To the editor:
Our nation should be greatly concerned, and opposed to any Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) proposal that would result in manpower and/or force structure reductions in the South Dakota Army or Air National Guard. Recent media reports that suggest the Army is considering reducing Army Guard Brigades and that the Air Force is planning on significant manpower reductions are alarming.
If some of the current speculation on these reductions is accurate, as many as 200 Army National Guard armories and 14 Air National Guard Wings could be closed nation wide. This should raise concern in South Dakota for the derived consequences of diminishing our Guard forces.
If these combat brigades are reduced, the South Dakota National Guard's war-time mission to support these combat brigades will shrink as well. Our state Guard is made up of combat support and service support units that primarily support these Army Guard Brigades. If they go away, justification to keep our units no longer exists.
A subsequent concern is that once these Army and Air Guard units are eliminated, a vacuum will be created in other Guard states; trimmed down as a result of QDR proposals. This vacuum will more than likely be filled with units from states like South Dakota in an attempt to equalize Guard numbers across the 54 states and territories.
The South Dakota National Guard has been a leader in support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Our Army Guard is currently ranked eighth in all 54 states and territories for percentage of mobilization of its assigned Soldiers � more than 2,700 soldiers since 9/11. Our Air Guard has activated more than two thirds of its 1,000 Airmen in support of the GWOT at home and abroad.
In addition to its support of the GWOT, South Dakota National Guard soldiers and airmen volunteered and deployed to the Gulf Coast in an immediate response to provide hurricane relief. Recently, our South Dakota National Guard displayed its invaluable worth in support to our state and local government agencies in the wake of winter storms that paralyzed eastern South Dakota.
As we prepare for the potential of a pandemic influenza, no other military organization has more domestic response training and capabilities than the National Guard. National Guard force reductions of any number would erode our Governors' ability to respond to natural disasters and provide critical military support to civil authorities.
I understand that the QDR must take a critical look at our military's capabilities, organizations, and missions to improve our nation's ability to defeat threats overseas and to our homeland. But for the reasons outlined here, and for so many more, reducing manpower or force structure of the National Guard is not the right answer.
Michael A. Gorman
Major General, SDNG
The Adjutant General