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Profile: National Guard
National Guard was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
US National Guard units deployed to Iraq are less well-equipped than their counterparts in the Army.
Helicopters lack aircraft survivability equipment which allows the helicopters to evade enemy fire. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/27/2003]
Guardsmen complain of shortages of body armor, night vision goggles, ammunition, radar, uniforms, boots, cold weather gear, and two-way radios. Some guardsmen say that the equipment shortage are at times so severe that if they were operating according to Army rules the lack of equipment would have amounted to an “automatic mission-abort criteria.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/27/2003; CBS News, 10/31/2004]
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 ; Associated Press, 5/13/2004]
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]
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues a report on the Pentagon’s “stop-loss” program (see November 2002). The GAO report says that the Pentagon’s “implementation of a key mobilization authority to involuntarily call up reserve component members and personnel policies greatly affects the numbers of reserve members available to fill requirements.” [PBS, 9/17/2004] Over 335,000 Guardsmen and Army reservists have been “involuntarily called to active duty since September 11, 2001,” the report finds, with no sign that such involuntary deployments will decrease any time soon. The GAO finds that such widespread forcible deployments were done with little consideration of the costs to the reservists and Guard personnel in their private lives—damage to jobs, families, and other aspects—as well as the negative impact such involuntary deployments are having on the military’s ability to recruit new personnel for Guard and reserve berths. [Government Accountability Office, 9/15/2004]
The Defense Department dispatches emergency coordinators to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi “to provide a wide range of assistance including communications equipment, search and rescue operations, medical teams and other emergency supplies,” according to an Associated Press report. Pentagon representative Lawrence Di Rita says that the states have adequate National Guard units to adequately respond to the hurricane; at least 60 percent of the Guard available in each state. According to Di Rita, the First US Army, based at Fort Gillem near Atlanta, has 1,600 National Guard troops that were there training to go to Iraq, and they will be available to assist the states or evacuate Camp Shelby in Mississippi, if necessary. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005]
More than 4,000 National Guardsmen are mobilizing in Memphis, Tennessee to help police the streets of New Orleans after the storm has passed, according to Terry Ebbert, New Orleans Director of Homeland Security. In the meantime, as the storm approaches, officials are “hunkered down. There is not much we can do tonight,” he says. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005 Sources: Terry Ebbert]
Reporters and Guests on National Public Radio’s afternoon repeatedly report the extensive flooding. Greg Allen reports: “The good news is that the extreme flooding feared from a storm surge didn’t materialize here.… At least one part of the levee [system] did give way in St. Bernard Parish, but authorities say in a critical area along Lake Pontchartrain the levees largely did their job. Even so, Hurricane Katrina was still the worst storm to hit New Orleans in memory, worse, many residents say, than Hurricane Betsy which devastated the city in 1965.”
[National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune reports, “There is definitely some flooding in several areas that we’re still trying to get a handle on to see whether or not it’s as bad as Hurricane Betsy was in 1965. The worst areas are actually in a community called Chalmette that’s a little bit south of the city.… Now it has already overtopped some levees along the lake front rather early on in the process and it did—also the Chalmette flooding was also caused by a storm surge that went up what’s called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.”
[National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] However, John Burnett reports: “[T]he National Guard has just begun in those big deuce and a half trucks of theirs to go out and do some assessments, and what they’re finding is—one of the most distressing things that’s happened is the famous lower 9th Ward of New Orleans…really got hit hard. That’s where there was a big breach in the [floodwall of the Industrial Canal], that leads into the Mississippi River. And so we’ve heard reports of people on tops of houses, of a woman in an attic trying to, you know—concerned that the flood waters were gonna trap her in there. So that is an area of great concern. A lot of the city is not in near those dire circumstances. More like one, two feet of water on the ground. Nothing like, you know, up to the rooftops.”
[MSNBC, 8/29/2005] Senator Landrieu (D-La) appears on the show to say, “We have reports that some of the levees have either been breached or the water has come over the levees. [T]here’s still a tremendous amount of water from the first images that we’re able to receive, which is just in the last hour, of levels of water in and around the city. Now Plaquemine Parish, St. Bernard Parish have been very hard hit. Areas of Lakeview and New Orleans East have substantial water in them that we know of; downtown has been hit. The levels of water don’t seem that high in the central business district and the French Quarter, but of course, our assessment teams haven’t gotten there yet.”
