News: New Guard chief says people top priority
Story by Master Sgt. Paula Macomber
RENO, Nev. – Gen. Frank Grass, the incoming chief of the National Guard Bureau, stated people are his top priority as he addressed the 134th National Guard Association of the United States conference that concluded on Wednesday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
The conference included delegates from all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia. NGAUS is a private organization that fights for the interests of the National Guard on Capitol Hill.
As chief of the National Guard Bureau, Grass serves as a military adviser to the president, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council, and is the Department of Defense’s official channel of communication to the governors and adjutants general on matters pertaining to the National Guard. Grass also ensures Army and Air National Guard personnel are accessible, capable and ready to protect the homeland and to provide combat resources to the Army and the Air Force.
Grass, who succeeded Gen. Craig McKinley on Sept. 7, addressed the 4,000 conference attendees and discussed his vision, mission and priorities for the 375 year-old organization.
Grass thanked his mentors who emphasized the importance of serving in joint roles. Some of the 61 year-old’s previous positions included tours at U.S. European Command, Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Grass said filling these varied roles allowed him to see things from the Army and Air perspective. He made a point to mention soldiers and airmen every time he spoke of the troops.
Grass said the people of the National Guard are his priority and called the 460,000 Guardsmen his family.
“Look to the past to see how things were done and also look to the future to see where we need to take this great organization,” Grass said. “As you know, in the last 11 years, the National Guard has seen its role in our nation’s defense evolve from a strategic reserve to an operational force.”
Tight budgets and future cutbacks were addressed by many speakers at the conference, but Grass said the Guard can solve some of the Department of Defense’s budget issues.
“The key to reducing the overall size of the armed forces while maintaining capabilities and readiness is the National Guard,” he added. “We have the most competent and battle tested National Guard in the history of the nation.”
The Missouri native also talked about warrior and family care programs that are essential to taking care of airmen and soldiers. Several key programs address unemployment, post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness and suicide. Grass said he believes employer support and understanding is integral to maintaining the National Guard.
“National Guardsmen readily and responsively leave their homes at a moment’s notice,” he said. “Employer support and understanding are critical to our Soldiers and our Airmen.”
Grass said he intends to continue the hard work that McKinley did as the first four-star bureau chief. McKinley was also the first Guardsman to serve as member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Ultimately, Grass said he aims to inform the citizens, congress and our military of the importance of the National Guard.
“Keeping that story of the National Guard alive is tremendously important and we all need to continue to tell that story,” he pointed out. “Standing together is what this great country is all about. That is what the National Guard is all about and that is why I am so optimistic about our future. Today’s Guardsmen share the same DNA as a long line of fighters and survivors.”