Category Archives: National Guard History

Major General Major General Raymond “Fred” Rees

Intro

One of my heroes is Major General Major General (MG) Raymond “Fred” Rees.

There are few American generals with as long or as distinguished service as MG Rees. Only three come to mind.

John Galvin

The first would be General John Galvin. Galvin started his career as an enlisted man in the Massachusetts National Guard, graduated from West Point in 1954 and served for 45 years in a variety of key assignments including division and corps command.

John Vessy Jr.

The second would be General John William Vessey, Jr. Vessey started his career in the Minnesota National Guard when he was 16 years old.  He received a battlefield commission during the battle of Anzio in World War II and went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

As a Colonel, he attended the Army helicopter school at the age of 48. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Three years later when he retired at the age of 63 he was the last four star combat veteran of World War II on active service.  He retired with over 46 years of military service.

Douglas MacArthur

The last would be General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. He graduated from West point in 1903 at the top of his class. He served in World War I as the Chief of Staff and acting Division Commander of the National Guard’s famed 42nd Rainbow Division on the Western Front.  He was a Brigadier General at 38 years old.

In World War II, he commanded the Allied Forces in the Pacific. He oversaw the occupation of the Japan after World War II from 1945 to 1951.  During the Korean War, he was commander of the United Nations Forces until President Truman fired him.  When he retired from the military, he had served for over 52 years and had joined the army before the turn of the century.

Major General Rees

MG Rees was born in Pendleton raised in the small town of Helix in the northeast corner of Oregon. In the 2010 census Helix had a population of 184. Four of MG Rees’ uncles served in World War II.  The son of eastern Oregon wheat ranchers he graduated second from a class of seven from Helix High School in 1962 (Collins 2005).

MG Rees graduated from West Point in 1966. Of the 579 young men who received their commissions as second lieutenants at graduation four years later 30 of them would be dead (the highest number of casualties suffered by any class in Vietnam) and another one-third were civilians- the highest resignation rate in the history of the Academy (Atkinson 1989).

MG Rees’ classmates killed in Vietnam-7 percent- was almost identical with that of the academy’s classes that had served in World War II who had died fighting Japan and Germany. Yet they were hardly regarded in the same esteem (Atkinson 1989).

MG Rees commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Armor and completed Airborne and Ranger Training before being assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Germany.  In 1968 he served in Vietnam as the Assistant Training and Operations Officer of the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division and later as commander of D Troop.

1968 was the most violent year for the war in Vietnam. At the end of January, the Vietcong launched the Tet Offensive.  U.S. troop numbers peaked at almost 600,000 and with it the numbers of American casualties rising to almost 16,600 killed. Troop D attached to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade served as a Recon Element.  Its job was to search out and engage the Viet Cong.

After returning from Vietnam, he served briefly on staff at Fort Lewis, WA. He completed training as an Army Aviator in 1971.  From March 1972 to August 1973 he served as an executive officer of an air cavalry troop and in a variety of staff assignments at Fort Bragg, NC.

In 1973 MG Rees entered law school at the University of Oregon and joined the Oregon National Guard. He practiced law in Pendleton from 1976 to 1978.  After 18 months in practice his father died and he took over his family’s 2,200 acre wheat farm (Collins 2005).

In the next several years MG Rees held several command and staff positions in the Guard such as commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 162 Infantry Regiment and 3rd Squadron, 116th Armored Cavalry Regiment.  In 1986 as the commander of 116th Armored Cavalry Regiment, he made Colonel.

In May 1987, MG Rees was appointed the Adjutant General (TAG) of the Oregon National Guard. This was the first of several times he would serve in this position. Promoted to Brigadier General in 1988, he was the first of the class of 1966 to reach that rank (Press 1991), and Major General in 1990.  After four years at the helm of the Oregon Guard, MG Rees became director of the Army National Guard at the National Guard Bureau (NGB) in 1991, then vice chief and acting chief of the bureau in 1994.

In 1994, he returned to Oregon for five years as TAG of the Oregon Guard, then again served alternately as vice chief and acting chief of the NGB, and from May 2003 until June 2005, MG Rees was chief of staff of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado (Collins 2005).  In July 2005, he became TAG for the third time.

National Guard Readiness in the 1990s

MG Rees’ contributions to both the Oregon Army National Guard and his nation are many. By serving at the state and national level, he was able to affect National Guard policy decisions five to 10 years out. As the acting director of the NGB in the 90’s he helped to lay the groundwork for several key projects that revolutionized and modernized the Guard for the 21st century.

