Restoring the NGAC to its Reaganesque Prominence

Bloggers Notes: As various groups, who have done little to help themselves, exploit the Nation’s political strife to push their issues to the  forefront, it saddens me that the one percent who chose to serve their country seems to be a political afterthought. 

The National Guard Association (NGAC) was once a powerful voice for California National Guardsmen. The NGAC had strong national influence during the California Governorship, and Presidential watch, of Ronald Reagan that positively impacted the welfare of the entire military community.  

The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) is giving the NGAC an opportunity to restore it’s Reaganesque Prominence and recover its once bravado, “We Take Care of Our Own,” with its invitation for two Captains and/or Warrant Officers to attend a Professional Development Seminar in the legislative process this summer. In this post, I:

  • Encourage California’s Captains and Warrants to compete for this opportunity;
  • Remind them of NGAC’s Reaganesque Prominence; and
  • Challenge California Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, to restore the California National Guard Headquarter’s relationship with  the NGAC.

Before proceeding, I also challenge all lifetime NGAC members to match or beat my donation of one year’s NGAC/NGAUS membership for a captain ($60)  to the NGAC. The proceeds, provided the NGAC agrees, will be used to either pay Captains and Warrants memberships, or travel to Sacramento to mimic NGAUS’ “Professional Development Seminar” at the state level.

With 383 lifetime members, that generates $22,980 to entice Captains and Warrant Officers with the swagger to accept the challenge of restoring the NGAC to its Reaganesque prominence.

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The Swagger of Captains  and Warrant Officers

Col. Ernest Zuick revealed how the NGAC convinced President Ronald Reagan to speak at the 1984 National Guard Association of California Conference in 1984. For this NGAC generation, it was common for highly visible elected leaders to speak at its conferences. (Souvenir Edition, Gold Rush Magazine, 2002)
Col. Ernest Zuick revealed how the NGAC convinced President Ronald Reagan to speak at the 1984 National Guard Association of California Conference in 1984. For this NGAC generation, it was common for highly visible elected leaders to speak at its conferences. (Souvenir Edition, Gold Rush Magazine, 2002)

The National Guard Association of California (NGAC), once among the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) strongest state chapters, has plummeted to the Nation’s weakest chapter, according to 2015 NGAUS Conference Magazine.

NAGUS is opening the door, however, for a NGAC comeback by offering California captains and warrant officers to apply for an all expense-paid Professional Development Program scheduled in the Nation’s Capitol for July 17-19 and Aug. 7-9, 2016.

“The young officers in the National Guard represent the force’s future,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the NGAUS president. “We think it is important that they see up close the government they serve. We look forward to these visits as much as we hope the successful applicants will.”

As a lifetime NGAC member, I encourage all Cal Guard captains and warrant officers to apply for this all expense-paid trip Hargett references. The selected applicants, and their spouses, will: tour the National Guard Memorial; visit the NGAUS headquarters; listen to NAGUS’ lobbying briefings; tour the Capitol and the Pentagon; meet congressional staffers and Defense Department officials; and barbecue at NGB Chief, Gen. Frank J. Grass‘ home in the Washington DC area.

Applications are due April 1 and must be made through the NGAC, which will select the successful applicants. For further information, contact NGAC Executive Director Jim Lubey at 916.362.3411; Heather Bennett (heather.bennett@ngaus.org); or Aaron Wood (aaron.wood@ngaus.org).

NGAC selected candidates will bring back: contacts and professional skills to place their NGAC peers on NGAUS working and legislative committees preparing 2017 strategies, goals, and objectives; techniques for nesting NGAUS efforts into  California’s 53 Congressional Districts; and recruiting methods for the Captains and Warrants in each of these Districts to resurrect NGAC membership and Chapter strengths exceeding the 1980s zenith of 5,000.

Although the NGAC selects only two, I would encourage 106 (two from each of California’s 53 Congressional Districts) to compete for these trips, and for all to become involved in restoring the NGAC’s, and its subchapters’ powerful political punch of the 1980s. According to the 1986 NGAC Secretary Report, 69 percent of the California Army Guard officers were NGAC members, and 99.7 percent of the Air Guard’s officers belonged. The NGAC had 5,526 paid members, shows the NGAC Executive Council report at the 1985 NGAC Conference at the Bahia Hotel in San Diego, CA. And at one time or other, the  NGAC had chapters in nearly every California Congressional District.

