If you can’t send soldiers to war, bring the war to your National Guard.
The National Guard Bureau’s top soldier think he’s figured out how to keep his combat experienced, high-tech warriors signed up while taking the pressure off their families and employers caused by long, multiple deployments.
The new Cyber Command, long-endurance UAV units, F-22 fighter, B-2 bomber and Joint Cargo Aircraft airlift squadrons and, quite likely, the next generation bombers due on the ramp in 2018 or so, will be heavily manned, in some cases commanded by Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Army National Guard personnel. That transformation – already underway -- is by design, says Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, the Washington-based National Guard bureau chief.
UAV units in North Dakota, Texas, Nevada, California and elsewhere are already flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan from ground-based cockpits in the U.S. North Dakota’s ANG is being considered a model for the transformation. The state is losing its F-16s – the oldest still flying – but will, in turn, receive aircraft and other equipment that is better suited to the dual role of homeland defense and overseas military operations. They will fly the new Army/Navy Joint Cargo Aircraft as well as Predator and Global Hawk UAVs.
The new Cyber Command will pull heavily on guardsmen and reserves who also are crucial employees in the IT world to ensure it fields a cutting edge military network attack and defense capability.
Units whose aircraft aren’t allowed to be permanently stationed outside the U.S. will also be attracting large numbers of guardsmen and reserves. That includes the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter (Alaska, Virginia and Hawaii ANG so far) and the B-2 stealth bomber. A likely addition to that roster will be the new, interim Long Range Strike bomber that is being planned for an operational debut in 2018.
"We’d be foolish not to take advantage of the Guard and Reserves for that [next-generation bomber] mission,” Blum says.