One development was the Lavern E. The Weber Professional Education Center (PEC), on Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, is the national training center for the Army National Guard. It has a 75 acre campus consisting of 25 buildings and a total staff of approximately 420 military, civilian contractor personnel.  PEC annually provides instruction to over 20,000 members of the military force.

Another project was the Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, GA which trains over 6,500 Soldiers in six courses each year (Little 2009).  The program started in the late 1990’s with the Army National Guard Pre-Ranger Program and by 2003 became the Warrior Training Center.  The program has grown each year, especially after the Guard become more involved in the GWOT.  The program’s six courses, which range from five to 17 days in duration, are Pre-Ranger (958 students in 2009), Combatives levels 1 and 2 (238), Air Assault (4,913), Pathfinder (209), Pre-Bradley Master Gunner (71) and Bradley Crew Evaluator (90) (Little 2009).

Under the leadership of MG Rees the program has been steadily been staffed with Soldiers and Officers from the Oregon Army National Guard as instructors and students. This has helped to fill gaps in Warfighter development by providing NCOs and officers with skill sets outside the Army’s traditional training venues for National Guard Soldiers.

During the 1990’s era, by participating in key missions the Oregon National Guard gained national recognition for achieving excellence in training and its ability to support civil authorities as needed.

In June 1998, the 41st Separate Infantry Brigade spent two weeks at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 1999 alone, Oregon Soldiers deployed to over six foreign countries and 15 states.

State Partnership Program

MG Rees was the director of the NGB in 1991, when the fall of the Soviet Union and its old empire fell apart almost overnight. U.S. government officials looked for ways to reach out to the new democratic nations in the former Soviet Bloc without seeming like they were threatening Russia.

Latvia’s government made a request to develop a military based on the American National Guard. General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army General John Shalikashvili, the Commander of the NATO European Command embraced the concept of building a partnership with the small country and reached out to the NGB for help.  Under MG Rees’ direction the National Guard played the lead role in the military liaison teams.  By 2001 the National Guard had almost a decade of liaisoning with foreign countries and their militaries.

All over the nation Guard Soldiers helped construct roads, trails and buildings in many of the State’s National Forests and Parks and provided assistance during times of natural disaster and state emergency. These state missions and international partnership missions changed and modernized the Guard. When the nation went to war, the National Guard was ready.

Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)

Traditionally, the Guard’s role has been both as a state-level security force and a ready reserve component of the U.S. combat power for overseas commitments (Christ 2009).  With the Global War on Terrorism that role changed.

During the 9/11 terrorist attacks, MG Rees was serving again as TAG of Oregon. He was also second in command of the National Guard Bureau, which was responsible for putting 700 Guard members in 440 airports within seven days after the terrorist attacks (Collins 2005).  The NGB helped with supplementing border security at a time before the Department of Homeland Security existed.

During, the GWOT Oregon Soldiers have deployed all over the world and responded to natural disasters. In September, 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, most of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) deployed as part of Task Force Oregon in relief and security efforts near the French Quarter in New Orleans.

By the end of the month, when Hurricane Rita wreaked havoc again on the Gulf Coast, the 41st took the lead of the newly designated Joint Task Force Rita to help in all disaster-related needs in Texas and Louisiana.

“This led to initial call-ups in the war on terror,” MG Rees says. “It was evident that the Oregon Guard could respond.” As another example, he points to the rapid response after Hurricane Katrina, “We were able, from a cold start here, to get 2,000 people ready to go in 72 hours” (Collins 2005).

In the spring of 2006, 41st IBCT went to Afghanistan, marking the first major deployment of the brigade to a combat zone since World War II. In 2009, the 41st IBCT deployed to Iraq.

By 2009 almost half of the Oregon Army National Guard 6,500 Soldiers would serve in the Global War on Terrorism, including Rees’ own son Christian as the commander of the 2nd battalion, 641st Aviation Regiment (Quesada 2009).

Conclusion

Major General Rees’ service as a transformational leader has truly been extraordinary. His most important legacy will be that during the GWOT demonstrated to the Regular Army that the National Guard was prepared when America needed its “ready reserve.”

The National Guard being involved in international projects and large army exercises increased federal funding for training and equipment allowed states to spend a greater part of its military budget on facilities and training areas. All this accomplished in a time of fiscal constraint.

The period of the 1990’s saw an extraordinary transformation in the National Guard. Improvements in facilities, training and evaluation produced a well-trained, well-equipped military force, which could be could be confidently called on to support the Regular Army in any future crisis.

At the state level MG Rees commanded the Oregon Army National Guard as it fought in two of America’s longest wars. At the national level MG Rees’ long-term strategy for modernizing the Guard made certain that the National Guard was ready when America called after 9/11.  MG Rees’ vision inspired trust, loyalty and international recognition for the National Guard by creating partnerships with key allies throughout the world.