Cal Guard captains and warrant officers with swagger can also empower the NGAC to enter the magic number “53”, into a political lottery, if you will, with huge payoff for the Nation’s Active Guardsmen, retirees, and their veterans.

Playing California’s Magic “53” in the Political Lottery

Chapters. At one time, or another, the National Guard Association of California had at least one chapter almost everyone of California's 53 Congressional Districts. Surging a chapter in each district, and growing statewide membership to more than 4,000 would dramatically grassroots, California National Guard Power.
Chapters. At one time, or another, the National Guard Association of California had at least one chapter almost everyone of California’s 53 Congressional Districts. Surging a chapter in each district, and growing statewide membership to more than 4,000 would dramatically grassroots, California National Guard Power.

What makes “53” special is it’s the number of California Congressional Representatives. The Executive Director of the Wisconsin National Guard Association Inc (WINGA) offered to financially assist the NGAC in rebuilding its revenue flows, and tactically advise it in restoring its membership base when I was NGAC second vice president in 2004. Wisconsin understood the powerful influence of California’s 53 Congressional Representatives, and their potential impact for the National Guard family nationwide.

An invitation we rejected is a political savvy that Cal Guard captains and warrant officers can salvage. It will require commitment of all 106 to rebuild the NGAC membership to 1980 levels, but with tremendous payoff.

The NGAC’s membership rolls have dwindled from more than 5,000 (25% of the Cal Guard) to fewer than 1,600 in 2016, according to NGAC reports.  The NGAUS 2015 National Guard Magazine 137th Annual Conference report shows California having only–211 active Cal Guardsmen and 383 lifetime retirees.

California’s sagging numbers is costly for the Nation’s active Guardsmen, retirees, and veterans. The state with the largest state National Guard and more than twice as many Congressional Representatives as Tennessee (13) and Wisconsin (11) combined, lags behind these states in membership. Wisconsin has 1,345 active members & 309 lifetime retirees, and Tennessee has 1,591 and 394. Their membership base collectively generated  $135,587 in NGAUS rebates (90,010-Tennessee and $45,577-Wisconsin) in 2015, while NGAUS rebated the NGAC $10, 410 for its sagging membership base.

Imagine if NGAC could surge its membership base to 3,000, about the same as Tennessee and Wisconsin total? Or to 1980 levels exceeding 4,000 members? We could add as much as $135,000 to NGAUS coffers, and increase NGAC’s rebate to nearly $34,000. With more than 4,000 members, the NGAC would be a creditable voice at the state level, and add to NGAUS’ credibility with 53 California Congressional Representatives–nearly a third of the Congress.

But the magic number “53” is only one aspect for making the NGAC fully operational capable (FOC).

Fully Operational Capable (FOC)

A strong membership base empowered NGAC to build its grassroots, networking, and lobbying muscle from 1980 through 1995. Perhaps the NGAC response to a legislative resolution to cut the State Military Department budget in 1987 illustrates this generation’s grassroots muscle.

When repeated deployments to Honduras threatened to thin the Cal Guard in 1987, “certain (California) legislators” introduced a resolution for the California Office of Emergency Services (OES), California Conservation Corps, and Fire Marshall’s Office to absorb traditional Guard missions. They rationalized that the Central American deployments depleted Cal Guard resources, making them unavailable for state emergencies, according to 1987 NGAC Secretary reports.

The NGAC mobilized its more than 40 chapters and bombarded their assembly representatives and senators with telephone calls, letters, and telegrams, NGAC Secretary Reports show. They argued these lead agencies would still activate the Guard regardless of deployments, and that state mission redistribution would only reduce the State Military Department’s budget while increasing these other  agencies budgets.

The chapters told the “Guard Story” to elected officials, schools, community organizations, and their local media–generating print, television, and radio coverage, adding pressure to hear the Guardsmen’s voice. The grassroots overwhelmed the Assembly Member proposing the resolution, and devastated his support among Assembly colleagues to the point where his resolution had no sponsors, other than himself.

