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NGAUS E-Notes: August 14, 2009

 

August 14, 2009
PENTAGON'S LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL UPSETS GOVERNORS

Governors are not happy with a Pentagon proposal for legislation that would give the Defense Department more authority to deploy troops to a disaster scene and more control once those troops arrived.

The law would allow DoD to send any of the nation's 380,000 Reservists to the scene of a natural disaster just as it can now to a terrorist attack.

A letter to a Pentagon official from the chairman and vice chairman of the National Governors Association makes clear the concern on the part of the state executives.

Such a law "would invite confusion on the critical command and control issues, complicate interagency planning, establish stove-piped response efforts and interfere with governors' constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of their citizens," the letter said.

The letter was signed by Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vt., chairman of the NGA, and Gov. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., NGA vice chairman, and sent to Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland security.

Stockton told the Associated Press the provision would "in no way impede or undermine or inadvertently reduce the authority that governors exercise under the United States Constitution."

"The key here is that right now, we lack the authority to bring to bear the hundreds of thousands of trained reserve forces that in extreme circumstances might help governors deal with disasters in their states," he told the wire service.

Governors, however, point out that the lesson from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina is the "need for clear chains of command to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure the most effective use of response resources."



GRIM TALLY: ARMY SUICIDES ON THE RISE IN 2009

The number of confirmed or pending suicides in the Army for the first seven months of 2009 is nearly equal to the number for all of 2008, figures released Thursday show.

Sixty-two active-duty soldiers committed suicide from January through July, while another 17 reservists killed themselves, according to a report in the San Antonio Express-News.

The deaths of 34 active-duty soldiers and 28 reservists remain under investigation, bringing the total number of confirmed or pending suicides to 141, just two from the total for all of 2008 when 143 soldiers killed themselves.

Over the same period last year, the Army saw 79 confirmed active-duty and 32 reservist suicides.

"It's not that the Army lacks programs to confront the problem of suicide," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force. "The long-term challenge is determining which programs are most effective for our soldiers, and ensuring Army leaders - from junior noncommissioned officer to the most senior leaders - know how to help their soldiers take advantage of these programs."

The Pentagon has said the typical Army suicide victim is a 25- to 26-year-old Anglo NCO, and that two-thirds of all suicides come from the ranks of war zone veterans.

Both trends continue this year, according to the newspaper, with 88 serving at least one combat tour. Some of the dead this year have deployed three times and 11 were in the war zone when they killed themselves.



NEW ARMY HANDBOOK INCLUDES LESSONS LEARNED IN AFGHANISTAN

Soldiers going to Afghanistan were to begin receiving a new Army manual last month that incorporates lessons learned in the eight-year war. Called Small-Unit Operations in Afghanistan, the handbook displays a tone of respect for the Taliban and other insurgent groups, acknowledging that they are experienced and adaptable fighters.

Copies of the 123-page handbook, produced by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, are being distributed throughout the service and are available to NATO allies and other nations with troops in Afghanistan, according to a New York Times report on Aug. 13.

A copy was provided to the newspaper in advance of the distribution in the service. The newspaper said the manual "can be read as an effort to push the nuances of the complex counterinsurgency fight now under way in Afghanistan down from the generals and colonels to newly minted privates, as well as to the sergeants and junior officers who lead small units into combat."

The manual includes a chapter titled Cultural Engagements, offering guidance to the leaders of small units on building relationships with wavering village elders and trust among distrustful village residents, according to the newspaper.

The manual describes how to train better for the defense of remote forward operating bases in the harsh Afghan terrain and how to effectively deploy mortars.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, who has made relationship-building with Afghanis a top priority, said, "The education of our force is the best weapon we have. Counterinsurgency is complex, nuanced and ever-changing, and success is dependent on a fighting force that can recognize these changes and adapt to them."



GUARDSMEN TURN TO TRICARE IN TROUBLED TIMES


An increasing number of National Guardsmen are purchasing TRICARE Reserve Select health insurance in these times of economic troubles, according to numbers from the program's management.

"Numbers are definitely increasing, particularly among ages 18 to 34," said Dr. Richard Bannick of TRICARE Management Activity's Health Program Analysis and Evaluation Division, according to a news release.

TRS delivers coverage similar to TRICARE Standard and Extra to eligible members and features continuously open enrollment.

Nearly 105,000 reserve component members and family members have TRS coverage, the release said.

As of July 31, the Army Guard had 16,888 total plans, including 6,385 for individuals and 10,503 for families. They cover 43,851 people, which was up from 32,581 people reported in March, said Bonnie J. Powell, deputy director of communications and customer service for the TRICARE Management Activity.

The Air Guard had 6,443 plans, including 2,881 for individuals and 3,562 for families. They cover 15,534 people, up from 11,843 in March.

Originating in 2005, Congress expanded TRS in 2006 into a three-tiered premium structure based on active-duty time served. Congress then streamlined it in 2007 by merging the three tiers into one. Premiums were reduced in January by 44 percent to $47.51 for individual coverage and by 29 percent to $180.17 for family coverage.

In a comparison done by the Government Accountability Office, the TRS plan proved favorable to Blue Cross/Blue Shield Standard plan.



TEE TIME

The 11th Annual NGEF Fundraiser Golf Tournament will be held Oct. 2 at Fort Belvoir, Va. Proceeds benefit the National Guard Educational Foundation and the National Guard Youth Foundation. Hole and cart sponsorships are available. Complete information can be found at www.ngaus.org/golf or contact Hazell Booker at 888-226-4287.



ASSOCIATION HISTORY


Both "big picture" and "nuts-and-bolts" matters involving or affecting the Army National Guard came under review in September 1973 by a six-man study group serving under the auspices of NGAUS and the National Guard Bureau.

Chaired by Maj. Gen. Robert G. Moorhead, 38th Infantry Division commander, the group concentrated its attention on means of improving leadership, getting a true picture of the Army Guard's readiness through realistic evaluation procedures, and evolving more definitive standards and guidelines for the Guard's wide variety of peacetime activities.

Recommendations were later presented to Maj. Gen. Henry W. McMillan, NGAUS president, and Maj. Gen. Francis S. Greenlief, NGB chief.



THIS WEEK IN GUARD HISTORY


Aug. 11, 1965: Los Angeles, Calif. - What should have been a routine traffic stop in the Watts neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles developed into one of the worst race riots in American history. Tensions between the black community and city law enforcement erupted into a near war as snipers and arsonists attacked the police and fire department personnel sent to quell the disturbance.

In one of the largest deployments of aid to civil authority in American history up to that time, 12,758 California Guardsmen, drawn from two divisions - 7,560 troops from the 40th Armored Division and 5,198 from the 49th Infantry Division - were put on the streets to help restore order and protect people and property.

Air Guard units from California and Arizona flew a total of 18 C-97 and five C-119 transport aircraft to airlift the 49th Infantry Division's men from Northern California to the Los Angeles area. While a number of Guardsmen returned sniper fire, it remains unclear if any civilians were killed by the Guard.

After six days and nights of terror, the city's streets were restored to peace, but at a very high cost: 34 dead, more than 1,000 injured, including several Guardsmen, 4,000 arrested and over 1,000 buildings destroyed. Government and civic leaders, including some in the black community, praised the Guardsmen for their courage, devotion to duty and fair treatment of citizens regardless of race. Four Guardsmen were awarded the California Military Cross for bravery. 

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