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US Fed News

368 Years Of Homeland Defense

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell National Guard Bureau

6 December 2004
Copyright © 2004 Hindustan Times. All rights reserved. 

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 6 -- The National Guard issued the following press release:

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell National Guard Bureau

You need only look back on the last year to understand how the National Guard has embraced the past while preparing for its future as a premier homeland security force for the United States of America.

National Guard leaders and other defense officials agree that this past year has been one of the busiest on record, but now, during the second week in December, the 456,000 Army and Air National Guard men and women prepare to observe their unique military organization's 368th birthday. The Guard's birthday is Dec. 13, however, the National Guard Bureau will observe the occasion for the country's oldest military force on Dec. 10.

For the second year, LTG H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, will host a fun run and walk at Fort Leslie J. McNair in Washington, D.C., and a cake-cutting ceremony at the Army National Guard's Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., that Friday morning.

The militia's birth was originally formed into three regiments in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to protect settlers against the threat presented by the Pequot Indians in 1636 is now a constitutionally mandated force whose mission has evolved into protecting America from the threat of global terrorism.

The threat, the equipment and the tactics may have changed over the past 368 years, but officials maintain that homeland defense is still the National Guard's most important mission.

"Since Dec. 13, 1636, the nation has relied upon the faithful and patriotic service of Citizen Soldiers," Thomas Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, wrote in a congratulatory note to Blum. "Whether the threat is from natural disaster or a weapon of mass destruction, the National Guard provides exemplary service to the defense of our homeland."

Blum acknowledged that the Guard has come a long way since he hosted the 367th birthday celebration last year.

Among the most noticeable accomplishments this year is the creation of a dozen CERFP teams consisting of 100 or so Guard members trained and equipped to help large numbers of Americans cope with weapons of mass destruction.

CERFPs are Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Packages. Teams are equipped to triage, provide medical aid and decontaminate large numbers of people exposed to agents that could be carried by weapons of mass destruction. They are also being equipped to locate people trapped in the rubble of buildings.

There is also the news that eleven more states will be getting National Guard civil support teams to be funded by the 2005 Defense Appropriations Act.

That will bring the total number of CST teams to 55. Each team is trained to rapidly deploy to assist local emergency responders determine the nature of a weapon of mass destruction attack, provide medical and technical advice and pave the way for identification and arrival of follow-on state and federal assets.

"About a year ago National Guard CERFPs were a slide show and a concept. Today they're a national capability," Blum recently observed. "You take the CSTs and the CERFPs and you combine them with our Quick Reaction Forces and the Rapid Reaction Forces and with the National Guard Bureau's Joint Communications Support Environment in this country. You put all of that together with the power of our 54 states' and territories' joint force headquarters that we stood up a year ago. Now the nation is much better prepared to deter, respond to and defeat weapons of mass destruction and to counter terrorism."

"We're far better postured than we were at this time a year ago," Blum added. "Everybody in the National Guard, particularly in the 12 states that held up their hands to stand up the CERFPs, ought to be immensely proud that they're delivering a real national response capability that did not exist a year ago."

The first 10 civil support teams were funded in 1999, and the 11 teams funded for this fiscal year are the final step toward fulfilling the request by Congress that every state and territory have a team. The Department of Defense notified Congress on Nov. 22 that the teams will be located in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Guam, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Today there are 32 certified teams stationed throughout the United States, and 12 more teams are working toward certification. The fielding and certification of these final 11 teams will bring the total number to 55.

Each team consists of 22 highly skill, full-time members of the Army and Air National Guard who are federally resourced, trained and evaluated. The teams, however, fall under the command and control of their respective governors - just as the first three militia regiments formed in this country fell under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636.

The Guard is 368 years young and the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

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