Monday, August 29, 2011

National Guard leaders address future at Milwaukee conference

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

The global war on terror is in its 10th year with two fronts far from home. Anticipated defense budget reductions will challenge how the U.S. military continues to meet its obligations. Hurricane Irene is scouring the eastern seaboard.

In this crucial time, the National Guard is needed more than ever, according to Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin.

"Our nation is facing a fiscal crisis, and tough choices need to be made," Dunbar said Saturday (Aug. 27) during the opening session of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) 133rd General Conference and Exhibition at the Frontier Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee. "The National Guard - you and I, our Soldiers, Airmen, families and employers - are part of the solution. In fact, we are a big part of the solution.

"We provide proven combat readiness across the full spectrum of military capability at a fraction of the cost," he continued. "If Congress formed a think-tank of the world's greatest thinkers, started with a clean slate and tasked them to reduce military spending while not taking risk with national security, they would design the National Guard."

Dunbar was not the only official to hit on the conference theme, The National Guard: Right for America. Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, reminded attendees Friday night (Aug. 26) that the Guard's state mission continues regardless of the demands of national defense.

"A large number of our folks are back in Washington, D.C., working the [Hurricane] Irene relief operations," McKinley said. "We've got an awful lot of adjutants general who aren't here tonight, who are staying home protecting their citizens."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spoke of plans to have the National Guard assist in relief efforts in northern Wisconsin, where strong storms have toppled enough timber to create safety hazards along roadways.

"That prospect of helping out with exceptional skills, we see examples of that every day - not only in Wisconsin, but all across this nation," Walker said Saturday. "Men and women who are the best and brightest we have in this country, many times with multiple deployments to keep our freedoms and objectives secure across the globe."

Walker and Dunbar, along with approximately 100 conference attendees on Friday, led a Freedom Ride from the Harley-Davidson Museum in downtown Milwaukee to the majestic Holy Hill basilica in the scenic Kettle Moraine, and back.

"There's nothing better than being on a Harley-Davidson and experiencing the freedom, the excellence and the tradition," Walker said. "Really, when you think of it, that summarizes the National Guard - it's that tradition, that sense of freedom."

Dunbar said that the United States has never had a more experienced, ready, accessible or combat-hardened National Guard than it does today, describing the Guard as a national treasure.

"We are the leaders of this organization, and we must tell our story," he said. "So, once again, welcome to Wisconsin. We are glad you are here. Have fun, but remember - we've got work to do."

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