IN THE MILITARY
GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brig. Gen. Joe Chaves, center, commander of the Hawaii Army Guard's 29th Brigade, swapped stories with former Guard members Gilbert Tam, left, and Ed Cruickshank Tuesday at Hickam Air Force Base. The three were at Hickam to celebrate the arrival of second C-17 Globemaster cargo jet to be assigned to the active Air Force and the Hawaii Air National Guard.
Big changes in store for isle Army Guard
A new leader takes command as the units end an active-duty tour
HAWAII Army Guard Brig. Gen. Joe Chaves says he isn't following the lead of Army Reserve and Army National Guard commanders on the mainland who have told recruits that they likely will not be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan over the next several years.
29TH BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM MEDAL COUNT
» Legion of Merit: 1
» Bronze Star: 201 (Two for valor)
» Purple Heart: 123
» Meritorious Service: 139
» Army Commendation: 2,041 (21 for valor)
» Army Achievement: 997
» Air Force Commendation: 11
» Combat Infantryman's Badge: 1,034
» Combat Medical Badge: 118
» Combat Action Badge: 162
Source: Hawaii Army National Guard
Although some Reserve and Guard leaders may claim the chances of returning to Iraq or Afghanistan are slim because their units have already served in combat, Chaves said he frowns on such a recruiting approach. This month, the Associated Press reported the general who leads the Alaska Army National Guard told state lawmakers that recruits will not be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for about five years, unless they volunteer to go.
"That is not a good thing to do," said Chaves, who took the 3,300-member 29th Brigade Combat Team to Iraq for 10 months. "If we had another terrorist attack like we had in 2001, then all bets are off the table. Everything changes."
Chaves, 54, said potential citizen soldiers should know when they enlist that "they have to be ready to deploy at any time."
However, one of the results of the prolonged Iraq and Afghan conflicts is that leaders of the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard have been told that they will have up to six years to prepare to return to combat.
Currently, there are 106,378 Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers on active duty. The 29th Brigade will be demobilized on March 13.
For Army National Guard and units like the 29th Brigade Combat Team, that training cycle will be six years. It is shorter by a year for Army Reserve units. Under the current Army National Guard model, soldiers in the 29th Brigade will spend four years training and by the sixth year be ready for deployment.
Chaves, who already has been in Army Guard for 35 years, will step up and in April will not only command its major combat infantry unit -- the 29th Brigade -- but also will serve as the commanding general of the entire 6,000-member citizen soldier force.
It is only the second time that a one-star general will lead both the 29th Brigade and the entire Hawaii Army National Guard. The first time was in 1990, when John "Jack" D'Araujo held that position.
Chaves graduated from Aiea High School in 1969 and the University of Hawaii in 1974. He will replace Brig. Gen. Vern Miyagi, who will be promoted to a two-star position at Camp Smith. Chaves will continue to lead the 29th Brigade and the Hawaii Army National Guard as it approaches a crossroad.
BETWEEN NOW and September 2007, the 29th Brigade will evolve into to a more leaner and more self-sustaining infantry unit. It will become one of 34 brigade combat teams in the Army National Guard's arsenal. Chaves said the brigade's strength will drop from 3,750 to 3,300 soldiers and will be about the size the 3rd Brigade Combat Team at Schofield Barracks, which is undergoing a similar transformation.
It will lose the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, from California, which will be replaced by the 1st Battalion,158th Infantry, now in Arizona. It will also lose its air defense missile unit from Minnesota and another one from Oregon. Chaves said the 29th Brigade will assume control of a signal unit and its military intelligence company will double in size.
Chaves said he doesn't expect the brigade to be fully equipped and trained to do major combat training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana like it did in 1999, when it operated with all of its infantry and support battalions, including those stationed on the mainland, as early as 2010.
Chaves estimated that at least 70 percent of his vehicles were left in Iraq, many of them "up armored," or reinforced to protect against insurgents roadside and homemade bombs. The Army also directed 29th Brigade to leave for its successor .50 caliber and M-240 machine guns -- two highly sought-after weapons in Iraq.
Since 29th Brigade soldiers will be released from active duty on March 13, all of them will have fulfilled their annual reserve requirement of 15 days of active duty training for this year.
Chaves doesn't expect to have problems retaining his soldiers after the Iraqi deployment, pointing out that 98 percent of the soldiers in the 100th Battalion have re-enlisted.
"There were only three soldiers who chose not to re-enlist in the 100th Battalion," he said.
Even the 29th Brigade's California unit, which initially had equipment problems and suffered the highest casualties, had more than 70 percent of it soldiers re-upping.