaster, most notably Hurricane Katrina.

Most agree the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could not have been fought without them. Indeed, these days, they are deployed to more than 40 countries.

And yet serving is not their full-time jobs. They have to balance the needs of their countries with their own domestic jobs. Before 9/11 the Guard could only be deployed one year active duty in five years; now they can be called up for 24 months in the same period.

The Guard is feeling the pinch of all those competing demands. Their equipment is worn out; their forces are exhausted; and they need to retrain to adapt to their new role.

Simply put, the demands on the Guard are unprecedented. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the new chief is a four star.

The real question becomes: What will the fourth star really bring to the Guard? Will they get more attention and resources? Will they be on equal footing with the other rank? During the campaign, vice president-elect Joe Biden said the National Guard should be part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which suggests that major changes are afoot.

It’s just another thing to watch for in the next administration.

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