News: Guard Chief: Time for our people to stand out
Story by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
By Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The National Guard is relevant and will continue to be relevant under the new administration, said the Guard's senior officer this week.
During a visit to Florida, Gen. Craig McKinley, newly promoted chief of the National Guard Bureau, spoke to a reporter from the Florida Times-Union about the future relevance of the National Guard and whether ongoing overseas missions have strained the Guard's capabilities.
McKinley, the first four-star general to hold the Guard's top position, credited the nearly 468,000 members of the Guard with keeping the force relevant, especially over the past eight years of increased operations.
"You have to give credit to the men and women of the National Guard at a significant point in our history where the National Guard has been used so effectively and efficiently by our services," McKinley said. "We're a nation at war. Our National Guard - both Army and Air - are heavily involved in our overseas operations, but because of Sept. 11, 2001, defense of our homeland
became very important for us. That is our main reason for being; we protect our homeland, we protect our communities, we work for our governors and our nation needs us."
The general said that although the Guard has experienced an exceptional number of diverse missions over the past eight years - including overseas deployments and disaster relief at home - he does not feel the organization is over-extended.
"My experience tells me Soldiers and Airmen like to be busy, they like to use the skills and the hardware that we've been given by the taxpayer and we like to be fully utilized," he explained. "Do I see a situation developing where we are overusing the Guard? I don't."
McKinley again credited the Guard members with making the National Guard a "highly efficient, community-based defense force."
"It's always been that way, but when you have the conditions that this world situation presents us with, it's a time for our people to really stand out and do what they've been taught to do, what they are equipped to do, what they're motivated to do," he continued. "As chief of the National Guard
Bureau, I will say that the Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard exemplify what true patriots are."
McKinley was in Florida for the Region III Adjutants General conference, and during his visit he stopped here at the Florida National Guard's Joint Operations Center, on Dec. 2, for a briefing on the state's emergency operations capabilities.
A Florida National Guard member, McKinley has previously served as director of the Air National Guard, and was sworn in by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as the 26th chief of the National Guard in November.