Q The National Guard has become a significant player in military operations both here in the United States as well as abroad. As the commander of the NJ National Guard, what do you say to the soldiers and airmen about their changing role?
A The National Guard is truly instrumental to the Total Force concept. The active component needs the experience, talents, and capabilities found in such abundance among National Guard soldiers and airmen. The time devoted to training and the countless hours of hard work involved in building specialty skills has really paid dividends. In many cases, our citizen-soldiers leapt into operations from a “cold start” to successfully defeat threats aimed at our families and homes. The NJNG has been tested under some of the most difficult circumstances one could imagine and we continue to meet new challenges as quickly as they arise. I have never been prouder to be part of the New Jersey National Guard and I could not be prouder to be your Commander.
Q The Guard has been called upon to serve a number of Homeland Security missions. What types of deployments are projected for the NJ National Guard in the future?
A I anticipate that both Army and Air components will remain fully engaged
in a wide-range of state and federal missions across the full spectrum of
operations. Preliminary planning at the Department of Defense indicates that
we will be involved in security, peacekeeping, and peace-enforcement operations.
Deployments will include direct involvement in Homeland Defense missions
anywhere around the world where military operations are underway as well
as support operations here at home.
Homeland Defense and Homeland Security are extremely important, high visibility missions for the Guard. I believe we will continue to support both these missions as long as America itself is threatened. It is absolutely essential that the men and women of our National Guard maintain their war-fighting proficiencies and common task training in order to be fully prepared to participate in the total force effort to defeat terrorism.
Q How prepared is the NJ National Guard for it’s missions – both federal and state?
A Since assuming command of the NJ National Guard, a number of significant changes have been made to adjust to the continuing OPTEMPO and new “normal”. Our attendance rate at Army drills is consistently over 99% and retention is the best ever with an attrition rate of 18%. Soldier readiness has improved with our MOSQ rate up from 74% to almost 80%. This is especially important for deployments as evidenced by New Jersey’s ‘Go ‘ rate at Soldier Readiness Processing for mobilizations. My emphasis has always been on strength and that is still my number one priority in these challenging times. The Air NG strength remains strong at 97.5% and they continue to perform their missions as a normal course of doing business. Army strength is a primary focus for the entire leadership team of the National Guard that includes all officers and NCO’s. For our state mission, we have developed and opened our Homeland Security Center of Excellence with a state-of-the-art Joint Operations Center. Additionally, we have implemented a Task Force organization that compliments the State Police in their management of statewide emergencies. Finally, we have made the acquisition of a Civil Support Team Heavy (full-time) a priority at the federal level.
Q Benefits for traditional drilling Guardsmen are a big issue. What’s happening at either the state or federal level to address this concern?
A Military leaders as well as members of the State Legislature, Congress,
and our Governor all recognize the need to provide health care options for
the reserve forces. Many Guard families have no health care coverage at all.
According to a report from the General Accounting Office, 20 percent of all
Guard members have no health insurance while 40 percent of Guardmembers aged
19-35 lack adequate coverage.
The House of Representatives just passed an Appropriations bill that provides some members of the National Guard and Reserve and their families with access to TRICARE, the military health care system. This is in addition to TRICARE Dental, which previously was approved. Under this legislation members of the Guard and Reserve who do not have access to private health care insurance are eligible to purchase TRICARE coverage for a modest premium of approximately $430 per year for individual coverage or $1,440 for family coverage.
Members of the New Jersey National Guard already are eligible for tuition-free access to all state colleges and universities to include graduate school, Law school, or medical school and as a result of recent legislation signed by Governor McGreevey, the minimum daily pay for Guardsmen deployed for State Active Duty was raised to $ 100 and families of reservists mobilized for either state or federal service were granted extended health care coverage. Guardsmen and Reservists also now have unlimited Commissary and PX/BX privileges.
Q What are your priorities for the New Jersey National Guard?
A My priorities for the next two years and beyond include:
STRENGTH: Strength is the foundation for every endeavor we attempt to undertake. It is the measurement used nationally to assess force relevance. The strength equation requires a balancing of recruiting and retention versus attrition. It is undeniably the most essential element of sound force management.
READINESS: The readiness of our soldiers, airmen, facilities, and equipment is of paramount importance. We must remain relevant, available, and viable in order to be considered an asset to both U. S. Northern Command and our gaining major commands (MACOM/MAJCOM).
HOMELAND SECURITY and HOMELAND DEFENSE: The President, our Governor, and I consider these programs our top priority. Security both at home and abroad is the number one priority for the military.
MOBILIZATION: Calendar year 2004 will witness the largest mobilization and deployment of New Jersey Army National Guard troops since World War II. More than 2,000 personnel are expected to be mobilized for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These projected deployments follow close on the heels of significant New Jersey Air National Guard deployments in 2002-2003.
JOINT OPERATING CAPABILITY: On 1 Oct 03, the New Jersey National Guard established a Joint Force Headquarters. This organizational transition makes our National Guard both more accessible and responsive to other military and governmental agencies and organizations prosecuting the Global War on Terrorism. This is the first step in moving the Guard forward towards a seamless joint operation that is better able to accomplish a wider variety of missions.
Q What is your philosophy of command?
A My philosophy of command centers on the core values of: Honesty, Integrity,
Loyalty, Diversity and Safety. The health, morale and well-being of our soldiers
and airmen is of paramount importance which is why I have placed such emphasis
on family readiness and family support in the face of so many deployments.
Finally, just as important is the adherence to standards of conduct. That includes professional relationships, discriminatory behavior or harassment of any type, including sexual harassment. We maintain a zero tolerance policy for harassment and I expect all members of the NJ National Guard to do likewise.
"The NJ National Guard is New Jersey’s Hometown Team. We are community-based. We add tremendous value to our local neighborhoods, our state and nation."