Peace Time: April 4, 2003

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While many National Guard units have been called to federal duty for "Homeland Security" missions guarding stateside military bases, no one has focused on the effects being felt by the rear detachments of these deployments. Among the numerous headaches being dealt with back "at home" are:

1. A drop in the readiness of the National Guard vehicle fleet. Very few of these units take all of their assigned vehicles to guard bases. HMMWVs are useful, but 2.5 ton trucks and HEMMTs are not; nor are tracked combat vehicles. However, many of the soldiers activated for these missions are the full-time technicians (civilian employees of the National Guard) who work five days a week on the vehicles. Without them working on vehicles, the rear detachments are having to devote more training time to basic maintenance.

2. The ability of rear detachments to respond to state emergencies has been complicated by dual chains of command. Officially, deployed units cannot command part-time rear detachments because of the separation between Title 10 (active duty) units and Title 32 (state-controlled National Guard) units. In practice, however, because the units are often "deployed" only a few hours drive from their armories, they are still controlling the training of their rear detachments., While this might seem to make sense from a military perspective, if a hurricane hits the east coast, the active duty headquarters are in no position to command the relief efforts of their rear detachments, which would force an ad hoc command structure of rear detachments into place, substituting junior captains (and in some case, lieutenants) for the lieutenant colonels that would normally command those efforts.

3. Recruiting new soldiers into units that are perceived by the local community to be deployed. Although the rear detachments have slots into which new soldiers can be recruited, it is a common misconception by many in the local communities that joining the unit will result in the new soldier being immediately shipped out on deployment, without even making a stop at basic training.

4. Just as full-time maintenance personnel have been pulled to support the deployments, so have many full-time "readiness" soldiers who perform the vital records, payroll, supply, and training management functions. With no one to schedule school dates for the soldiers, the rear detachment troops have had their professional development put on hold for a year (or more). With less-experienced soldiers dealing with payroll, delays and missed paychecks have become more common, leading to morale problems that affect re-enlistment rates.

There will be military consequences of converting tank and artillery battalions to gate guards for a year and neglecting their military specialties (especially in the enhanced brigades). The re-integration of the deployed and rear-detachment pieces and re-training them to their wartime mission could take a year, or more. But the rear detachments are dealing with many other issues that have been brushed aside because of the perceived "necessity" to increase the guards on the military bases in the United States.

 


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