At both the state and national level MG Rees carried a strategy he had planned while he was at the NGB. He had fine-tuned it as Oregon’s military commander.  MG Rees created a plan that both colonels and privates could grasp. It is a rare thing for a general to relay the character of the blueprint of the strategy for waging a military campaign for modernization on such clear terms and during times of crisis and budget constraints.  It was a case of applied, intellectual leadership, of getting big ideas on paper and communicated throughout a large organization.

When Major General Rees retires tomorrow he will have served his nation for 47 years. His service spans three of our nation’s longest wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq), a multitude of peacekeeping operations around the world during the most historical modernization of the National Guard in its 400 year history.  He has been at the center of it all for nearly half of a century.  His selfless leadership and extraordinary devotion to duty shows MG Rees has led by example living up to the ethos and values of the institution to which he graduated from: Duty, Honor and Country.  His legacy will be felt for generations to come.

Bibliography

Atkinson, Rick. The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966 . New York : Henry Holt and Company, 1989.

Christ, James F. The Bone Yard: Book One of the ETT Series. Ogden, UT: Mountainland Publishing , 2009.

Collins, Cliff. “Maj Gen Raymond (Fred) Rees: General Rees.” Profiles in the Law- Oregon State Bar Bulletin, 2005.

Little, Vincent. “Warrior Training Center’s ranks growing.” The Bayonet , 2009.

Press, Associated. “Oregon general gets Guard post .” Eugene Register-Guard, 1991.

Quesada, K. “Nearly Half of the Oregon Guard off to war in 2009.” The Oregonian, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Phil Esposito

Guys,

I hope with these e-mails there is some lessons being learned. Hopefully young leaders, both officers and enlisted, will gain some wisdom from an old war horse.

Company Command

I took command of a company of a Division Headquarters, Headquarters Company (HHC) after the fragging deaths of two officers in Tikrit, Iraq on June 7, 2005.  Captain Phil Esposito, the Commander, and First Lieutenant Louis Allen, of the New York National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division were mortally wounded when a Claymore mine was placed in the window they were sitting next to as they played the board game Risk.

The window had a board over it so they did see or hear the assailant. Three grenades were thrown into the room immediately after the explosion of the Claymore. Lou had arrived in Iraq only four days before the attack. Military investigators determined that the mine was deliberately placed and detonated with the intention of killing the officers.

I took command of Phil’s company on June 10, 2005. A few days later I charged Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez with the double homicide of Phil and Lou. In 2006, two years before his trial, Martinez volunteered in a plea bargain to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without parole. The convening authority rejected the deal. Two years later on December 4, 2008 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Martinez was acquitted and walked from the courtroom a free man.

I have strong opinions on this issue. All I can say is when I charged Martinez with the murders there was no doubt in my mind, then or now that he was guilty of this heinous crime. I never knew Lou but I was good friends with Phil and wanted to share a little about him.

Phil

I always wanted to command an Infantry Company in combat. I thought it was the pinnacle of an Infantry Captain’s destiny. I went to Iraq in 2005 with the 42nd Infantry Division, a storied and proud unit of the New York National Guard. The unit had fought with distinction in both world wars and was among the first responders of 9/11.  But when I reported in to the unit in the summer of 2004, it was light years from where I wanted to be.

If I had controlled my own fate, I would have been at that moment, in the first year of the occupation of Iraq, blazing across the desert atop an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, raining hate and discontent on Islamic insurgents near some unpronounceable Iraqi village.

I would be wearing the Combat Infantryman’s Badge that I would have earned leading my company to glory while defending America from evil and smiling from ear to ear like a kid who just scored a date with the prom queen.

Instead, I was assigned to a National Guard Division Staff. One of many Captains assigned the boring job of studying maps and giving recommendations to the G3, the Operations Officer, making coffee and useless PowerPoint Slides. I knew it was an assignment I was bored to death with.

When I first arrived to the unit I met my new Company Commander, a short, strong-looking man with dark eyes and jet-black hair named Phil Esposito. Phil and I would become good friends.

Phil was an insanely fit captain of Italian descent who graduated from West Point in 1997. Despite being a physical phenomenon Phil was a quiet and genial man.  He sometimes seemed too gentle for the Army, but as a leader, he always showed a quality of courage beyond the strongest of leaders. In his own quiet, determined way, he may just have been one of the toughest men I ever knew.

