The leader of the Iowa National Guard says only once since the 9/11 attacks have fewer soldiers from Iowa Guard units been deployed.
Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr delivered the annual “Condition of the Guard” Address to lawmakers this morning.
“The demand for National Guard forces over the past two decades has required almost continuous use of Iowa soldiers and airmen,” Orr said. “…Today we have approximately 260 soldiers and airmen currently deployed.”
About 9,400 soldiers are serving in the Iowa Guard today. The height of the Iowa Guard’s engagement in overseas operations came in 2004, when 3,500 soldiers were deployed to Iraq.
In late 2011, the Iowa Guard had no soldiers deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. According to Orr, “quieter than normal” missions in 2012 allowed the Guard to refocus its operations.
“I hope that I’ve left you confident that the Iowa National Guard is in good hands…We’ve executed every mission assigned. We’ve served our state here at home and we’ve deployed whenever needed at a moment’s notice,” Orr said. “As the challenges of the last 10 years fade, we will face new challenged together. Budget constraints, shifting priorities will impact on how we operate, how we’re organized and what we’re asked to do in the years ahead.”
Orr said while he is grateful so many Iowa Guard soldiers have come home safely, in the past year more than 130 soldiers received treatment for injuries received while on active duty.
“Today, I am proud to say that we continue to make great progress with only 14 soldiers still receiving treatment at medical facilities,” Orr said. “However, for me, these deployments are truly not over until each and every one of our wounded warriors are home with their families.”
Orr addressed changes at the Iowa Air Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines, saying the loss of F16 fighter jets had been “minimized” because the unit will pick up three new missions. Soldiers in the unit will work on cyber security for the military, they’ll fly drones and they’ll work in military intelligence.
“Out of the nearly 400 personnel positions that were subject to elimination last February at the 132nd, these three new missions will allow us to keep 970 personnel at the Des Moines air base,” Orr said, “which is a loss of only 32 positions which will be managed through retirements, transfers, and relocations to other units.”
Just over 97 percent of the Guard’s budget comes from the federal government and Orr told lawmakers the Guard helps “stimulate” the Iowa economy.
“This year the Iowa National Guard brought in more than $370 million of federal funding into the state,” Orr said. “Our soldiers and airmen pay more in state property, payroll and sales tax than what the state provides in state funding to the Iowa National Guard.”
Several dignitaries from Kosovo were invited to today’s (Thursday’s) event at the statehouse. Orr touted the relationships Iowa Guard soldiers have established with officials in Kosovo.
AUDIO of Major General Orr’s 30-minute speech.