The National Guard: How Did We Get Here?

November 4, 2006

They have shouldered a huge burden, unintended by our government when we went into Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been as much as 45% of the total deployed force in Iraq. They are your doctor, high school teacher, dentist, police officer, father, son, brother and sister. They are what are sometimes called “citizen soldiers,” or “part-timers.” They are the same great Americans as full-time soldiers. However, there is a huge difference: training. The great National Guard soldiers only get 47 days a year to train, including a two week summer training experience, while the active soldier gets 24/7/365 — adding up to a huge difference.

It is precisely because of this lack of training that the guard was never intended to be used to the extent that it has been in Afghanistan and Iraq. When Iraq and Afghanistan were not the military equivalent of a “quickie,” the small, all-volunteer military almost immediately came under serious deployment pressure — we simply do not have enough infantry, military police and the rest to do what we have been doing in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

The truth is that the result of poor planning is always this: the troops suffer, and the soldiers pay. The National Guard is a great organization, but not equipped or trained for what they have been doing. The soldier's family pays, the community pays — and it was all unnecessary.

It is not fair to these great men and women, and yes, I know life is not always fair. However, this unfairness is the direct result of senior officials having the planning capability equivalent to fifth graders. The difference is that when fifth graders do something like this they get an "F" — when a government does it, soldiers die.

And as for Senator Kerry's remarks this week: I get that you can make a mistake — I have, and I continue to be amazed at mine. John Kerry made a huge one this week. He tried to make a joke about the president and it came out sounding like it was a terrible joke about soldiers. Ok, you screw up, then you go out and say sorr... ah, not Senator John — he goes out and makes it worse. I do not get this guy. He served in combat, although he left his guys in combat after serving only four months with them, but at least he got shot at. How could he not get it? He should have said, "I screwed up, my bad, I apologize,” then shut up and go away, and really try not to make that mistake again. I have no idea what this guy was thinking — I just know what he did, and what he did was make matters worse. He has a track record of throwing soldiers under the bus, but this time it is his neck under the tires.

Colonel David Hunt has over 29 years of military experience, including extensive operational experience in Special Operations, Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Operations. You can read his complete bio here.