[National Public Radio, 8/29/2005]
At Ft. Polk Army base in Leesville, a helicopter detachment begins waiting on the tarmac to deploy, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Unable to deploy until they receive orders from the Pentagon, they sit and watch National Guard helicopters conduct search-and-rescue missions until Wednesday. “We were packed and ready to go,” Chief Warrant Officer Clint Gessner, a helicopter pilot with the Ft. Polk unit will later recall. “We never got the call. It’s just a sad story, man.”
“We could have been the first responders.”
[Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]
Mayor Nagin appears on WWLTV to provide viewers with a “status report” on the city: “My heart is heavy. I don’t have any good news to really share. Other than at some point in time the federal government will be coming in here in mass. But, the city is in a state of devastation. Eighty percent of it is under water, as much as 20 feet in some places. There’s an incredible amount of water in the city. Residents are on roofs and trapped in attics, awaiting rescue. Fire, Police, and National Guard personnel are out rescuing those trapped right now. Both airports are under water. Twin spans in New Orleans East are totally destroyed. Three huge boats have run aground. An oil tanker has run aground and is leaking oil. There is a serious [floodwall-levee] break at 17th Street Canal,” and the water continues to rise. Houses have been picked up off their foundation and moved. The Yacht Club has burned; it’s totally destroyed. A barge has hit one of the main structures of High Rise (a bridge/span) and we’re not sure that the High Rise is structurally sound. All of Slidell is under water. Most of Metaraie is under water. “The list just goes on and on.” There are gas leaks throughout the city. It’s not a pretty picture. On the somewhat good news side, many people have survived. Uptown is pretty dry. The French Quarter and Central Business District is dry, but they also have buildings that look like a bazooka was shot through. There is no clear path in or out of the city, whether east or west. I-10 West is still full of water.… The water system has been contaminated except for the Central Business District and Algiers. We have no electricity and they expect electricity to be out about 4-6 weeks. “And the list goes on and on.” Nagin reports that flooding is worst in New Orleans East and in the Lower 9th Ward, but it’s “coming from everywhere.” Nagin is basing his information on a briefing he received, apparently from Marty Evans, President of the Red Cross. Nagin states that he is reading from a briefing provided by a FEMA official (later identified as Marty Bahamonde). “The FEMA guy here is saying that 80 percent of New Orleans is under water and a significant portion of Metaraie and Kenner—everything north of I-10 is under water.” Nagin also reports that St. Bernard is in even worse shape: “There is total devastation in St. Bernard alone.” (WWLTV reporter notes earlier Associated Press report that 40,000 houses in that parish are under water.) [WWLTV 4 (New Orleans), 8/29/2005]
President Bush signs the 2007 Defense Authorization Act into law. The bill contains a provision that allows the president to more easily declare “martial law” in the US. If Bush or a successor does so, the bill gives the administration the ability to strip much of state governors’ powers over their National Guards and relegate that authority to the federal government. Congress is likely to challenge that provision in the future. The bill makes significant changes to the Insurrection Act that allows the president to invoke the Act during events such as natural disasters, and thereby suspend the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act that prevents the US military from acting in a law enforcement capacity. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says, “[W]e certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy.” [US Senate, 9/19/2006] The relevant section of the bill is entitled “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies.” This section states that “the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of… maintaining public order, in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” [US Congress, 9/19/2006] GlobalResearch’s Frank Morales will write that the new law allows the federal government to, if it chooses, “commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military, and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against ‘disorderly’ citizenry….” Under the new law, the federal government may more easily order National Guard troops to round up and detain protesters, illegal aliens, “potential terrorists,” and just about anyone else, and ship them off to detention facilities. Those facilities were contracted out for construction to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, in January 2006, according to the Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International, at a cost of $385 million over five years. The Journal noted that “the contract is to be executed by the US Army Corps of Engineers… for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing [immigration] Detention and Removal Operations (DRO)—in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the US, or to support the rapid development of new programs.” [GlobalResearch (.ca), 10/29/2006] Virtually no Congressional lawmakers seriously objected to the bill’s provision during debate. One of the few exceptions is Leahy, who will, six weeks later, sharply criticize the provision during debate over a separate piece of legislation. Leahy will say, “Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy, and it is for that reason that the Insurrection Act has only been invoked on three—three—[occasions] in recent history. The implications of changing the Act are enormous, but this change was just slipped in the defense bill as a rider with little study. Other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.… This is a terrible blow against rational defense policy-making and against the fabric of our democracy. Since hearing word a couple of weeks ago that this outcome was likely, I have wondered how Congress could have gotten to this point.… [I]t seems the changes to the Insurrection Act have survived… because the Pentagon and the White House want it.… Because of this rubberstamp Congress,… [w]e fail the National Guard, which expects great things from us as much as we expect great things from them. And we fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the president to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty.” [US Senate, 10/29/2006]
Entity Tags: National Guard, Insurrection Act, Halliburton, Inc., GlobalResearch (.ca), George W. Bush, Frank Morales, Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, Patrick J. Leahy, Kellogg, Brown and Root, Posse Comitatus Act
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
A Rapid City Journal article uses interviews with the families of three soldiers to illustrate the harm and suffering inflicted on military personnel and their families by the Army’s controversial stop-loss program (see November 2002 and November 13, 2003). One of the three soldiers is Sergeant Mason Lockey, who has been forced to redeploy to Iraq due to stop-loss. Lockey saw his daughter Brianna for the first time about three weeks after her birth, in November 2006; he took part in her delivery via cell phone from Iraq. He had planned on returning home on July 19, 2007, a year after his deployment, in time to help her learn to speak and walk. Instead, under stop-loss, Lockey is forced to remain in Iraq until at least October 15, and perhaps longer.
