There was so much going on last week, I didn’t have a chance to report on Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr’s Condition of the Iowa National Guard address to the General Assembly. Since I know we have several National Guard families in the district, I wanted to highlight a few points he made.
With the wars in the Middle East winding down, Orr reported that only 260 Iowa National Guard soldiers have deployed overseas, the lowest number since 9/11. He also cautioned that looming budget cuts as a part of the sequestration instituted by Congress could have a significant impact on the military.
But with more soldiers here at home, Orr said the Guard is prepared and ready to respond to any natural disaster or if they are needed in any domestic assistance. In December, 80 Guardsmen were activated to support the Department of Transportation during the winter storms in central Iowa and just a few weeks ago, 120 Guardsmen were deployed to assist with President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
The Guard is doing as much as it can to support their own, especially those returning home from deployments. Finding jobs for Iowa Guardsmen is of the utmost importance as nearly 80 percent of personnel only serve in the Guard part-time.
With almost 28 percent of Iowa’s returning soldiers unemployed at the end of 2011, that number, today, has been reduced to just 6 percent through a cooperative effort between the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Iowa National Guard’s Job Connection Program, Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Labor, Principal Financial Group, and the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
In addition, 1,400 Guardsmen have received 100-percent tuition assistance at Iowa’s public universities through the National Guard Educational Assistance Program.
Orr touched on the Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing, which he said will be able to keep 970 personnel. Nearly 400 positions were scheduled to be eliminated but federal legislation was signed to reduce that number to only 32, which will be managed through retirements and transfers.
With the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft gone, the remaining personnel will transition to three new missions. These missions include a reconnaissance group, an intelligence group, and a cyber-security unit.
Orr stressed the Iowa Guard’s strong tradition of success and the support of the Guard here in the state.
I appreciated his comments and would also appreciate hearing from you. I was in the northern part of the district today, visiting Pleasantville, Sully and Monroe. Next Friday, I will be at the Knoxville Chamber office at 4 p.m. Please come out and share your thoughts and concerns about the issues facing our state.
If you can’t make it to a scheduled forum, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (515) 281-3221, via email at email@example.com, or in person when visiting the Capitol.
Again, thank you for the honor of representing you in House District 28.