Brigade partnership program could be key to retaining Army National Guard soldiers 

10/11/2011 5:00 PM 

Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter (left) and Brig. Gen. William F. Roy at                                                                                                             the National Guard Seminar at AUSA's Annual Meeting and Exposition 2011

The acting director of the Army National Guard said that in order to retain soldiers who enlisted after 2006, the National Guard needs to keep them actively engaged.

“Where do we go post Afghanistan and Iraq [for those soldiers]?”  Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter asked attendees at a special National Guard seminar at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition Tuesday, Oct. 11.

One concept being studied is expanding the state partnership programs with individual countries to brigade partnerships with regions, both programs would operate under guidance from regional combatant commanders.

“This is a concept,” Carpenter said.  “The state partnership program is a voluntary program.  The brigade partnership program would be the same.  It gives us a chance to use that operational force [that guardsmen enlisted for].”

Carpenter said the adjutants general have endorsed the concept that requires congressional approval to call up guardsmen involuntarily to participate in such missions.  The Senate has a provision authorizing this in its version of the authorization bill, but the House does not.

Col. Jeff Pounding said the concept is in its second year as a pilot program and involves an engineer brigade in Missouri aligned with Southern Command and an Illinois brigade aligned with Africa Command. In addition to the security cooperation mission associated with the state partnership, the brigade partnership would expand opportunities to train and to increase interoperability with armies of countries in those regions.

The active component will have a brigade combat team aligned with Africa Command soon. 

“It meets a priority of the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review],” Pounding said regarding the QDR’s conflict prevention priority.

He said that in the base defense budget the Army National Guard is now funded for 15 days of annual training and 48 drill days.  The other funds are coming from special wartime emergency spending accounts.

The nation has made a tremendous investment of $37 billion to the Army National Guard since military operations began in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Pounding. He added that this investment should not be cast aside. 

Carpenter wondered aloud what the impact would have been on history if the United States had stayed involved in Afghanistan after the early 1960s, when American Army engineers helped build the ring road connecting major cities to Kabul, the capital.

According to Carpenter, we already have a solid footing to launch this program based on the history of the state partnership programs that started in 1993, such as the Partnership for Peace agreements with the Baltic States following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Brig. Gen. Kevin McNeely added that when the partnership program began the “DoD felt the National Guard would be less threatening to Russia.”