When I enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1981, I was viewing it as a way to avoid the brewing Central Asian mess. President Carter had pulled the US out of the Olympics in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. I didn't want to go to war. Stupid long-haired me.
Since joining, I settled myself down and matured real fast, and reread the contract. I stayed in the Guard because I felt good about what I was doing, to the point that I wanted to deploy so I could prove my worth.
The first invasion of Iraq came and went, and I was not deployed. I completed 20 years of service and received my letter, allowing me to retire. I had time left on my contract, but small children in the house. I seriously contemplated retirement, but I was also unemployed as a civilian, and not dealing well with that fact. The Guard was the only income I had.
When the WTC and the Pentagon were attacked, that desire to deploy became more urgent, and was finally fulfilled. Just days after accepting a new position with a civilian employer, the phone call came---on my cell, as I was headed to Logan Airport from the job site. I was at Cheyenne the following morning, with bags packed.
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Phil Carter prompts me to post this as I read his post, "Not your Father's National Guard."
My father served in the Army Reserve during the early 1960s as a way to pay for college; it was then, and is now, an honorable way to serve. But you can't compare service then in the Guard with service now, because of the policy changes adopted by the military which made the National Guard an integral part of America's warfighting force.
The Total Force policy was fully in place when I enlisted. The unit that recruited me was a small truck-mobile radar unit that was Checkered-Flagged to Germany, later to Turkey. After Desert Storm, the whole concept of designating a deployment location in advance was scrapped and the Air Expeditionary Force concept took its place. I can be sent anywhere, and am more likely to go as a unit-type code---small teams to perform specific functions, such as fire-fighting, earthmoving, or in my case NBC defense. I'd deploy only with the swinging d1cks to my immediate left and right, as a team, flight or squadron, not as an entire wing.
Parted out like a junked car. One of the Air Guard's strengths, in my opinion, is that we have less churn, less turnover of personnel than our active duty counterparts. We know each other better, have trained together longer, and have turned that to our advantage. AEFs undermined that advantage by splitting us up and mixing us with other forces whose level of training is different. My criticism of AEF has softened somewhat, now that I've gone through it, because it achieves what it sought to do, to even the deployment burden across a career field.
On the Army side, the "parting out" is not as feasible. This means that entire units, built and equipped for a specific Army function such as air-defense artillery, would be repurposed for another function that was needed downrange more urgently, such as military police. I'm glad I didn't have to go through that.
But the AEF concept did make it more likely to deploy if one had a specialty that was needed down range, or that was in short supply in the first place. The more urgent the need, the more likely and frequent the deployment. The tradeoff is shorter and more fixed deployment durations: 90 days, now grown to 120, with a "hard" wall of 179 days at station at any one time without SECAF waiver. In contrast, Army rotations, Guard or active, start at 180 days.
I nearly ended up going to Afghanistan anyway, though 20 years later. I was within a few hundred km of it. And I will almost certainly deploy again.