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Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, president of the National Guard Association of the U.S., said Congress recognizes the benefit of having active-duty and reserve soldiers that form one total force.

After a decade of war, officials have argued that the Guard and Reserve must look like and complement the active force. Reserve leaders note that their forces cost less than full-time soldiers.

“I think we’re making our case, I think Congress supports the total force,” said Hargett, a former Tennessee adjutant general. “We talk to Congress every day about this very subject and we will continue to talk about the experience of our pilots.”

He said many of the Guard pilots are former active-duty soldiers and have as many or more flying hours as those in the active Army units.

Hargett also rejected the idea that the Guard should take the Black Hawks because they are more useful in state disasters, noting that the Guard has a lot of units and equipment - including tanks - that aren’t routinely used in state missions.

“It’s not about what the states need, it’s about what the country needs” he said. “Is there a need for a howitzer in the Guard? If you’re making the case that it’s what the governor needs, we’d be out of the tank business.”

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Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.