Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill of the Army National Guard covered Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s recent speech to Guardsmen in Reno, Nev. , where the CSAF talked about the importance of the active force, Reserves and Air National Guard working together. One of the things he talked about was the Guard’s response to the 9/11 attacks.
“Quite possibly, the National Guard today is more important than it has been since you stood watch at Concord,” Welsh said. “Over the last 10 years, almost half-a-million Guardsmen have been to the war zone.”The day Welsh spoke was the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.“Most Americans sat paralyzed either in their office or at home staring at their television in disbelief,” Welsh said. “A few Americans — a few very special people — did what they always do. They ran toward the carnage. They stepped into that chaos to defend American citizens and to protect the nation. Many of those people … were Guardsmen.”Air National Guard pilots were the first airborne after the attacks, including some who were willing to die to prevent further attacks, Welsh noted.
Although he didn’t refer to NORAD and USNORTHCOM by name, Welsh did point out some of our missions and that they are, in fact, Guard missions (emphasis mine).
National Guard members have helped honor the dead at Dover Air Force Base; fought fires at home; provided airlift and aeromedical evacuation overseas; flown unmanned aircraft; provided chemical and biological response capability and flown domestic air sovereignty alert missions, among a plethora of other roles, Welsh said.“All over the world today, Total Force integration is real,” he said. “Those people who are operating at the front end of the business are looking back over their shoulder at those of us back here going, ‘Fix this problem and let us do our work.’”
Integrating the active, Guard and Reserve components in an effective way is something NORAD and USNORTHCOM has a lot of experience with. Most of NORAD’s alert duties are stood by Air National Guard units, for instance. When a natural disaster hits a state, USNORTHCOM acts in support of the state agencies, including that state’s National Guard. Working out how to deconflict things like military leadership and Title X vs. Title XIII issues has been something USNORTHCOM has worked on since it first stood up almost 10 years ago, and for the most part, has found workable solutions for.
It will be interesting to see what Welsh has planned for Total Force Integration in the Air Force in the coming years.