It was always wonderful to me how Phil could control a group of Soldiers by virtue of his shyness and interior calmness. He was the opposite of the ideal combat leader. He lacked forcefulness, manipulation, and all those drives and instincts that marked other ambitious company commanders I had met.

Phil was the opposite of all that, he would look you straight in the eye while crushing the bones of your hand in a heartfelt handshake. Once he felt comfortable would launch straight into, say, the latest about the training of the company and how proud he was of his Soldiers.

Phil had such eagerness and vigor for what he was doing that when I was around him I caught myself feeling bad that there wasn’t an undertaking of equal importance in my own life as commanding a company. It wasn’t about the war, that he was so fired up about so much as the whole idea of taking his company in Iraq – a truly awesome endeavor when you thought about it.

America was In Iraq trying to put a country back together after overthrowing a long standing dictator. In the summer of 2004 at Fort Drum, the home of the 10th Mountain Division- the most deployed unit in the army, the war was seen as long overdue.

Phil was the kind of guy you’d want to have at the helm of leading Soldiers in this endeavor: immune to heartbreak, way more knowledgeable than most of the senior leaders in the unit about the whys and hows of Iraq and what America was doing there.  It came through in the example he set. He seemed capable of working eighteen hours a day for twelve months straight driven by his desire to get all his Soldiers home safely.

Phil was a quiet guy, but came alive was when he talked about his family.  He was passionate and caring, especially about his wife and young daughter.

Phil was raised just outside of New York City, where he developed into a talented athlete. Beyond his physical strength, Phil was blessed with a powerful sense of right and wrong. This sense came from his devoted parents who taught Phil to love his neighbor -and defend those who could not defend themselves. Phil seemed to take these lessons to heart.

While visiting his parents shortly after I returned from Iraq, they told me a story. One day in school, Phil got into a scuffle sticking up for a student with a disability. It’s the only time his parents ever got a phone call from the principal – and they couldn’t have been prouder. Phil’s passion for helping others led him to become a caring brother, a loving father, and eventually, an officer of the United States Army.

Phil’s decision to join the military wasn’t an easy one for his family. As a veteran of Vietnam, Phil’s father understood the sacrifices that accompany a life of service. He also understood that. After graduating from high school with honors, Phil accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy.

Less than half of those who begin this intense training path graduate to become Army Officers. Yet there was little doubt about the determined young man from New York.  And in 1997, Phil earned the Gold Bars of a Second Lieutenant— and later, became an Armor Officer.

Phil easily earned the respect of the men and women in his command due to his commitment to excellence. I always remember a quiet, wisecracking friend who introduced himself to me. On June 7th, 2005, he would give his life for these ideals.

His passing away and the tragic circumstances surrounding his murder are not important, what is important was the courageous life he lived that made him one of the best leaders I have ever known.

He was an iron-souled warrior of colossal moral courage who always set the personal and physical example in everything he did. The Soldiers in the company would talk openly of their admiration for him. After his death, he had become a symbol to all of us.

When he entered a tent in Kuwait six months later to tell the company we were going to drive, rather than fly, to Tikrit, Iraq, where our new base was going to be the room fell silent.  He led that convoy of three serials and more than sixty vehicles 500 miles through Iraq without a single incident.

For his courage, I am indebted to Phil for being my friend. After his death, I commanded his company. I did the best I could, but it was far from the standard that he had set.

I did all I could do to find and punish the person, who murdered Phil and took his and Lou’s life, it is a debt that will not diminish with time – and can never be repaid.

Our nation is blessed to have volunteers like Phil, who risk their lives for our freedom. We’re blessed to have families like Phil’s and Lou’s who raise the sons of such courage and character who sacrifice everything for their beliefs. And we’re blessed with the mercy of a loving God who comforts all those who grieve for the loss of these heroes.

Straightness, honesty, naturalness, loyalty, courage—all these qualities could be used to describe Phil, but none is quite right, for the quality that made him a good man and great friend embraces all these.  Many of the heroes I write about possessing courage, charm and professional skill. Phil, by contrast, is celebrated as a hero because his intelligence, nobility and most of his all his generosity matched his courage. He was braver than any of us. He was the best of us. He is missed fiercely.

Bibliography:

Allen, Barbara. Front Toward Enemy: A Slain Soldier’s Widow Details Her Husband’s Murder and How Military Courts Allowed the Killer to Escape Justice] . New York: Morgan James Publishing , 2010.

Gavin, Robert. “Army said no to guilty plea .” Times Union (Albany), December 16 , 2008 .

Woolverton, Paul, and Corey G. Johnson. “Jury acquits Martinez of murder charges .” Fayetteville Observer, December 5, 2008.

