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The National Guard -- Fighting Two Fronts At Once

The American National Guard is at the heart of our security system. They are our first line of defense for disaster.

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Thank you, California National Guard Soldiers!

Citizenship is such a nebulous concept as life rocks along feather-bedded in a safe community nest. But citizenship takes on new meaning when disaster strikes and people have to pull together to survive. Some battles are fast, hard and short...others are long-drawn-out and they heat up slowly like the frog in a heating water-pot. Wildfires are about survival. War is about survival. Climate change is about long term survival.

The U.S. is at war. Not on one front, but many. Some of the battles are occasionally headline-grabbers but most battles smolder, like the remnants of the wildfires just two weeks after they ravish a community.

The American National Guard is at the heart of our security system. They are our first line of defense for disaster. Whether it's hurricanes, floods, fires or ice storms, they can be called to duty to protect the American people. This is the duty they sign up for "between wars".

But now we have a globalized war, plus fires, plus floods. National Guard members who signed up for "home-duty" have been stretched thin with their war duties and the homeland isn't fortified as intended by the National Guard charter.

We're a country at war and the burden is being disproportionately borne by our local National Guard neighbors. The following two excerpts from the website by a non-profit that supports

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the nation's first and largest group dedicated to the Troops and Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilian supporters of those Troops and Veterans. IAVA is an independent organization and is not affiliated with any groups other than our sister (c)4, IAVA Action Fund.

Paul Rieckhoff's Perspective on California National Guard Readiness

State and military officials, in California and elsewhere, have warned for years that our National Guard is no longer ready to respond to a major disaster. As Congress considers new emergency supplemental funding for Iraq, we cannot afford to ignore the compromising effect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on our homeland security.

California's National Guard faced this year's wildfire season with fewer troops and fewer trucks. At least 1500 of the state's citizen soldiers are currently serving as a part of the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Early this summer, both Governor Schwarzenegger and California Guard officials expressed concerns that a truck shortage at home would impede a rapid response to serious wildfires. But this drain of domestic military resources is not unique to California.

According to Lt. General Blum, chief of the National Guard, the reserve component is facing the worst state of readiness in 35 years. Between 2003 and 2005, the Army National Guard left $1.2 billion worth of gear overseas. As a result, 88% of unmobilized National Guard units are considered by the Defense Department to be very poorly equipped. In March, the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves warned that the Guard's equipment readiness substantially impedes our response to domestic crises.

State officials across the country have tried to draw attention to the threat. As early as 2003, Oregon National Guard officials said that the Iraq War deployments would limit their ability to respond to forest fires. Earlier this year, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius said her state's response to devastating summer tornados were delayed because of vehicles shortages. This situation is so dire that, in 2006, all 50 governors signed a letter calling on President Bush to ensure the National Guard is re-equipped.

Solving our readiness crisis is not as simple as a blank check for military procurement, however. Even if every National Guard and Reserve unit in the country had all the equipment they needed, the war in Iraq would still be a major drain on our military personnel. When Hurricane Katrina hit, for instance, one-third of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many of troops sent to Iraq from the National Guard and Reserves are those most needed for emergencies back home. 70 percent of the Army engineering units and almost all of the civil affairs soldiers are in the National Guard and Reserve. These troops have the skills needed to rebuild a country in ruins, but they are also our first line of defense when a natural disaster destroys American infrastructure.

Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is the author of ''Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier's Perspective."

Veterans Day is Sunday, November 11th

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Will Bardenwerper's Perspective on America's Party-On Approach to War

IN January 2006 I stepped off a C-130 in Tal Afar, Iraq. As I began my 13-month deployment, I imagined an American public following our progress with the same concern as my family and friends. But since returning home, I have seen that America has changed the channel.

Young investment bankers spend their impressive bonuses on clubs in Manhattan and many seem uninterested in the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a Princeton graduate and a former financial analyst, I was once a part of this world, and I like returning to it, putting the Spartan life of Tal Afar and Anbar Province behind me. But even as I enjoy time with the friends who have welcomed me home, my thoughts wander back to other friends who continue to fight as the city parties on.

Serious problems with the war in Iraq are well chronicled, but I am struck by one that does not seem to trouble the country's leadership, even though it is profoundly corrosive to our common good: the disparity between the lives of the few who are fighting and being killed, and the many who have been asked for nothing more than to continue shopping.

Never in my life have I seen such commitment, with soldiers and officers working in hazardous conditions upward of 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for over a year, barely able to pause long enough to commemorate their fallen friends. Meanwhile, in the banking houses of New York, the shaky credit markets and the Dow are the things that matter; the problems facing our soldiers 8,000 miles away seem to capture little attention.

A draft would have one of two consequences. The first is that it might actually relieve the strain on today's soldiers and end the "backdoor draft" of volunteers who have already served while their civilian peers remain comfortably undisturbed.

Will Bardenwerper, an Army infantry officer from 2003 to 2007, was stationed for 13 months in Nineveh and Anbar Provinces in Iraq.

Read his full article

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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