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Context of 'May 13, 2004: Experts: Diversion of National Guard Troops to Iraq Has Harmed Disaster Response Capabilities'

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The Pentagon issues “stop-loss” orders for the National Guard. The order prevents Guardsmen whose volunteer commissions expire from leaving the Guard. Once deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, Guardsmen will be compelled to remain for the duration of their units’ deployment. They can also be redeployed for up to 90 days after returning home from a tour of duty. [USA Today, 1/5/2004; Wilson, 2007, pp. 120]

Entity Tags: National Guard, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: US Military, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Illinois-Iowa National Guard is deployed to Iraq. The unit is sent with 14 of its Chinook helicopters. However only two of them are outfitted with aircraft survivability equipment. The remaining helicopters will operate in Iraq unprotected. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/27/2003]

Entity Tags: Illinois-Iowa National Guard

Timeline Tags: US Military, Treatment of US troops

The General Accounting Office releases a report, titled “Reserve Forces: Observations on Recent National Guard Use in Overseas and Homeland Missions and Future Challenges,” which warns that the nationwide diversion of National Guard troops to Iraq could have a significant negative impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to domestic emergencies. “[There are] urgent personnel and equipment shortages in units that have not yet been deployed,” the report says. “[E]quipment and personnel may not be available to the states when they are needed because they have been deployed overseas. Moreover, the Guard may have difficulty ensuring that each state has access to units with key specialized capabilities—such as engineering or medical assets—needed for homeland security and other domestic missions.… [U]nless DOD, Congress, and the states work closely to address these challenges, Guard units may continue to experience a high pace of operations and declining readiness that could affect their ability to meet future requirements both at home and overseas.” [General Accounting Office, 4/29/2004 pdf file; Associated Press, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, US Congress, National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Associated Press reports that disaster management experts and National Guard officials are concerned that the diversion of National Guard Troops to Iraq has severely degraded the Guard’s ability to effectively respond to domestic emergencies, such as natural disasters. The newswire reports that “[m]ore Guard members are deployed now than have been since the Korean War, about a quarter of the 460,000 nationwide.” Chris Reynolds, a battalion fire chief in Tampa, Fla. and instructor of disaster management at American Military University, says the Guard’s more frequent and longer overseas deployments “absolutely” affect states’ ability to respond to emergencies. The significance of the massive deployment goes beyond the sheer number troops that are missing, he explains, what’s so worrisome is that many of the reservists who have been sent to Iraq work in public safety and emergency response. “It’s the tenure and experience that’s missing, and you can’t simply fill the hole with someone,” Reynolds says. [Associated Press, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: National Guard, Chris Reynolds

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

ABC News reports that much of the Louisiana National Guard’s equipment—including dozens of high-water vehicles, humvees, refuelers, and generators—is in Iraq. “The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard tells ABC. [ABC News, 8/1/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Louisiana National Guard is alerted this morning, according to Lt. Col. Pete Schneider: “[A]ll of a sudden, on Saturday morning, the call went out, you know, this thing is in the Gulf. The call still went out to, ‘Hey, we got to keep an eye on it a little bit more now,’ but it was still projected to go into the eastern Panhandle. You know, everybody was keeping an eye on it, but—and then Friday—and then Saturday afternoon was, ‘That’s it, you know, it’s not making the turn. It’s time to roll.’” [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider] Approximately 3,500-4,000 National Guard members called to state active duty, along with along with Guard equipment such as vehicles, generators, and Humvees. According to Schneider, troops fan out to staging areas across the state, where they will wait for the storm to pass, before distributing supplies and maintaining order. The emergency plan anticipates the possibility of looting and violence. The plans call for Guard troops to be pre-positioned with the New Orleans Police Department and with state police troops throughout the greater New Orleans area. [Salon, 9/1/2005; National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider] As of today, approximately 35 percent of Louisiana’s National Guard troops are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the National Guard. Approximately 40 percent of Mississippi’s National Guard Troops and approximately 23 percent of Alabama’s National Guard troops are also serving overseas. [American Forces Press Service, 8/29/2005] Louisiana’s 256th Infantry and Mississippi’s 155th Armored, each deployed overseas, contain hundreds of members who serve in “combat support” roles such as engineers, truck drivers, and logisticians, and thus who specialize in the disaster relief functions. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005] Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard, will later claim that the deployment of Guard troops and equipment oversees has left troops at home without the equipment and vehicles necessary to respond to a crisis such as Katrina. Most of the Guard’s satellite phones, which are essential during power and cell phone service outages that will occur when Katrina sweeps through, are overseas, according to Blum, as is most of the Guard’s best equipment. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will state that “once again our Guard is, I don’t like to use the word ‘stressed,’ but they are challenged” by commitments at home and overseas. [Chicago Tribune, 9/17/2005] However, top Pentagon officials will deny that the Guard’s deployment in Iraq has any impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to the disaster. “That’s just flat wrong. Anyone who’s saying that doesn’t understand the situation,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will contend. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]
Note - The exact number of members called to active duty today is unclear. Several news reports indicate that 3,500 members are called to duty. [MacCash and O.Byrne, 8/29/2005; American Forces Press Service, 8/29/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] . Other news reports state that 4,000 members are called to duty. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005] The Boston Globe will report that 5,700 Guard members are deployed by Monday. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that it based on a timeline received from the Louisiana National Guard, 2,000 members are mobilized on Saturday, and 4,000 members are mobilized by Sunday. [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Steven Blum, New Orleans Police Department, Donald Rumsfeld, Louisiana National Guard

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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