UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


McKinley discusses evolving role of National Guard

Dec 10, 2009

By Melissa Bower, Fort Leavenworth LampFORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Dec. 10, 2009) -- Gen. Craig McKinley says that military officers should never underestimate the value of planning and working together as a team.

McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, a joint activity of the Department of Defense, spoke to Intermediate Level Education students at the Command and General Staff College Dec. 3.

He discussed how the National Guard changed after 2001, after eight years of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after responding to the crises that followed Hurricane Katrina. He said it was an honor to speak in front of Army and sister service students, as well as inter-agency and international military students.

"I look forward to working with you," he told students. "I look forward to walking the halls of the Pentagon with each and every one of you because it takes all of us to do this work together."

McKinley told the students that out of 358,217 National Guard troops; 43,473 are deployed. In addition to activated Soldiers and Airmen, McKinley said on an average day, 17 U.S. governors call out their Guard to help citizens in need. The Guard runs programs that assist in nation building activities, such as the agribusiness development teams that send American farmers to Afghanistan or the National Guard Counter Drug Program that supports local law enforcement agencies in seizing illegal drugs.

According to a National Guard Bureau article, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently that the Guard has transitioned from a strategic reserve to an operational force since 2001 - but reverting back should not be allowed.

"I don't think our kids are going to want to stay and watch the active components continually deploy over and over again and not do their part," McKinley said. "And so that's the operational reserve we have. We have a group of young men and women who want to be a part of this operation and see it through to the end."

McKinley gave other reasons for keeping an operational force as a national defense safeguard and broader civic participation in the U.S. armed forces.

"There are large parts of the country with no military presence other than the Reserve components," he said. "This tie to the American people is critical. They need to see their men and women in uniform."

McKinley said the challenge is whether an operational reserve is affordable or realistic. But if military leaders don't ask those questions beforehand, it could upset unity between fellow services.

"It's going to be up to us to figure out what price of the force is going to be," he said. "But if we don't do that, and if we slide back to a marginal force, a force that is not respected ... how are we ever going to fight together again?"

CGSC student Maj. Al Tabarez said he agreed with McKinley that the military needs to consider its domestic allocation of forces.

"I thought what he was saying had a lot of merit," Tabarez said. "... Challenging us to look inwardly, and say, 'Hey, what can we do to answer our profession?'"

Maj. Khan Hernandez, another CGSC student, said he appreciated listening to the Guard's perspective.

"(The military) has to be more agile, and we have to react quickly," he said.

McKinley told the students he was once asked to face a commission investigating how terrorists were able to attack the United States in 2001.

Members of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States asked then - Maj. Gen. McKinley - serving at the time as combatant commander, United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command - how the most powerful military on earth could allow an attack on U.S. soil.

"I said to the commissioner, 'All I can tell you is that nothing came across my desk from an intelligence perspective, there were no warning signs that I was aware of as a two-star general," McKinley said. "We had the forces in place that the federal government felt was adequate to protect our nation from an attack on the outside ...

"And he stopped me. And he said, 'General, there is no answer. You and your colleagues have a failure of imagination.' And I sat there fairly stunned and said what the obvious is, is that he's absolutely right."

McKinley said the task of military officers is to prevent events like the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and civilian death and displacement from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"And so your challenge as young officers from all around the world is to never let that happen," he said. "Trust on your thoughts on your beliefs and to be thinking out in front and to never let your imagination not keep up with what could happen to you in the world, because too many people depend upon you to not have that failure of imagination."

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list