WASHINGTON (March 13, 2017) — The general who led the National Guard to some of its biggest legislative victories in decades has stepped down from his post.
Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett officially retired as president of the National Guard Association of the United States at the conclusion of the association's board of directors meeting over the weekend.
Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson of Mississippi is now in charge of day-to-day operations of the nation's oldest military association. The NGAUS board selected Robinson to succeed Hargett during its meeting in November.
Hargett will remain on the NGAUS staff into April as part of the transition and will continue to work with the association as the vice chairman of its National Guard Educational Foundation, a part-time volunteer position.
He will depart his full-time position with nearly 55 years of service in or to the National Guard. The last seven-plus were at NGAUS.
Hargett's list of accomplishments as association president begins with successfully lobbying Congress to put the National Guard Bureau chief on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also helped convince lawmakers to create independent commissions to examine how best to use the National Guard in the Army and Air Force.
While the seat at the table with the service chiefs was historic, he says playing a role in the creation of the two commissions, their subsequent work and their impact on the services are his proudest moments at NGAUS.
Congress established both commissions after disagreements over funding between National Guard leaders and service officials became rancorous, public and divisive. Hargett played a prominent role in defending the Guard in the press, especially during the 2014 dispute between the active-component Army and the Army National Guard.
"As someone who was proud to be part of the U.S. Army and has lifelong friends across the components, I took no joy in the fight," he said. "But the capabilities of the Army National Guard were not just being ignored, but under attack in the budget-development process. I had to speak up."
The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force presented its final report in 2014, while the National Commission on the Future of the Army issued its report last year. Both recommended the services do a better job of leveraging National Guard capabilities and cost-effectiveness.
"Of course, many of the problems we had can be traced back to tough choices caused by budget cuts," Hargett said. "We still have those today. But the commission process forced everybody to open their eyes and minds and figure out a better way forward. The Army, the Air Force and the nation are better for it."
In what was his last act on Capitol Hill as NGAUS president, Hargett testified Thursday before a joint hearing of the House and Senate veterans' affairs committees.
He stressed the need to correct the inequities of mobilization authority 12304b, which doesn't provide Guardsmen and Reservists with the same medical, educational and retirement benefits as other mobilization authorities.
Hargett also touched on the importance of strengthening the job protections for Guardsmen and Reservists, efforts to reduce the suicide rate in the National Guard, and possible legislative approaches to expand a Guardsman's access to quality health care.
"Our work continues," he said. "It must because the National Guard is indispensable to the defense and security of our nation."
Robinson, who is now the NGAUS president, is the former assistant adjutant general of Mississippi. He comes to the association after serving as the executive director of the National Guard Association of Mississippi, the nation's largest state Guard association.
His lengthy career in the Mississippi Army National Guard includes a tour commanding an engineer battalion in Iraq. Robinson also served as NGAUS vice chairman-Army from September 2014 to September 2016.
"General Hargett has left some big shoes to fill," Robinson said. "But he's also passed along a great organization with a reputation that precedes itself around this town and across the nation. I will be leveraging that organization and that reputation every day to build upon his successes.
"We owe that to him. We owe it even more to every member of the National Guard family."
Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett and retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson are available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on defense issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.
About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on Guard requirements. Today, 139 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.