National Guard shortens missions to 1 year
Guardsmen will now spend one year, instead of 18 months, on active duty
Citizen soldiers of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team had to spend 18 months on active duty before they were dismissed last February.
However, under new rules announced yesterday by the Pentagon, when 60 soldiers of the 29th Brigade report next week to Arizona's 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry, they will be required to remain on active duty only for a year. These soldiers volunteered to serve with the 29th Brigade's sister unit when it deploys to Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, who heads the 5,500-member Hawaii Army and Air National Guard, said that change and several others announced yesterday grew out of complaints raised by National Guard families and their employers.
Lee said past practices of 18- to 20-month deployments caused hardships for families. In some cases, soldiers might have lost promotions in their civilian jobs because they were away at war. The old policy said Guard members could not be called up for more than 24 months in a six-year period.
Other changes -- which also will affect the Army Reserve -- include:
» Establishing the goal that units will not be mobilized for five years after serving one year of active duty. In the active Army, the ratio is one year of active duty to two years of training at their home station.
» Establishing programs to compensate individuals who are required to mobilize early or often.
» Giving the nation's governors and state adjutants general the authority to issue hardship waivers.
Lee said Lt. Gen. Stephen Blum, head of the National Guard, informed the nation's 50 state adjutants general of the changes in a conference call yesterday morning.
"Under the new rules," Lee said, "soldiers will only serve eight- to nine-month periods when they will have actual 'boots on the ground' (in a combat zone)."
However, Lee acknowledged that even these new rules could change if the need arises, such as the president's call earlier this week for more troops in Baghdad, Iraq.
He told reporters that 53 percent of the 5,500 members of the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard have been mobilized. The biggest burden has been shouldered by the Army National Guard, with 90 percent of its soldiers having been called to active duty.
The Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team is not supposed to be mobilized until 2011, Lee said.
The brigade also left 30 percent of its equipment in Iraq, Lee said, and it does not expect to be fully equipped until sometime this year.
Two other Hawaii Army National Guard units -- Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation, and the 12th Personnel Services Detachment -- have been alerted for possible active duty in Iraq or Kuwait.
OFF TO MIDEAST?
Two Hawaii Army National Guard units have been alerted for possible active duty in Iraq or Kuwait:
» Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation. Hawaii Adjutant General Robert Lee said the 207th Aviation, which was filling in for the active Army by providing emergency air ambulance service until the end of last year, will be deploying sometime late this year to Iraq with its seven Black Hawk helicopters.
» 12th Personnel Services Detachment.