Memorial Day Spotlight on America’s “Citizen Soldiers”
Of the 7,400 soldiers serving in the Arizona guard, over 3,800 have been activated since September 11, 2001, Major Aguirre said. They have served abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq, and fought the nation’s worst wildfires at home. Five hundred Arizona guard personnel joined the 25,000 National Guard personnel in the gulf region last year, and approximately 300 Arizonans will be among the first guard soldiers to provide support for the Border Patrol in June.
Accountants are among the 85 percent of Arizona guard members who serve as “weekend warriors,” Major Aguirre said. Guard accounting functions, including resource management, facilities management, purchasing and contracting, are housed in the Joint Programs Division of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.
The Maine National Guard’s Property and Fiscal Operations office is headed by the Comptroller, a CPA, who is currently assisted by two fiscal accountants who are not CPAs, Colonel Arnold Lundquist told AccountingWEB. The Guard offers a financial military specialty, and although the number of positions is limited, “I’d be lost without them,” Colonel Lundquist said, speaking of his finance and accounting staff. Personnel working in the purchasing and finance positions at the Hartford Armory headquarters of the Connecticut National Guard report to the Department of Defense, according to Lt. Col. John Whitford.
Communication with employers is key to successful service in the Guard, Col Lundquist says. “Employers want to be told in October that a soldier will be on duty from July 5 through July 20th.” Unknowns are always a factor, and while the soldier’s rapport with his or her employer is fundamental, the Guard also tries to facilitate the relationship through its Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program.
Guard personnel working in finance will be assigned where they are needed, “but they are soldiers first, and they have to carry a gun and pitch sandbags when the need arises,” Colonel Lundquist said. State-active duty, like the Guard’s current mission in Maine, maintaining order and assisting with the cleanup from the floods in York, is usually supported by employers because guard soldiers tend to live near where they work, he said. Employers need the services the Guard provides in order to keep operating.
Louisiana will have nearly its full force of Guard personnel at home preparing for the 2006 hurricane season. “They’re sorting all that out [at the federal level],” Major Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard said, according to the Independent News. “There’s no planned rotation for any Louisiana guard brigade at this time.”
“Operational tempo has increased significantly since September 11th,” Lt. Col. Whitford, of the Connecticut National Guard told AccountingWEB, speaking of their mission in the Global War against Terror. Among Connecticut units on active duty is the 102nd Infantry Battalion from New Haven, one of the oldest Guard units in the state, which departed for Afghanistan last month. The 102nd was formed in 1672 and has been involved in campaigns in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Bosnia and Iraq.
At a ceremony in Carefree, Arizona last week, Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, awarded Purple Hearts to Arizona National Guard troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, the East Valley Tribune reports. Twelve soldiers from the 860th Military Police Company received medals for their injuries. Thirty Purple Hearts will be presented overall, two posthumously.
“Your willingness to serve is going to be recognized not just in Arizona, but throughout the United States,” Napolitano told members of the Guard attending the ceremony, according to the East Valley Tribune. Napolitano has announced that Arizona Guard soldiers will be involved in combating drug trafficking at the border.
Aguirre told AccountingWeb that Arizona guard personnel have been trained in drug interdiction since the National Guard Counter Drug Program was established in 1988 by President Reagan. The Guard units will augment the Border Patrol “where they have matched skill sets, so that law enforcement can focus on their primary mission,” Aguirre said.
Connecticut offers 100 percent free tuition to Connecticut Army National Guard soldiers attending Connecticut State colleges, universities, or community college programs, and many soldiers take advantage of this program, Lt. Col. Whitford says. Diana Esposito, a Connecticut National guard sergeant who interrupted her studies twice to serve with the military police in Baghdad, was honored at her graduation from Central Connecticut State College last week, the Hartford Courant reports.
The Guard’s dual state-federal role evolved from the Founding Fathers’ constitutional guarantee of the states’ right to “provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia.” Called “Citizen Soldiers” in Article I of the Constitution, the militias participated in conflicts during much of the nineteenth century, when the nation did not support a large standing army. They were designated by the National Defense Act of 1916 as the primary reserve force. The Act also gave the President “the authority to mobilize the Guard during war or national emergency," the Army’s National Guard Web site says.