Phil 42ID

 

The Army National Guard Begins

The National Guard Begins

The National Guard will turn 378 years old this year. The history of the National Guard is really the history of America itself. The roots of the Guard go back to the various colonial militias organized by English colonists in the 1600s.

Continental Army
Militia in the French & Indian War

The name “National Guard” was first applied to units of the New York State Militia. It was a tribute to the Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, during his visit to the U.S. in 1825. After the American Revolution, the Marquis returned to France where he commanded the Paris militia, the famous “Garde Nationale,” during the French Revolution (Snook 2001).

Whether as militiamen or Guardsmen, citizen-soldiers have played a central role in every major military conflict in our nation’s history. The topic of National Guard history has been generally overlooked by professional historians. There are only a few good general histories of the National Guard, the most notable being “The Minute Man in Peace and War” by Jim Dan Hill. It is the objectives of my blog posts this week to, at least partially, fill that void.

The Roots of the Militia

In the history of Western Civilization, the concept of armed citizens finds its roots in ancient Greece. As seen in the movie, “The 300,” the Greek city-states required military service of all able-bodied, free male citizens. Such service was usually of short-duration (a few months at most because many of the militia were farmers) fought locally to defend their own lands and city-state. The word militia comes from the Latin word miles, meaning “soldier,” (Doubler 2001).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the tradition of the militia endured in Britain. The basic tenet of the British militia was two points. The first was citizen-soldiers had to provide their own weapons. Second, the real value of the militia was its ability to mass a great number of armed citizens at critical points on short notice (Doubler 2001).

Over the next several hundred years the British monarch never had a standing army for fear of being overthrown of in a coup. Each shire (county) required a local noblemen called a “Lord Lieutenant” to be responsible for arming and mustering the local militia and to conduct periodic training.

Early in the 17th century as England began to turn its attention to the New World it relied more and more on foreign mercenaries for its overseas adventures. This was due to the restrictions placed on the militia from serving away from its local geographical area.

The Militia in the New World

The Spanish were the first to introduce European military institutions to the New World. Almost 80 years before the English established its first militia the Spanish founded St. Augustine, the oldest permanent European settlement on the North American continent. An early militia roster in 1578 carries the names of 43 citizen-soldiers (Doubler 2001).

Over the next 100 years Spain relied on local colonists to defend St. Augustine and Spanish Regular Soldiers (full-time) to defend its colonies from Indian uprisings and various intrusions by the English and French.

Eventually late in the 17th Century the French began committing soldiers to its ventures in the New World as the population of both the English and Spanish settlers grew.

The National Guard is Founded

The military organization known today as the National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on December 13, 1636. The Massachusetts General Court in Salem, for the first time on the North American continent, established that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. Simply stated, citizen-soldiers who mustered for military training could be & would be called upon to fight when needed (Snook 2001).

firstmuster
The First Muster

The history of the United States National Guard is parallel to the development of the Western military. The American military is a hybrid of European traditions, democratic revolutions & unique that has continued to serve the same democracy for over 200 years.

The American Revolutionary War

In the American Revolution a ragtag group of farmers defeated what was considered the best army in the army at that time. During the colonial period (1607-1775), the militia of the various colonies defended the settlers while they were establishing themselves in America & helped England eliminate the French from North America.

This approach of warfare was perfected in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the name for the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War. This world-wide conflict was fought between Britain and France forces (Powers 2014).

Many of the leaders of the future Continental Army, including a young Major Washington, would get their first taste of combat fighting under British generals as American Militia. When the American Colonies decided to revolt the English the King sent 30,000 British Regulars to deal w/ the Americans.

The American Way of Fighting

A common myth is that the American militia won the war firing from behind the cover of wall, trees & houses. The lore states American militia pored musket fire into the advancing Redcoats who stood there & died. When the American Revolution happened the British had 75 years of experience fighting in North America & were used to guerilla tactics.

400px-Barricades
Behind the Wall

General Washington did use a strategy of harassment to grind down the British forces instead of seeking a decisive battle. Most battles were fought using linear tactics, they would fire volleys & often stood in lines engaging each other. The Continental Army & the militia mastered the art of 18th century warfare at Valley Forge under the instruction of Baron Frederick von Steuben, a Prussian Officer (Doubler 2001).

The Continental Army won the war by standing in ranks, trading volleys & capturing battlefields at bayonet point. In Europe at the end of the 18th Century & the beginning of the 19th Century a serious of battles occurred known as the Napoleonic Wars. Great Britain & France fought for European supremacy, and treated weaker powers heavy-handedly.

