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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Guard officials meets, discuss needs and capabilities

Local National Guard officials are in Nashville today to get caught up on major issues, legislative initiatives and rub elbows with senior leaders.

It’s the 131st National Guard Association of the United States General Conference and Exhibition.

Maj. Gen. A.C. Blalock, adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, is attending, along with adjutant generals of all state Guards.

Some scheduled speakers are:
--Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norman Schwartz;
--Dennis McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs;
--Air Force Secretary Michael Donley;
--Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli;
--Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
--and the Guard’s first four-star general, Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley.

“We’ll know what the long term plan of the Department of Defense is and they’ll know what we think our requirements are,” Blalock said. “It’s always good to know everybody’s positions on things like that.”

Budget cuts and a lagging economy have real affects on the Guard, Blalock said, and those issues are discussed in meetings like this one.

Equipment is a major priority and the Guard is facing equipment shortfalls at home since so much is being used to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But, the problem isn’t as bad as it was a few years ago when just 40 percent of Guard equipment was stateside. Now, it’s up to 70-75 percent, Blalock said.

It was at a similar meeting of Guard officials that the equipment shortage came up, Blalock said, and they’ve been working to correct the problem, although Blalock estimates they’re about five years away from being fully equipped.

He’ll be attending with Col. Brian Morgan, the Alabama Guard’s judge advocate, and Col. Jeff Smiley, commander of the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field. About 25 others from the Alabama Guard will be attending the three-day conference.

The conference will produce a list of things that would be good for the Guard, Blalock said, and that list goes to the senior leadership who begin addressing those needs.

Work comes first, but there’s also time for socializing and networking with the other officers at the conference.

“It’s always good to see the future leadership,” Blalock said.

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I grew up in the military. Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years, dad was a navigator on B-52s, among other things. One grandfather served in World War II, uncle is retired Navy, other grandfather and great-uncle served in Korea and a cousin is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Currently, I'm the military reporter for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana. Previously, 


As a military kids, we moved all over. As an adult, I've traveled all over and moved for work. But now, I'm putting down roots in Montana with my boyfriend. We just bought a house and are slowly but surely making it our home. We have more land that we know what to do with at the moment. Now we're getting a garden started, tearing down walls and having loads of fun at what we call the Homestead.

In a part life, I did PR for the guy who built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, social media for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, before that, edited two military technology magazines for a publishing group in the DC area and before that, I was the military reporter (among other things) at the Montgomery Advertiser, covering Maxwell Air Force Base, the Alabama National Guard, veterans and anything else military related in the area. And in between all of that, I leave town, preferably the country, whenever possible. It all started when I spent a semester in New Zealand.

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