People Remain Top National Guard Priority

People Remain Top National Guard Priority

FLorida Guard soldiers loading a Chinook with hurricane relief supplies
Photo by: U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Airman Jesse Hanson

From expanding benefits to modernizing its combat forces, the National Guard continues to prioritize its people after a challenging year, the component’s top general said. 

“What does the future look like for our National Guard? What are our priorities going forward? They’re … people, readiness, modernization and reform,” said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Speaking to reporters Jan. 24 alongside National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony Whitehead, Hokanson lauded the “over 430,000-strong” National Guard, adding that more than 40,000 are engaged in missions around the world. 

While 2022 provided unique challenges, particularly at home, Guard members were unflinching in their response, Hokanson said. 

“We supported our first responders and rescued American families when hurricanes made landfall in Florida and Puerto Rico, when tornadoes leveled a 7-mile stretch of eastern Kentucky, when wildfires scorched millions of acres out west, and we rescued over 2,400 people when flash flooding hit Montana and Kentucky,” he said. “That doesn't begin to cover the impact we make in our local communities every day.” 

It's critical for the Guard to take care of its troops, Hokanson said as he underscored the importance of duty status reform. This would enable Guard troops to have pay and benefits more aligned with their active-duty counterparts, he said, adding that “it is also vital to our recruiting and retention efforts.” 

Hokanson also expressed support for giving all National Guard soldiers and airmen health care under Tricare Reserve Select with no fees or copays, saying it is “the right thing to do for our service members and their families.” 

To maintain readiness, the Guard is planning to modernize its combat forces to keep the component “seamlessly interoperable with the Army” and increase its combat training center rotations. 

“The Army National Guard will modernize its brigades and divisions to produce all-domain combat forces [that are] divisionally aligned with the Army as soon as we can,” Hokanson said. “We will increase our rotations at combat training centers and participation in realistic exercises because training as we fight is the best way to prepare for future conflicts.”

Hokanson said the Guard is on track with its plans to modernize its major weapons systems. “We’re in lockstep with the Army on things like multidomain operations, long-range precision fires, main battle tanks, air defense, future vertical lift and more,” he said. 

Heading into 2023, Hokanson said the Guard is ready to respond to the nation’s needs. 

“We have got to be ready for whatever our nation asks us to do,” Hokanson said. “So, we’re really trying to encourage our Guardsmen and our trainers at every single level of leadership to make sure that we focus on readiness. … That is something we’re absolutely working on.”