Three Sons in Service - Deb Halen-Boyd, whose two sons served in Iraq as Army troops, calls the stop-loss program an example of the government breaking faith with its soldiers. “You fulfill your obligation, you should be done,” she says. “They’ve done what they’ve signed up to do.” One of Halen-Boyd’s sons has had to remain in Iraq due to stop-loss. She had a third son in the Army who died in a truck accident in Minnesota; her fourth son has now enlisted in the National Guard, with the government’s promise that he wouldn’t be deployed. But Halen-Boyd doesn’t believe the government will keep its word. “Nothing with the Army is a guarantee,” she says.
Missing Daughter's First Three Years - Barb Pierce, whose son Ryan served in Kosovo and twice in Iraq as a member of his Army unit, agrees. “It should be fair.… They’ve done their part. Let them come home.” Sergeant Ryan Pierce has been forced to remain in Iraq due to the stop-loss policy until at least January 2008. Pierce missed the birth of his daughter and the death of his wife’s grandmother and aunt. He was unable to attend his grandmother’s funeral. He has missed every wedding anniversary. He has missed two of his daughter’s three birthdays.
No Re-enlistments, Anger at Government - None of the soldiers cited in the Rapid City Journal article plan on rejoining the Army after they are finally allowed to come home. Vanessa Lockey, whose husband has six more years to go on his re-enlistment, says, “Mason and I are strong Republicans, but it is hard to support a government that is willing to do this to a family. How is it fair?… Mason’s very supportive of the military. We grew up military, we love the military lifestyle, and we were very pro-Bush and that, but the more you see them acting like these soldiers are nothing but a game to them… it’s just hard to support that and know that’s who you’re defending.… It really does feel like they forgot about us.… I’ll support [President] Bush when he sends his daughters to Iraq.” Barb Pierce echoes Halen-Boyd’s sentiments. She is proud of her son’s service as she is of other soldiers’ service. She is proud to be an American, she says. But, “I want to be proud of my country, too. And right now I’m not.” Halen-Boyd wears a bumper sticker on her car that reads, “‘We Love Our Troops. Bring Them Home.” [Rapid City Journal, 7/24/2007]
Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces that the Army will phase out its controversial and unpopular “stop-loss” program, which forces soldiers to stay in the Army past their service obligations (see November 13, 2003 and June 2, 2004). The program will be phased out over the next two years. Until then, the Pentagon will offer $500 a month in extra pay to soldiers who continue to serve under the policy, Gates says. Around 13,000 soldiers are currently serving under the stop-loss policy. “We will be drawing down in Iraq, over the next 18 or 19 months, significantly more than we are building up in Afghanistan, in terms of the Army,” Gates says. “While these changes do carry some risk, I believe it is important that we do everything possible to see that soldiers are not unnecessarily forced to stay in the Army beyond their end-of-term-of-service date.” The goal is to bring that number down to approximately 6,500 by June 2010, and to virtually zero by March 2011. “I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith” to keep soldiers in the service after their end date comes up, Gates says. “To hold them against their will… is just not the right thing to do.” Beginning in August 2009, the Army Reserve will no longer mobilize units under the stop-loss policy (see November 2002). The Army National Guard will follow suit in September 2009, and the active duty Army by January 2010. The Army retains the option to reactivate the program under “extraordinary” circumstances, Gates acknowledges. But, he says, that should happen only in an “emergency situation where we absolutely had to have somebody’s skills for a specific, limited period of time.” [Washington Post, 3/19/2009] The Army is the only branch of service to use stop-loss. [CNN, 3/18/2009] In 2007, Gates broke with previous Bush administration and military policy by ordering the program “minimized” (see January 19, 2007).
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