RENO, Nev. --
The National Guard is part of the solution to the challenges of a fiscally constrained environment, Army Gen. Frank Grass said here Tuesday.
"The key to reducing the overall size of the armed forces while maintaining capabilities and readiness is the National Guard," the chief of the National Guard Bureau told attendees at the 134th General Conference of the National Guard Association of the United States.
Speaking on the 11th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Grass cited the National Guard's track record in the years since.
"In the past 11 years, the National Guard has seen its role in our nation's defense evolve from a strategic reserve to an operational force," he said. "The attacks of 11 years ago today and the subsequent wars have thrust the National Guard into the front lines of our nation's defense overnight. We now have the most competent, relevant and battle-tested National Guard in the history of the nation."
Since the 9/11 attacks, the National Guard has supported more than 667,000 mobilizations. More than 700 Guard members made the ultimate sacrifice. National Guard members have served in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn; in Kosovo, Bosnia, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere.
On the day Grass spoke, some 27,000 Army and Air National Guard members were deployed worldwide and 6,000 more were serving in domestic operations.
"What makes the National Guard extraordinary ... is our home game,"
Grass said. "No other military organization has the unique dual responsibility to serve the nation and the state. No other military team responds to the commander-in-chief in Washington, D.C., and the governors.
"The National Guard's versatility is what makes us such a unique treasure."
The latest Defense Strategic Guidance calls for building partnership capacity through low-cost, small-footprint approaches.
"We in the National Guard have done that for many years." Grass said, giving examples including joint Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams and Agricultural Development Teams.
"The National Guard is a model for innovative, low-cost, high-impact approaches to international security engagement," he said.
The National Guard's State Partnership Program now involves relationships between states and about a third of all the officially recognized nations on the planet, with 66 partner affiliations and more in the pipeline.
The National Guard also offers critical chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response capabilities, including its Civil Support Teams and Homeland Response Forces, Grass said.
Noting that employer support is crucial to the National Guard's success, Grass - who was promoted to general and took responsibility as chief of the National Guard Bureau on Sept. 7 - pledged to represent the interests of the National Guard's Soldiers, Airmen and their families.
"Today's Guardsmen and women share the same DNA as a long line of fighters and survivors," Grass said, expressing his pride in representing them.
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