National Guard playing bigger role; can it last?
As we reach the tenth anniversary of the conflict in Afghanistan, the U.S. National Guard is showing signs of the stress it's been undergoing. But might some changes be in the future?
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After 10 years of war, the U.S. National Guard has been stretched in ways that it would have never imagined before the attacks of Sept. 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.
With many guardsmen and women having served multiple tours, the signs of that conflict are all over the guard:
- One in 10 troops killed in action since 2001 was a member of the National Guard
- The suicide rate among the National Guard has increased
- One study found that Guard members develop PTSD 29 percent more often than active duty military
More than half of the combat troops in Iraq right now are members of the National Guard.
Col. (ret.) Bob Killebrew, who served in Vietnam, said that these statistics may be due in large part because guard soldiers live in two worlds. While they endure the same stresses as the military, once the war is over the return to the civilian world and don't have some of the support services that are available to the regular military.
Stateline.org recently looked at how the guard has been asked to sacrifice, and prepared an infographic with their results.
"We need to consider what a key role the National Guard plays in being a key bridge between the regular force and the citizens on the street," Killebrew said.
But changes may be in store for the guard. In a speech to troops in Afghanistan this past summer, Bloomberg reports that then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said budget cuts may bring about a change in the guard.
Gates said moving the heavy infantry to the guard, as well as dividing the guard members between an operational reserve and a strategic reserve, with members getting different pay based on the role they play, are on the table. As are other options.
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