Issue Date: October 11, 2004
Army aims for better gear for National Guard units
By Megan Scully
Special to the Times
The Army is striving to equip National Guard units with the same advanced gear as their active-duty counterparts, after years of sacrificing Guard dollars to pay for other Army expenses, according to a top service official.
Several years ago, the Army said it would “train and equip citizen-soldier formations on par with their active-duty brothers and sisters,” Gen. Dan McNeill, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, said Sept. 16 during the National Guard Association of the United States meeting in Las Vegas.
“I don’t think we ended up doing that, and I don’t think anybody would deny that.”
But with 180,000 National Guard members mobilized worldwide in the last three years, the Army is recognizing the necessity of giving Guard soldiers the same equipment as their colleagues on active duty.
During the early days of operations in Iraq, for instance, many National Guard units did not have adequate soldier protection equipment and advanced missile countermeasure systems, potentially placing those troops at greater risk than active-duty units.
“We have certain expectations for these formations. If we have those, they should have resources commensurate with what our expectations are,” McNeill said in a brief interview after his speech. “And our expectations for the long haul are that they should have the same capabilities as our active-component brothers and sisters.”
Army leadership now is “unequivocally” committed to getting the National Guard the latest and greatest Defense Department technologies, despite hefty budget constraints weighing down on the service, McNeill said.
“We’re going to bang on whatever doors we have to; and we’re going to make sure the money comes; we’re going to make sure the resources flow,” he added.
Guard units already are receiving Interceptor Body Armor and other equipment through the Army’s Rapid Fielding Initiative, which has pulled together a kit of more than 70 soldier technologies for both active and reserve component soldiers.
The Tennessee National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is training in Mississippi before deploying to Iraq, has received the full gamut of advanced protection and other equipment under the Rapid Fielding Initiative, said Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, Tennessee adjutant general and the past chairman of the National Guard Association of the United States.
“They feel good about it,” Hargett said. “They have … all the body armor, all the weapons, all the protective stuff.”
But budget constraints in the next several years may make it harder to equip the Guard. And the limits of production lines — many of which have been running three shifts a day to pump out up-armored Humvees, body armor and other technologies — could also slow down the momentum.
“I don’t delude myself with how hard that is going to be right now,” McNeill said. “Right now it’s really hard because production lines can’t meet demand. But I am not daunted by that. We’re going to stay on this course. We’re going to make this work right.”
While all soldiers deploying to Iraq will receive advanced body armor and other protective systems, significant National Guard equipment shortfalls remain.
For instance, the force is short roughly 10,000 Humvees, despite additional appropriations passed by Congress in the last several years. Other units received the Javelin Antitank Weapon System in theater for the first time, forcing them to train on the fly.
When the active duty army gives their word, yet again, to properly equip the guard units...
This time do they:
Really mean it?
Really Really mean it?
Really Really Really mean it? or
Really Really Really Really mean it?
No. The active component TOOK AWAY equipment from my unit and they deploy in under 45 days. You won't get any help from the active side. You WILL get screwed with.
A friend of mine who is an MP in the NY NG just came back from Iraq after 19 months there , he told me that they dod'nt have body armor for the first 8 months there. All they gave them was Vietnam era flack jackets. Now most of the guys in the unit are LEo's and knew it would'nt stop anything but they were told thats all they had for them.
That really sucks !