MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with members of the Army and Air National Guard’s two primary training and education centers in person, and via live broadcast, during a joint session Sept. 3, 2013.
Speaking at the National Guard’s LaVern E. Weber Professional Education Center in Little Rock Ark., Grass’s town hall discussion with Soldiers and Airmen was broadcast to the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center (TEC) here via TEC TV's video tele-training system.
Both units operate the leading campuses that manage the professional military education and professional continuing education supporting more than 460,000 National Guard members.
“It’s a very special and unique opportunity anytime we get to hear directly from our senior leader at the highest levels,” said Col. Timothy Cathcart, commander of the TEC. He credited the National Guard’s state-of-the-art technology and staffs at both centers for the capability to hold the event.
“With the TEC’s high-definition, high bit rate video tele-training system, we were able to converse with the Chief of the National Guard Bureau as if he were in the same room; although, in fact, he was hundreds of miles away,” said Cathcart.
The video tele-training system is part of the TEC’s Virtual Campus and Conferencing capability, intended to save limited travel dollars while providing the “next best thing to being there in person” and enable critical training and education.
Grass expressed his appreciation to both training centers for their service to the National Guard and the nation, and added that he felt it important to address and clarify concerns on future operations, deployments and training as well as budgetary challenges facing the Guard, among other issues.
The National Guard provides the best value for the nation’s budget and so is uniquely situated to address challenges to the Department of Defense in the Budget Control Act, he said.
The National Guard makes up about 10 percent of the Defense budget while providing nearly 100 percent of the nation’s homeland air defense and is involved in nearly all major military operations across the globe, said Grass.
Grass also explained his position since the inclusion of the National Guard’s top ranking four-star general as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012.
The National Guard is now allowed a full voice on the Joint Chiefs’ meetings and is specifically responsible “on matters concerning non-federalized National Guard forces in support of homeland defense and civil support missions,” said Grass.
The general then opened the discussion to hear what was on the Guard members’ minds.
“It was a privilege to ask a question, and it’s nice to know our top leader takes the time to hear our concerns, asks questions and expects a two-way communication,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kimberly Bowers, Mission Support Division Personnel superintendent.
Bowers asked the general how the Guard will maintain its joint Army and Air National Guard culture as the nation’s overseas contingency operations and joint opportunities decline.
“Part of his response was through humanitarian work as well as efforts though the National Guard’s State Partnership Program and joint exercises,” said Bowers.
Officials here said that the ability of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to speak with service members via a virtual campus and conferencing capability is a cornerstone of the TEC’s strategic goal to deliver value to the Air National Guard, the Air Force and the Nation.