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Showing the Guard

Showing the Guard
Story by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
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Master Sgt. George Saunders and Tech. Sgt. Michael Barr from the West Virginia Air National Guard watched youngsters, attached to ropes, safely scale their counter-drug unit's climbing walls in the coolness of Hanger 4.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Bailey, a recruiter from the North Carolina Army Guard, made sure that men and women who expressed an interest in joining the Guard answered all of the questions on the recruiting forms that he handed them a few yards away.

Outside, the sky was alive with paratroopers and all kinds of airplanes - a B-2 bomber, single-engine stunt planes, and the Air Force's F-16 Thunderbirds - on the Saturday afternoon of the Joint Service Open House, the Defense Department's annual tribute to Armed Forces Day. Tens of thousands of people turned out for the show at Andrews Air Force Base during May's third weekend.

Inside busy Hanger 4, meanwhile, Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen were putting the National Guard's best foot forward. Some 220 Army and Air Guard members from seven states staffed 18 displays, including a quarter-scale replica of a C-130 transport plane, and supported the weekend's security detail.

Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph Samples helps Brandon Stewart, 5, from Upper Marlboro, Md., begin scaling the West Virginia counter-drug unitís rock climbing wall at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

They do that in the same place, inside and outside of that hanger, every May. This year's glorious weather made it a perfect time to show members of the public who ventured into Hanger 4 what the National Guard does for this country.

"This is a great opportunity for us to display what we have and what we can bring to table. It's a great way to let folks know what the Air Guard does and what the National Guard does in general," said Sanders. He is the 1st sergeant, the enlisted leader, for about 170 members of the 130th Airlift Squadron that is the flying unit for the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, W.V.

All of the Guard people were prepared to explain what the Guard is doing to support the Global War on Terrorism.

That included the fact that eight Army Guard brigade combat teams and one division headquarters are now serving in Iraq; that the Air Guard logged 38,545 flying hours between January and May while supporting operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Noble Eagle in this country.

The Guard's counter-drug programs, such as the one in West Virginia, tell young people about the dangers or doing drugs and help local, state and federal law enforcement officials in the U.S. and combatant commanders beyond this country's borders curb the import and cultivation of illegal narcotics.

All told, the National Guard is providing 52 percent of the nation's reserve forces, but it accounts for only 4 percent of the Defense Department's $401.7 billion budget, Guard spokesmen pointed out.

Citizen-Soldiers could tell anyone who is interested that the Army Guard provides 38 percent of the Army's force structure with a $10 billion annual budget, about 10 percent of the Army's total budget of $95.4 billion. The Air Guard's $6.5 billion budget is about 6 percent of the Air Force's $110.9 billion budget, but the Air Guard provides 34 percent of the aircraft.

Those were the big picture statistics that underscored the Guard members' participation during the open house.

Airmen and airplanes from the 130th Airlift Wing have been continuously serving overseas since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March 2003, Saunders pointed out.

A steady stream of people examined rifles, radios and other combat gear and asked about the benefits and the risks of joining the Army Guard, said Bailey, who has been a North Carolina recruiter for the 20th Special Forces Group for four months.

The questions people asked him most often included "Will I have to go to war?" and "How much will I make?", he said.

Thirty-four people, including a few women, filled out APPLE-MD prospect sheets for the Guard recruiter. They listed their age, physical condition, prior service, law violations, education, and marital status and dependents. "Anyone who signs one of these forms is seriously thinking about signing up," said Bailey of the leads for new recruits he can now pursue.

"I talked to a lot of people who are interested in joining the Special Forces," added Bailey. "It was a wonderful weekend."

© 2005 The National Guard. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of

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