NATIONAL GUARD magazine
(read online digital version)
The state National Guard association conference season is in full swing. It kicks off annually in February and fills every weekend on the calendar until mid-June.
In recent weeks, it’s been my privilege to speak at conferences in Montana, North Carolina and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with a visit to West Virginia still on my schedule. Other NGAUS staffers, including our president, retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, will appear at several other conferences.
We go where we’re invited, and we can usually find a knowledgeable staffer to go—no matter the location or how short the notice. NGAUS is an association of associations, and these conferences are great opportunities for us to hear what is on the minds of our members.
In fact, our legislative objectives begin taking shape at state conferences, where ideas for our priorities are often first voiced. This grassroots participation is a hallmark of NGAUS.
Our members are our strength. From them, we find our association leaders, identify the issues important in armories and on flight lines, and communicate our needs to those in Congress who make the decisions.
Without that effort in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, NGAUS would be not be an effective presence in the nation’s capital.
Lawmakers know that the Guard is in every congressional district, a boast no other service can make. And they know, too, that the military is one of the few public institutions still enjoying the respect of the American people.
One reason for that is the example set by Guardsmen in more than 3,000 communities, not only while in uniform but also in their civilian lives.
Whenever I meet with our members, I am always asked, “How can I help-” Just asking the question is a step in the right direction. It demonstrates an interest in the issues and a desire to participate in their resolution.
Of course, the first step is to know what is going on so you can recognize where something is amiss. As professionals, we have a responsibility to keep up on issues related not only to the Guard, but to overall national security.
NGAUS uses this magazine, a weekly e-newsletter and social media to keep members aware of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. When an issue needs your immediate attention, we distribute legislative alerts via email.
Don’t assume that someone else will get the ball rolling. Take charge. Share your concerns and your knowledge on an issue. Talk to peers, subordinates and supervisors.
And take your concern to your state association. Make it part of the agenda at the state conference. From there, the path is nearly direct to the NGAUS legislative priority list that we compile every year.
It’s important to know that most of the issues that NGAUS addresses have a price tag. Sometimes the resources are simply not there to support a change in policy or adding a piece of equipment. Take time to learn how the Guard is funded so you can understand how lawmakers view legislation.
Finally, remember that you can contact your elected officials directly. You vote, so they are ready to listen. So are their staffs. In fact, reaching out to the district and state office staffs can be effective.
Invite them to your unit. Let them attend a deployment ceremony or the homecoming of soldiers or airmen from an overseas mission. Tell them about a special training activity on your schedule.
Those relationships will pay dividends when you need help with an issue.
NGAUS is an effective advocate for the Guard in the nation’s capital. But our success depends on the participation of each of you.
The author is the NGAUS legislative director. He can be contacted at 202-408-5881 or at email@example.com.