AmericanRevolution

War of 1812

The U.S. attempted to remain neutral during the Napoleonic period, but eventually became embroiled in the European conflicts, leading to the War of 1812 against Great Britain. 24 current units of the Army National Guard perpetuate the lineages of militia units mustered into federal service during the War of 1812.

The Battle of New Orleans was fought on January 8, 1815 and was the final major battle of the War of 1812.[
The Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812
Throughout the 1820’s & 1830’s territorial legislatures decided that militias were needed. The formation of units was haphazard. In a town, township or county, a group of men would form themselves into a company of infantry or cavalry to decide on a name then send a letter of introduction to the territorial governor requesting weapons & supplies. The unit names often were quite colorful: Bend Rangers; Polk Cavalry Guards; or Portland Rifle Company; Mounted Dragoons (Snook 2001).

Bibliography:

Doubler, Michael D. I Am The Guard: A History of the National Guard, 1636-2000. Washington D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office , 2001.

Powers, Rod. History of the Army National Guard. April 1, 2014. http://usmilitary.about.com/od/guardandreserve/a/anghistory_4.htm.

Snook, David L. History of the Iowa National Guard. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2001.

State University of New York, Albany. HIstory of the Army National Guard . Albany, New York : State University of New York Press, Albany , 2006.

The National Guard in Afghanistan

I am super proud to be a member of the National Guard. Its contribution and importance in the Global War on Terrorism has often been overlooked. This is my take on that history.

9/11

On the morning of September 11, 2001 at 8:30am four airplanes were hijacked over the skies of the American east coast. Within the next hour and half two of the airplanes had slammed into the World Trade Center. Another one had hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into an empty Pennsylvania field after the brave passengers fought with the hijackers for the controls of the airplanes. Within hours of the attacks the cause and inspiration would be known to the world. Al Qaeda, based in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, had decided to wage war on America. At the end of the day on 9/11 the America death toll would be over 3,200 Americans dead.

The American invasion of Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001. The Americans went to Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Within six short weeks, by early December, American Special Forces Teams allied with Afghan North Alliance fighters had taken Kabul and defeated the Taliban. By then the leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda had slipped across the border to Pakistan. Over the next decade Americans would stay in Afghanistan attempting to build a strong and democratic nation. The basis for the security and stability would fall on the Afghan National Army (ANA) (West 2011).

Afghan-Pakistan_Border(1)
Afghan-Pakistan Border

The next year would be an important one in both Afghanistan and America. By December 2001 the U.S. was astonished with the fast speed that the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) allied with local Afghan had defeated the Taliban. After the Soviet experience of a decade long war slugging it out with Mujahedeen tribesman, many of who would become key leaders in the Taliban a few years later, no one in the American leadership thought victory would be that easy.

The Taliban had been defeated with a combination of precision air power and SOF working with indigenous bands of Afghan (some of whom were veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War) who provided local knowledge of the terrain and enemy.  The bulk of the Taliban forces simply melted away and went back across the border. America had faced two failures in the last twenty years in Beirut, Lebanon and Mogadishu, Somalia and did want a heavy concentration of combat forces ambiguous missions. SOF was the answer and would later inspire the same idea of a light footprint for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

American political leaders had started to switch their focus to Iraq.  In March 2002 planning for the biggest offensive of the war was being conducted to destroy Al Qaeda in their mountain fortress in a place called the Shahikot Valley.  Military planners were told that were only allowed to use forces in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to conduct the mission that would be code named Operation Anaconda (Naylor 2005).  The reason for the force cap was that Pentagon had already started looking at preparing for a coming war in Iraq.

The forces cobbled together for the mission was the small forward headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division, one battalion (600 men) from the 10th Mountain Division, two battalions from 101st Airborne Division and a single company of eight Apache helicopters. There were several Special Forces A-Teams with Delta Force Commandos and Navy SEAL Team Six operators all working with several hundred allied Afghan Forces were supposed to be the main effort to trap and kill Al Qaeda fighters.

The biggest indicator of the priority of the mission was the lack of any artillery support.  Artillery is the biggest destroyer on the battlefield and belongs directly to the battlefield commander on the ground who controls fires.  Artillery can fire in any environment and continuously only stopping when they run out of ammunition, targets or equipment failure (Naylor 2005).

By relying on air support for indirect fire the commander directing the battle had to ‘request assistance’ from the Air Force and the ability to support the mission was weather dependent. The U.S. forces going into the Shaikot Vally was the first U.S. Army infantry brigade was going against prepared enemy defenses without the benefit of supported artillery since the invasion of against Japanese Forces on Papua, New Guinea in World War II. Based on the American success in Afghanistan American political leadership considered the war won and had started looking at when and how it could invade an old enemy, Iraq. This would continue to be a trend in America’s ‘forgotten war.’

