I have been off State Government news for a bit, because I had the opportunity to travel to Fort Sill, Oklahoma late last week with the NJ National Guard.
There, 300 members of the Guard are training for a one year deployment to Iraq. This includes members of the 1/150th Assault Helicopter Battalion, a highly specialized unit that has logged thousands of hours of flying time since the 9/11 attacks.
There is an awful lot to say here, but what I am going to do is link to the stories I did for NJN News on Tuesday march 17th and Wednesday March 18th, and just give you a couple of personal thoughts.
First, it’s just hard to comprehend what we are asking of our citizen soldiers, some of whom are on second and third tours. After Vietnam, the Guard became primarily a domestic security service, being called up by local Governors for emergencies like riots, floods and other natural disasters.
Well, after 9/11 the conventional wisdom in Washington was that we could declare a war on two fronts ( Iraq and Afghanistan ) and still not ask the American people to sacrifice by implementing ( scary word here ) a draft. “Go shopping” we were repeatedly told.
Anyway, the men and women who are sacrificing are not only the active military but the citizen soldiers of the Guard who have been used as an expeditionary force overseas to boost the military’s size in a time of crisis. They are being deployed in numbers not seen since World War II. Last year, 3000 members of the NJ Guard were shipped out to Iraq, and they are due back this Spring.
It was a very moving experience meeting some of these soldiers. And without being too shmaltzy here, I should point out that we all need to recognize what they are doing – including leaving their families for a year to serve in a war zone. Regardless of your feelings about the war, it’s nothing short of amazing.
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