- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Two responsibilities, one Guard The article “A voice for the Guard” (Commentary, Sunday) was a wonderful commentary on our country’s brave men and women serving in the Army and Air National Guard.

As the author points out, the Guard has been our first line of defense since Colonial days. The volunteers of the Guard are often the very first to be called in for duty, and as we see today with conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Guard is always eager to respond.

What the Guard does for the men and women who enlist is invaluable. Much like the other services, the Guard teaches the value of discipline and organization and I’m not surprised I’ve met so many successful business and political leaders whose pedigree is service to our country via the Guard.

At 60 Plus, we’re especially proud that our national spokesman, legendary entertainer Pat Boone, saw fit to honor the Guard by writing and singing “For my Country,” a special tribute to our Guard citizen soldiers, and has also made a new DVD music video and CD single available by the same title. A major portion of the proceeds from the sale of the DVD and CD goes to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).

Mr. Boone performed this tribute to the Guard at the Rolling Thunder’s 20th anniversary gathering on the Mall during Memorial Day weekend festivities. He also accompanied the PVA float during the Memorial Day parade, where he sang his patriotic salute to the Guard backed by Valor, the three-member vocalists who are touring the country performing “For my Country” at Guard events.

JIM MARTIN

President

60 Plus Association

Arlington

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Viola Herms Drath wrote a very thoughtful article, “A voice for the Guard,” but her advocacy for the Guard-favored “four-star” solution not only elevates one reserve component of the armed forces to the detriment of the other four, but does nothing to address post-September 11 realities.

What is required is a complete overhaul of the National Guard to meet the new challenges of homeland defense as a primary mission, with its military reserve function relegated to secondary mission. We can accomplish this in three steps:

Reassignment: All armored/mechanized, combat aviation, combat engineer and special operations units of the Army and Air National Guard are reassigned to the respective Army and Air Forces Reserves.

Reorganization: The ArmyNational Guard in each state will consist of one or more brigades of light infantry/security troops heavily supported by military police, medical, ground and air transportation, communications, civil engineer, civil affairs and nuclear-biological-chemical decontamination units. The Air National Guard in each state will consist of one or more squadrons of transport aircraft such as the versatile C-130. Unit training will focus on homeland crises as the primary mission.

Realignment: Remove all Guard units from the Department of Defense and subordinate them to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency already reside. Just as the Coast Guard can be (and has been) merged into the Navy in wartime, so too can the Guard retain its role as a reserve of the Army and Air Force in time of war.

No governor needs tanks, assault helicopters, jet fighters or artillery in their respective Guards; their presence in the National Guard makes for contentious issues between the Defense Department and 50 governors. As the National Guard and Coast Guard are the only armed services with both military and law-enforcement roles, they are better situated together under DHS, where they have equal seats at the table with other DHS agencies to optimize planning and responses to crises, from hurricane relief, to civil disorder, to a post-nuclear detonation environment.

This concept is certainly radical, and the bureaucratic and political hurdles are both many and daunting. But we must not let that discourage us from transforming our National Guard for the 21st century.

CMDR. BILL ELDARD

Navy (Retired)

Burke

Military might

Fred Reed’s recent article “Why we fund unneeded weapons” (Business, Saturday) unfairly categorized a wide swath of Air Force capabilities as “technological dinosaurs,” haphazard offspring of capable, yet overzealous scientists and engineers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Neither scientists nor engineers (nor defense contractors, for that matter) foist their concoctions on the military services. Instead, our four-star combatant commanders and services work together to determine the capabilities and equipment our joint-war fighters need to defeat our enemies. In fact, the integration of technological advances like space surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cyberspace and advanced fighters is done solely to protect and support the joint ground forces.

Within this construct, incredibly smart scientists and engineers begin their work hand-in-glove with warriors from all of our services to bring unmatched joint capabilities to bear on our enemies. A perfect example of this is last summer’s successful strike on Abu Musab Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s No. 1 man in Iraq.

Interrogators pieced together clues from captured terrorists and determined where to look for this most dangerous man. Overhead, UAVs stared with an unblinking eye at Zarqawi’s potential hideouts. Intelligence analysts studied the real-time video feed, directing special forces to check out suspicious sites.

When the special forces found their prey, they passed his location on to the combatant commander who ordered a strike. Nearby F-16s, assigned that day to a different mission, were quickly rerouted to attack Zarqawi’s “safe” house. Minutes later, the first F-16 dropped its laser-guided bomb, followed immediately by a satellite-guided bomb, killing Zarqawi and sparing a ground battle.

That capability, and much more, is exactly what is needed to fight, or better yet, deter future enemies. To say the F-22 and F-35 are costly and unnecessary weapons would have been akin to commentators in the post-World War I era describing new battle tanks, B-17 bombers and P-51 fighters as costly and unneeded weapons.

Thank goodness reason prevailed. Those costly and “unnecessary” weapons helped win World War II. History has not been kind to those preparing to fight the last war.

GEN. LESTER LYLES

Air Force (Retired)

Vienna

At this moment in the war

Tony Blankley was right on in his assessment of the Senate’s impulsive push to legislate the failure of the Iraq surge strategy before giving our military a chance to succeed (“The Senate: chamber of shame,” Op-Ed, July 11). Politicians never seem to let national security and war strategy get in the way of their agendas and August vacation plans.

Having observed the war from near and far, we are possibly at the most decisive moment. Now is not the time to be taking votes on quitting, but for buttressing our nation’s main effort and letting the results serve as the catalyst for the next strategic decision.

The surge strategy is working as intended. Civilian casualties in Baghdad have been on a sustained downward trend and the Iraqi people are getting bolder in securing their own neighborhoods. It is too early to claim victory, but before you know it, the French might even start sending troops.

J.D. CARLSON

Baghdad

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