Brig. Gen. Robert Thrasher thanked the NGAC for mobilizing its grassroots for this and several other Cal Guard issues in 1987. Thrasher told more than 300 NGAC delegates at its 1987 conference in Anaheim, CA, that the NGAC’s grassroots clearly answered the question “What has the NGAC done for me?.”

This NGAC generation was very prolific in NGAGUS working groups and committees. Perhaps then Maj. Ernest Zuick epitomized their activeness with NGAUS. Zuick volunteered his time, talent, and treasure as editor of the “Reserve Components Reserve Program,” that eventually evolved into  the “Quadrennial Defense Review“–a critical document for driving the Department of Defense (DoD) budgetary process.

It was through works like Zuick’s that this generation won DoD’s confidence and Congressional support for the Counterdrug Program, the State Partnership Program (SPP), and modern equipment during President Ronald Reagan’s Military Buildup. Maj. Gen. Edmund Zysk tapped Cal Guard troops’ pulse through the NGAC in the late 90s to convince the Army to uptick  operational funding, enjoining Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer in forging the “One Team, One Fight, One Future” concept that streamlined force structure under President Bill Clinton’s downsizing.

But it was through “NGAC’s relationships with other professional military organizations where it flexed its muscle. The NGAC creatively teamed with the California National Guard History Society (CNGHS)–now the California Military History Foundation (CMHF)–to build a Military History Museum. The museum removed Guard personnel distractions of having to maintain antiquated military hardware congesting their property books and organizational maintenance shop (OMS) yards. By declaring obsolete equipment “Historical Holdings,” and transferring ownership the Cal Guard was able to modernize its force during the Reagan military buildup.

Working hand-in-hand with the Employer Support to the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), the NGAC assisted with expenses, time and talent to organize “boss lifts” to annual training, the Border Counterdrug Mission, and Ukraine, bringing civilian employers to their Guard training and missions. Such trips educated the employer, giving them first-hand observations of hardships endured, and edifying them about the military skills and experience their employees brought to their civilian jobs.

“Many Employers are now benefiting from the training that the men and women of the National Guard have received,” wrote Command State Command Sgt. Major, Raymon Thompson, in a 1992 letter to VIPs observing Cal Guard annual training during Exercise Golden Bear at Camp Roberts, CA.

The NGAC was behind Governor, Legislative, and Senate staff visits to annual training, military exercises, and Counterdrug Operations, taking civilian leaders to their National Guard in action. Helping them understand the national security, state readiness, and personnel policies driving the Guard’s state and federal missions. Observations that effected Counterdrug Policy in the 1990s, and ameliorated Guardsmen’s family, employer, and community stress, so they were more effective during training and deployments. If you retain lawmakers, employers, and family, you retain the  soldier, I often heard members of this NGAC generation say.

“In peace as in war, the California Guard is a team, 27,000 strong” wrote Maj. Gen. Robert C. Thrasher, the adjutant general, in a VIP information package in 1992. “But you are part of a much larger team supporting your Guard. You are the spouses, the families, the employers, the legislative and other government officials who literally make our efforts possible. Without such support, we could never do our jobs so effectively; in some cases, we might not be able to do them at all.”

It was a halcyon period for the NGAC, an era when the NGAC was fully  operational capable (FOC) with membership base of more than 5,000 members.

Voiceless in Sacramento: Powerless in Washington D.C.

But atrophy began to settle into the NGAC muscle as this generation retired and my generation started assuming NGAC leadership and control of the California National Guard.  The relationship between the NGAC and Adjutant General reached its breaking point when David S. Baldwin allegedly retaliated against the NGAC for not endorsing his adjutant general nomination.

Baldwin withdrew his NGAC membership, and discontinued the annual “State of the Guard” brief to the NGAC, that the Association’s Secretary reports reveal Maj. Gen. Willard A. Shank, and Maj. Gen. Robert C. Thrasher had done religiously.  Baldwin’s staff interpreted Joint Ethic regulations as meaning DoD public affairs and communities relations policy  was a violation of it.  Insiders say Government Affairs officer, Lt. Col. (CA) Darren Bender, audaciously claimed the NGAC-a private nonprofit organization–was part of the Cal Guard command, claiming its director and staff are non-paid volunteers. NGAC President John Haramalis reportedly intervened, forcing Bender to back down.

