National Guard leader opposes change to two-year limit

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(Host) The leader of the Vermont National Guard says she’ll speak out against a potential change in Pentagon policy that would allow more frequent call-ups of Guard and Reserve soldiers. Adjutant General Martha Rainville says the plan could hurt recruitment and change the nature of the Guard from a part-time to a full-time force.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the Pentagon to rely more heavily on National Guard and Reserve forces.

But Pentagon policy now limits National Guard soldiers from serving on active duty for more than 24 months. The Defense Department is now considering lifting the two-year limit to allow for longer and more frequent deployments. Adjutant General Martha Rainville has concerns about the change.

(Rainville) “I think this would create a situation that we’d want to avoid and that’s a situation where the Guard and Guard members could be used indefinitely. And it would obviously have an impact on recruitment and retention here and across the country.”

(Dillon) Rainville is a member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, which advises the Secretary of Defense on issues affecting the Guard and Reserve. On Tuesday, she’ll travel to Washington for meetings at the Pentagon and in Congress.

(Rainville) “And I can guarantee you this will be discussed because this is going to be a hot issue for myself and for the other two adjutants general who serve on that board.”

(Dillon) There’s also bipartisan opposition in the Senate to any changes to the Guard’s two-year limit on active duty deployments.

Last week, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and Missouri Republican Senator Kit Bond, who co-chair the Senate National Guard Caucus, both spoke out against the proposal. The senators said the two-year limit was written into law to prevent the Guard and Reserve from being used as part of the permanent force.

General Rainville says she’s encouraged that both Leahy and Bond have promised to fight the proposal.

(Rainville) “The National Guard is not meant to be a continuing standing army. It needs to be used when needed, and then it needs to be demobilized and then returned to state status when the nation no longer needs it. That’s why I believe the law is on the books now. Limiting the length of call up under a presidential selective reserve call up, which they’re under now, is a wise law.”

(Dillon) Later this month, several hundred more Vermont Guard soldiers will be activated for service in the Middle East. Rainville says at that point, 47 percent of the Vermont Army National Guard will be mobilized or deployed.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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