The ANA

On December 1, 2002, President Hamid Karzai, issued an announcement establishing the creation of the Afghan National Army (ANA) (Christ 2009). In the beginning great effort was made to make sure the ANA was comprised of Soldiers from all over Afghanistan’s vast ethnic group and was balanced according to the country’s national averages.  Task Force (TF) Phoenix was stood up in April 2003 to mentor and train the ANA.  The first unit tasked with TF Phoenix was the 10th Mountain Division based out of Fort Drum, NY. This was the same forces that had fought in Operation Anaconda. They now had to switch from an offensive operation to an advisory role.

The 10th Mountain was a light infantry division designed to close with and destroy the enemies of the United States. The term ‘light’ was a misnomer because a light infantry Soldier carries everything he needs in a heavy rucksack. A single infantryman can be weighed down with over 80 pounds of gear designed to keep him alive and to kill the enemies of his country. The division was not designed or prepared for the advisory mission to the ANA. Once the 10th Mountain Division time was up in Afghanistan and they rotated home the mission to train and mentor the ANA was taken over by units of the National Guard and other members of allied coalition of Afghanistan.

ANA Guard

The American Army Special Forces (SF) has a primary mission to act as instructors to provide other foreign governments military expertise for their own internal development.  This mission is called Foreign Internal Defense (FID). SF FID is focused on training an indigenous force to work with American forces in a by, with, and through construct.  With the major American forces being directed towards an upcoming invasion of Iraq the SF mission of building the volunteer Afghans into the ANA went to the National Guard.

The National Guard

The United States Army National Guard has a unique mission and plays a exceptional role in the security and defense of the United States. Traditionally, the Guard’s role has been both as a state-level security force and a ready reserve component of the U.S. combat power for overseas commitments (Christ 2009). With the Global War on Terrorism that role changed.

In 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union its old empire disintegrated almost overnight.  U.S. government officials looked for ways to reach out to the new democratic nations in the former Soviet Bloc without seeming like they were threatening either Russia or the former Soviet republics that had militaries based on the Soviet model. The government of Latvia made a request to develop a military based on the American National Guard.

General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army General John Shalikashvili, the Commander of the NATO European Command embraced the concept of building a partnership with the small country. Other countries in the Baltic regions including Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania asked for similar assistance. The National Guard was chosen to play the lead role in the military liaison teams.  It was seen that using active duty Soldiers could cause offense to the Russians. The Guard took the lead and by 2002 the National Guard had a decade of liaisoning with foreign countries and their militaries.

The National Guard’s working with foreign militaries is important work. Its primary intent is to help the legitimate host government address internal threats and their underlying causes and to help improve security. The role of assist to a Host Nation (HN) is appropriate with the U.S. policy goals. By focusing of all US FID efforts is to support an HN’s internal defense and development program. The difference with conventional forces (not Special Forces) doing FID, is that conventional forces, like the National Guard, concentrate on training indigenous forces to do a mission in lieu of US forces.  This would be the role of the National Guard Embedded Training Teams (ETTs) in Afghanistan.

ANA Guard 1

Initially TF Phoenix was involved in training just the ANA but in 2007 that mission spread to include the Afghan National Police (ANP). The basis for the training is the Embedded Training Team.  The ETT is a 10 to 17 man Soldier team that lives and trains with a ANA Kandak (Dari for battalion) of up to 600 Afghan Soldiers. The primary mission of the ETT is to advise and assist the ANA in different areas.  The advisory team will have senior army leaders who are subject matter experts (SMEs) in the areas of infantry tactics, logistics, fire support and intelligence. The ETT is also gives the ANA access to combat assistance in the form of indirect fires, close air support, medical evacuation and a quick reaction forces of American Soldiers. The aim of the ETT mission is make the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) competent enough to conduct independent missions that include complex operations such counterinsurgency and direct missions. This is a tall order especially when you consider less than 20% of Afghans are even literate (West 2011).

Advisory Teams were nothing new in the history of the United States. The Marines had been the force of choice for advisory missions for almost the first two hundred years of our history.  The Marine Corps had a longer tradition in these kinds of conflicts; its Small Wars Manual, published back in 1940, had noted that they “represent the normal and frequent operations of the Marine Corps,” which, from 1800 to 1934, had landed 187 times in 37 countries “to suppress lawlessness or insurrection,” mainly in Latin America but also as far away as the shores of Tripoli, as the “Marines’ Hymn” put it (Kaplan 2013).  Marine legend General Charles Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller fought as advisor battling guerillas in Haiti and Nicaragua.  It would be here he would earn two of his five Navy Crosses.