But Bender’s and other key members of Baldwin’s staff lackluster public relations performance have only alienated the adjutant general from the NGAC, and undermined his relationship with his grassroots. By advising, and accepting NGAC feedback, the NGAC can work with Congressional, Senate, and state lawmaker staffs to resolve issues through the political system, that bureaucratic system now has a chokehold.  Or it can consolidate with State Guard Association of the United States (SGAUS) California chapters to beef up Cal Guard staffs to process paperwork, as the 1970s NGAC did for military museum  support.

By dismissing the NGAC Baldwin’s staff missed opportunities to resolve the following issues in a political arena:

  • Overdue Line of Duty Investigations. The California National Guard had more than 1,300 pending Line of Duty (LOD) investigations, of which 88% were overdue, according NBC Bay Area News Investigative Unit. An LOD is similar to a workman’s compensation claim for injuries sustained while on active duty, often overseas. Veteran Guardsmen told reporter Tony Kovaleski they exhausted administrative channels including help from their state assemblymen, senators, Congressional Representative and U.S. Senators before contacting his I-Team.
  • National Guard (G-RAP), It’s unclear whether the 2010 National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) was criminal, or political. What is clear is that while NGAUS was speaking up for the soldier, no one was speaking up for hundreds of Cal Guardsmen victimized by the scandal. Perhaps Sacramento Bee Investigative Reporter Charles Piller’s exposés have, in part, rooted out some of the corruption, but it also hurt Cal Guardsmen financially and emotionally who had nothing to do with  the scandal other than honoring a contract they understood as valid. Little is being done to seek justice for these unwitting victims.
  • Sexual Assaults-Sexual Assaults and racial discrimination allegations against Maj. Gen. Baldwin’s staff peppered his confirmation hearings. Despite Baldwin’s assurances to investigate these complaints and lawmakers’ warning that they are “watching;” legislative oversight has little meaning in a state with term limits. Baldwin’s staffs have failed to follow through as California’s professional Politicians, like Senate Pro Tem Darrell Sheinberg, moved onto their next gig. Justice is denied tormented Guardsmen who remain at the whim of the Cal Guard Bureaucracy, or to their own devices, to seek  Military Justice.
  • Sequestration. Maj. Gen. David Baldwin’s staff battled the Pentagon for a duopoly during sequestration. Their solution was for DOD to give the Reserve Components a bigger piece of the budget pie, primarily more combat units rather than to the Active Duty Army. The intent of the 1903 Militia Act was to create a state “National Guard” separate from the state guard, to equitably distribute combat, combat support, and combat service support (CSS) among the components to facilitate an order of march to prevent the carnage state militias experienced during the Spanish American War. With a FOC NGAC, Baldwin’s staff may have found that citizen soldiers are more concerned about a “proper force structure mix” than a lopsided mix of infantry that risk making all components “cannon fodder.” The NGAC feedback might very well have been to fight sequestration, petition the Congress for the right size budget pie, and mobilize the NGAC and NGAUS to lobby state governors and Congress to support it.

Without NGAC involvement, Baldwin’s staff has been operating in a vacuum, leaving Cal Guardsmen voiceless in Sacramento, and powerless in Washington D.C.

Major General Baldwin, “Tear Down This Wall”

National Guard Association of California (NGAC) president Donald I. New presents President Ronald Reagan with the NGAC's Man-of-the-ear Award for 1983 at a special White House ceremony. New also presented the Commander-in-Chief an Honorary NGAC Membership. (File Photo)
National Guard Association of California (NGAC) president Donald I. New presents President Ronald Reagan with the NGAC’s Man-of-the-ear Award for 1983 at a special White House ceremony. New also presented the Commander-in-Chief an Honorary NGAC Membership. (File Photo)

During my nearly 30 years in the California National Guard, I’ve worked for some outstanding adjutant generals, I believe Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin has the potential to exceed them all, if he tears down this wall his staff has built.

