Adjutant General Timothy Orr.

The leader of the Iowa National Guard today said the 9,000 soldiers under his command are serving during the “longest, most challenging period of war and domestic emergencies” in the state’s history.

“Nearly 40 percent of our currently-serving soldiers and airmen are combat veterans, the highest percentage in this organization’s modern history,” Adjutant General Timothy Orr said during his “Condition of the Guard” address this morning at the statehouse.

AUDIO of Orr’s speech, 24:00

Today, 425 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen are on active duty.

“Today’s evolving nature of warfare demands an evolving warrior,” Orr said, “one that is highly-educated, physically-fit, technologically-savvy and globally-aware.”

Eighty soldiers from two Iowa Guard units currently are serving in Afghanistan. Orr said guard units deployed to “more than a dozen locations around the globe” this past year.

“We’ve executed every mission assigned,” Orr said. “We’ve served our state and our nation here at home and we’ve rapidly deployed wherever needed.”

Orr noted Camp Dodge — the Guard’s home base in Johnston — is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. More than 118,000 World War I soldiers were trained at Camp Dodge.

“The one thing that has not changed is Camp Dodge’s reputation as a major training base preparing our soldiers and airmen for mobilization,” Orr said. “Today, Camp Dodge in Johnston is the third-busiest National Guard training base in the United States.”

Camp Dodge is undergoing a $20 million upgrade. Orr said the importance of “rigorous training…cannot be overstated.”

“We cannot afford to lose what we’ve worked so hard to achieve,” Orr said, “which is the best trained, equipped, led and battle-tested National Guard in our 178-year history in Iowa.”

Nearly $12.5 million will be spent in Sioux City on a new structure to consolidate operations for the 185th Refueling Wing. “Readiness Centers” in Carroll and Fairfield will be remodeled this year. In late 2017, construction will begin on a new armory in Davenport. It will replace the oldest armory currently being used by the Iowa National Guard.

“Every armory and every wing in this state has been remodeled, refurbished or rebuilt within the last 25 years,” Orr said.

Ninety-seven percent of the Guard’s budget is financed by federal tax dollars. Orr used his annual address to thank legislators and Iowans for their “steadfast” and “phenomenal” support of the Iowa National Guard.