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Chesty Puller in Nicaragua 1931

Bibliography

Boot, Max. “The New American Way of War.” Foreign Affairs, July 4, 2003: 41-58.

Christ, James F. The Bone Yard: Book One of the ETT Series. Ogden, UT: Mountainland Publishing , 2009.

Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Naylor, Sean. Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Afghanistan’s Operation Anaconda. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.

West, Bing. The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. New York: Random House, 2011.

 

 

The Indiana Rangers in Vietnam

The Indiana Rangers in Vietnam

When most people think of Vietnam they hardly every think of the National Guard. Military advisors to the South Vietnamese Army had been operating for several years in Vietnam when President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. By then 16,000 advisors were throughout the country.

In early August 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the authority, “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force,” to defend South Vietnam (Doubler 2001).

In 1965 the U.S. committed 20,000 Army and Marine combat troops to South Vietnam. The President felt that calling out the National Guard and Reserves might send out the wrong message and prompt the Chinese and the Soviets to enter the war. The decision was made not to disrupt American society with a major mobilization like had been done in World War II.

The decision was made to conduct the majority of the war with expanded active duty forces and draftees. Throughout 1966 and 1967 repeated Department of Defense pressed for a call up of reserve forces. The White House remained fixed on the policy of “a limited war” in Vietnam (Doubler 2001). Finally by early 1968 a limited call up was passed.

The war in Vietnam continued to escalate and so did resistance to the war at home. Several states began using the guard to control demonstrations, especially on college campuses. The future for Company D took an ominous turn with the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo and North Vietnam’s “Tet” incursion into many cities and villages of South Vietnam (Snook 2001).

The Call Up of the Indiana Rangers

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On May 13, 1968, 12,234 Army National Guardsmen in 20 units from 17 states were mobilized for service during the Vietnam War. Eight units deployed to Vietnam and over 7,000 Army Guardsmen served in the war zone.

The only Army National Guard (ARNG) ground maneuver sent to Vietnam was Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard. It was a special unit with almost every member both parachute and jungle qualified (Doubler 2001).

The Rangers arrived in Vietnam in December 1968. As part of the II Field Force, the Indiana Rangers were assigned reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions. Operating deep in enemy territory from a base they called “Camp Atterbury East,” Ranger patrols engaged enemy units while conducting raids, ambushes and surveillance missions.

In just its first six months in Vietnam, D/151 fielded 573 patrols. The Indiana Rangers reported 134 separate enemy observations and participated in 94 combat engagements with 76 NVA/VC killed by direct fire. Many other enemy patrols were engaged and killed by helicopters, Air Force tactical aircraft and artillery, all from information gathered by the Indiana Rangers.

Several patrols reported a massing of enemy troops during Tet of 1969. Most patrols were made up of five or six man teams but many 12 man teams were conducted when previous information suggested that contact was likely.

Four members of Company D made the supreme sacrifice on Ranger missions, with two additional deaths resulting from a helicopter crash. The Indiana Rangers were decorated 538 times in Vietnam. 19 Silver Stars, 1 Soldiers Medal, 123 Bronze Stars (88 with “V” device for valor), 101 Purple Hearts, 111 Air Medals and 183 Army Commendation Medals (29 with “V” device for valor) were awarded for valor and achievement. No other single Army Infantry company was as decorated during a one-year period of time as the Indiana Rangers.

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“Delta Company” achieved an impressive combat record during its tour in Vietnam. The gallant record of Company D, 151st Infantry symbolized the Army National Guard’s performance in Vietnam.

The Impact of Vietnam on the National Guard

On December 12, 1969 the last mobilized Guardsmen returned home. All together more than 9,000 Guardsmen served in Vietnam, either in units or as individual volunteers and replacements. The smooth transition of mobilized ARNG to overseas service in Vietnam vindicated the role of the ARNG in a time of national emergency as a both a strategic and operational reserve.

The ARNG’s Vietnam veterans would perform another heroic service. From their experience developed a group of seasoned officers and non-commissioned officers who, as leaders, would serve at the State and national level over the next two decades (Doubler 2001). When America found itself at war again the ARNG was ready to be called on, again, due to their continued service they had made the Guard a ready service.

INRGR

 

Bibliography:

Doubler, Michael D. I Am The Guard: A History of the National Guard, 1636-2000. Washington D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office , 2001.

Snook, David L. History of the Iowa National Guard. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2001.

State University of New York, Albany. HIstory of the Army National Guard . Albany, New York : State University of New York Press, Albany , 2006.