As we approach the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we are reminded of our first responders who are always ready to respond to any kind of emergency, be it terrorism, natural disaster, fire, crime, or other life threatening situation. Yes, our police, firefighters, and National Guard are always there during challenging times to risk their lives to save others and keep them safe.
We Americans often take our first responders for granted and this is particularly true of our nation’s earliest first responders, the National Guard. The concept of the “citizen-soldier” goes back to the earliest days of our country, even before the American Revolutionary War. The “citizen-militia” was also something our Founding Fathers insisted upon as far as the future security of the young Republic was concerned. Today, more than 50 percent of our National Guardsmen have combat experience.
The National Guard is today’s “citizen-militia” and today they have both a federal and state mission. They help fight our nation’s wars and keep us safe, but they are also among the very first to respond to hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.
In addition to holding down a regular job, these American patriots are always ready to respond to terrorist attacks, deploy overseas, or help restore power and basic necessities to their fellow countrymen who have endured a catastrophe on the home-front. They were there at Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, the Argonne Forest, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Afghanistan just to name a few. And they were also there at Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina, the California Rim Fire, and countless other domestic emergencies.
Yes, National Guardsmen do all of this while still maintaining a civilian job. Multiple deployments put a strain on National Guard families, but they are always, always ready when called. And since we can train roughly three or four Guardsmen for every one active duty troop, the American taxpayers have been the real beneficiaries of putting much of our national security capability in the National Guard.
Fortunately, members of both political parties over the years have realized the vital role the National Guard plays with our nation’s security, as well as the economic sense it makes, even when the Pentagon hasn’t. The bipartisan National Guard Caucus in the U.S. Congress has done a great job with its National Guard & Reserves Equipment Account (NGREA) of keeping the National Guard properly equipped.
This 9/11 weekend, the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), will come together for its annual conference in Baltimore, MD. NGAUS has emerged as our nation’s premier grass-roots military organization and it has done much to ensure that our National Guard is properly trained and equipped to keep all of us safe. NGAUS also does much to help take care of National Guard families in need.
The vision of our Founding Fathers to have a “citizen-militia” always ready to keep America safe and secure is alive today in our National Guard. It’s an unique concept that has served America well and that other nations have tried to emulate. Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. As citizens, we must always work to ensure that the National Guard has what it needs to keep America safe and secure so that it will always be ready when called.
Van Hipp, a former deputy assistant secretary of the Army, is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of “The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It.” To read more of his reports,Go Here Now.