The Iowa National Guard’s adjutant general says the ranks of Iowa’s citizen-soldiers are well-positioned as the Pentagon prepares to downsize and restructure the U.S. military.
Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Ron Dardis says his units are outperforming units in most every other state. He says last year the Iowa Army National Guard ranked number on in the nation in “strength readiness.” According to Dardis, that’s a measure of the guard’s ability to recruit and retain troops, as well as ensuring the soldiers are properly trained in their specialty areas.
“We are currently today number two in the nation in strength readiness and are on a record-breaking pace for recruiting new and prior-service soldiers,” Dardis says. “In fact, this month is projected to be one of the best months we’ve ever had in the Iowa Guard.”
The Iowa Guard is out-pacing the federal goals for enlisting new soldiers, and the Iowa Air Guard is also exceeding enlistment and recruitment goals. “The soldiers and airmen that we are recruiting today are high-quality men and women, men and women joining at a time knowing full well they will likely be deployed in the near future,” Dardis says. “By any measure, these are incredible accomplishments, but they aren’t just accomplishments to feel good about. They are tangible achievements that literally mean the difference between success or failure as states position themselves to capture shrinking segments of the National Guard corps structure.”
In what he hopes is the start of a trend, Dardis says the recent Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations were positive for Iowa. “Thanks to our position as a top-tier state in the areas of readiness and recruiting, we did not lose units or force structure,” Dardis says. “In fact, we benefited greatly in the area of military construction projects.”
The military will spent up to 150-million building four new armed forces reserve centers in Johnston, Middletown, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine. Dardis singled out two, newly-beefed-up state programs that are helping retain Iowa Guard troops: the enhanced tuition grants for college students who enlist in the Iowa guard as well as the state program which provides first-time homebuyers assistance to guard soldiers after they come home from active duty.
He said the state’s long-term financial commitment to the guard has been a factor, too. “It has helped us create a climate of success that is the envy of National Guard and state officials throughout the nation,” Dardis says. Dardis spoke earlier this (Monday) afternoon to a joint meeting of the Iowa House and Senate, and he paid tribute to Guard soldiers who’ve been killed in the war on terror.
Dardis also said the veterans of this war are a “new generation of heroes” returning to live in our midst. “We haven’t had a collection of such talent concentrated in the state of Iowa since the end of World War II,” Dardis said.