Apparently, I am not alone in my assessment. Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) Executive Director Ben Lachs said he believed Baldwin “genuinely seems to want to make things right in the California National Guard, “and glowingly endorsed him in the November 2012 LIUNA newsletter. Bachs followed up with glowing endorsement letters to State Senators Elaine K  Alquist, Kevin De Leon; Bob Dutton, Jean Fuller, and  Senator Darrell Steinberg (pro Tem). Bachs advised Baldwin  to be “slow to hire and quick to fire,” senior leaders and department directors in order to keep his promises to the legislature.

Baldwin’s staff’s performance with LIUNA, retirees, the California Military History Foundation, veterans, and most critically, the men and women of the California National Guard speaks for itself. They have alienated these publics, building a wall between Baldwin and his grassroots that has in some cases, caused irreparable harm. Perhaps Baldwin can repair some of the damage this staff has inflicted as follows:

  • Reorganize his Staff. Baldwin is a talented leader tenaciously loyal to his friends. It’s obvious that his staff is dependent upon his talent and firmly clings to his coattails. They have weighed him down alienating his critical publics. Somewhere along the line, Baldwin believed he owed many of these staff for helping him become adjutant general. I don’t believe he owes any of them anything, especially since what they did for him in their positions, is what they should have done for any soldier regardless if they are a future adjutant general.  At this point, Baldwin’s repaid them, now its time to retire, reassign, or fire those who are only promoting his notoriety, and obstructing his legacy.
  • Reach Out to Grassroots. In a Dec. 3, 2015 letter to all National Guard Personnel, NGB Bureau Chief Gen. Frank Grass encouraged state National Guards to support professional military associations. Grass has opened the door for Baldwin to put his command emphasis behind a NGAC recruiting drive. By reactivating his NGAC membership and encouraging California’s 20,000 soldiers and airmen to follow suit, Baldwin can close ranks with the grassroots, and politically and socially empower captains and warrant officers to restore the NGAC’s Reaganesque prominence from the ground up.
  • Return the Grassroots Family to the Fold. Grass’ letter also clears the path for Baldwin to regenerate administrative, logistical, and transportation support to associations as permitted in Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 5410.18, Community Affairs Public Relations Policy. Grass even provides an ethics officer point of contact through whom a new staff can clarify any “ethical conflicts” the old staff argued existed. Restoring this support empowers the NGAC to restart networking with Veterans Administration, the California Military History Foundation, the ESGR, and numerous other veteran foundations to streamline outreach programs. It enables NGAC to bring Guard families, civilian employers, and government officials back into the fold with boss lifts, VIP visits, and sponsorships of activities such as NGAUS is organizing this summer in Washington D.C.
  • Emulate the NGAUS-NGB Action Plan. Baldwin can seize an opportunity to emulate the NGAUS professional development program in California’s state capitol. Encourage at least two field grade or warrant officers from each of California’s 53 Congressional Districts in Sacramento to apply for the NGAUS tours in Washington DC this July and August, then organize a similar program in Sacramento in conjunction with the NGAC. The program could include: a NGAC a strategy session for restoring a NGAC Chapter  in each Congressional District; membership recruiting plan; brainstorming for transporting the NGAC delegates the 138th NGAUS conference in September; and perhaps a barbeque hosted by Baldwin.

Baldwin could very well be the adjutant general who restored the NGAC to its Reaganesque Prominence, perhaps in time for 138th NGAUS Conference in Baltimore, MD. I believe Baldwin would levitate disenfranchised Faith in him  if he can make the NGAC the strongest NGAUS state chapter, instead of the” to also ran” that it was at the 2015 Conference. The swagger of Captains who make “stuff” happen, and warrant officers who boast, “watch this stuff,” would also inspire hope among the disenfranchised, and win the confidence of future California Guardsmen.

But repairing this relationship begins with Baldwin following Ben Bachs “Slow to Hire, Quick to Fire” advice. By removing dysfunctional staff members, Baldwin can open the door to promising Cal Guard Officers, and to keep the promise he made in the November 2012 Grizzly Magazine, to promote “military experience, technical and operational knowledge, and training required for the positions.” It also clears a career path for those Captains and Warrant officers stepping forward to rebuild the NGAC. Isn’t that what NGSUS President, Maj. Gen. (Retired) Gus Hargett is advocating?

Borrowing from a famous Reagan speech: Maj. Gen. Baldwin, “Tear down this wall.”

Restore the NGAC to its Reaganesque prominence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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