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10,000 More NG Troops Called Up
USA Today   |  September 01, 2005
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Wednesday that it will add 10,000 National Guard soldiers from around the country to areas of Louisiana and Mississippi ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. A combination of troop callups and recruiting problems has left the two states with fewer of their own troops to provide aid.

More than 5,900 Guard soldiers from the two states, about a third of the total, are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The states' governors need more soldiers to halt looting, rescue storm victims and provide aid and comfort to residents.

Despite the number of Guard troops on duty overseas, Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, "There's nothing I'm in want of" for relief work.

The problem for Louisiana and Mississippi isn't how many troops are in Iraq, but rather the kind of soldiers who are there, said Dave McGinnis, a military analyst who specializes in National Guard personnel issues.

"It's combat brigades, which are the types of units you need in these situations," he said. Combat brigades -- large, self-sustaining units of about 3,000 troops -- have the vehicles, communications equipment and structure to cope best with a natural disaster. In Louisiana, communications and mobility are especially critical because most of New Orleans is without water, power and telephone service.

Among the Guard troops headed to the region from 13 states are truck drivers, communications experts and soldiers trained in purifying water, a critical need.

Fighting two wars and doing hurricane relief could cripple the part-time military and "have a ripple effect throughout the whole system," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"You're going into the hellhole of combat in Iraq, and now you're in the middle of one of the nation's deadliest natural disasters. Just as levees break, the force is going to break."

During wartime, Guard units can be mobilized to fight overseas. Back home, they typically fall under the control of their state governors and are available for emergencies. But with the active-duty military stretched in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Guard and Reserves have been called on to play a major role. About 40% of all U.S. troops in Iraq are Guard and Reserves.

Louisiana is also suffering the recruiting problems afflicting the Guard nationwide. Nationally, the Army Guard is making only about 80% of its recruiting goals this year. Louisiana has had a more difficult time than most states, making only 53% of its goal through July. That shortfall translates into a deficit of about 800 Army Guard recruits.

Col. Jerry Vaughn, joint forces chief of staff for the Florida National Guard, said his state had about 6,000 soldiers called up after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. But even that contingent, roughly equal to all the Guard troops remaining in Louisiana, wasn't sufficient. The Pentagon also sent troops from two divisions to Florida.

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