Guard’s ‘draft’ duty in Iraq is backfiring
Once upon a time, the National Guard’s job was what its name implies: Guard us against surprise disasters, organized violence or security threats at home, with short-term, relatively low-risk service. Not so any more.
President Bush has “drafted” more than 108,000 of our 333,000 Guardsmen and women for endless months of dangerous duty in Iraq.
This week, Montana’s Gov. Brian Schweitzer appealed to Bush to bring back some of his state’s Guard troops and equipment from Iraq to deal with a wildfire “blowup” expected this summer in that state’s vast, dry timberlands. Magnitude of Montana’s problem:
•About 1,100 of the state’s 3,500 National Guard troops, traditionally used to help fight frequent forest fires, are on extended duty in Iraq.
•Ten of the state’s 12 Blackhawk helicopters, often used to haul firefighters and huge water tanks, are stationed in Iraq.
All across the USA, there are similar shortages of Guard members and equipment to deal with homeland emergencies. That sad situation seems sure to get worse.
National Guard recruiters are having their worst year in recent history. Their target is 63,000 new soldiers, but they are about 25% below their monthly goal to date.
Traditionally, a National Guard three-year service commitment has been for one weekend a month and two weeks summer training camp, plus possible emergency short-term duty. But Bush sneaked in his full-time, long-term draft for duty in Iraq.
Many Guard members and their families are upset about that bad faith deal. It’s backfiring and is another reason why the best way to support our troops in Iraq is to bring them home, sooner rather than later.