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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Return to the Army green... Part one

So, I had heard stories about the Army National Guard (ARNG), none good, while I was in the regular Army.  Many stories based around how weekend drills were essentially parties, time for the ARNG soldiers to get away from nagging wives, or escape from the realities of their civilian lives.  Kegs of beer, hangovers, no true training at all, no readiness to defend the state, nation, or deploy in support of foreign wars.  Well, those stories, especially in the post 9-11 world, were just that, stories.  As fictional as Harry Potter, and although some of the stories may have had a component of truth, they were significantly stretched beyond the grips of reality as we know it.  Now, the ARNG is not the regular Army, never has been never will be, but there are both positives and negatives to both. Here are my thoughts:

Contrasting and Comparing the ARNG and Army:
1. Location, no ETS, I can stay in the same damn unit for eternity, as long as there are slots for the specialty I hold as I progress through the ranks.  However, this is very difficult to accomplish, but I know people who have been in the same ARNG unit their entire careers.
2. Along the line as #1, if I want to move to Hawaii, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, or any other state in this country there is an opportunity for me to transition into the ARNG in those states.  This allows for the individual to determine where they move, not the military as in the regular Army.  However, in recent times the big Army is doing a good job of shifting their people around the same large posts to allow for continuity in a career.  This is more evident as the defense department continues to eliminate the smaller CONUS posts and consolidates into the larger posts throughout the country.
3. Overall experience - In the ARNG, a soldier has a civilian job, or they attend college to advance their personal career choice all while maintaining their ARNG career on the side.  This allows for a greater experience in life in general.  Most ARNG soldiers are proficient in more than just their military specialty.  That is because being an infantry soldier is not the only job they have.  This would mainly pertain to the career soldiers who do not pursue higher education, then they get out after 20 years without anything but their military background to rely upon.  In many cases this should be enough to get a god job while collecting the pension from the military, but there is great benefit that comes from experience, not just military, but civilian also.  A combination of the two give most an edge on their civilian only or military only counterparts.
4. Combat readiness - Without a doubt the big Army is superior in combat readiness, it is their daily job.  They can deploy to combat in less than 24 hours, for the ARNG, well we need a 3 month circus known as pre-deployment training.  Now, I personally do not think it takes this long to become combat ready, but some genius who is obviously much smarter, and has much more rank than me makes these decisions.
5. Combat effectiveness - Just because the big Army is more combat ready that does not always transition into a higher level of combat effectiveness.  The combat units from the ARNG have proven themselves worthy counterparts to their big Army brethren. 
6. Fiscal responsibility - The government as a whole is horrible at managing the financial responsibility it has to the nation.  In my opinion there needs to be a very detailed audit of government spending in the military and throughout all agencies.  Just because you feel something would benefit your specific government agency that does not mean that it should be purchased. There is probably equal waste in both the big Army and ARNG, however, the big Army is full time.  If we need cuts, take a few brigades from the big Army and transition them into ARNG brigades over the next ten years.  Boost the level of readiness for the ARNG and we will not lose any true defense readiness with this move.  Part-time is cheaper to afford than full-time, just my thoughts.

My journey in the ARNG began in the 211th Aviation Group out of West Jordan, Utah.  I was still at the Specialist rank, the same rank I left the big Army with.  But I was determined to advance to the Non-commissioned officer ranks as quickly as possible.  Being in the ARNG meant that the Primary Leadership Development Course I need to obtain Sergeant was held at Camp Williams, about an hour drive from my home.  This would mean I could attend the class without having to go far from home, I was liking the ARNG as soon as I became familiar with this aspect of the overall make-up and composition of state service and the need to be self sufficient.  Not all states have this luxury, but Utah did. 

There were no kegger parties, or excessive craziness apparent to me as I started drilling on weekends at the 211th.  It wasn't "Three Kings" stateside.   It became a very interesting animal as I continued to learn how the ARNG worked.  I was happy that I made the decision and as I have explained in my book, after a few months I became more and more comfortable in my role.  Usually takes me a while, but my first experience being activated with the ARNG would be as a member of the security forces supporting the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.  More to follow on this experience, it would be the driving force of my foundation in the ARNG. 

Saw Phil McConkey (US Navy Veteran and former New York Giant receiver) on Fox News this AM (9/30/12), check out this website - Academy Securities - for info on his ongoing support of military Vets.  He is a huge reason, along with Joe Morris, and Mark Bavaro, as to why I am now a Giants fan.  Go Big Blue!

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