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National Guard Troops

Army National Guard Achievement MedaAuthorized by the Secretary of the Army on 3 March 1971 and amended by Dept. of the Army General Order 4,1974, the Army National Guard Achievement Medal is awarded to any person in the rank of Colonel or below for exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity while serving as a member of the Army National Guard (ARNG), a United States Army Reserve troop program unit (TPU) or as an individual augmentee. The medal is 1 1/4 inches in diameter. In the center is a flaming torch symbolizing the vigilance of the Guard and the Reserve and their readiness to come to the Nation's aid. Two crossed swords in front of and behind the torch represent the history of the Guard and Reserve forged in combat. Left and right of the torch are five pointed stars and the entire design is surrounded by a laurel wreath symbolizing accomplishment. Around these symbols is a twelve pointed star superimposed over a smaller twelve-pointed star indicating the Guard and Reserve's ability to travel where needed in the United States or the World. In between the points of the larger star are laurel leaves and a berry representing achievement. On the reverse side of the medal in the upper center is a miniature breast plate taken from the Army seal. Above this, the outside edge of the medal is inscribed either: UNITED STATES ARMY RESERVE or ARMY NATIONAL GUARD. Along the bottom edge of the medal are the words: FOR ACHIEVEMENT. The ribbon has a wide center stripe of red flanked by narrow stripes of white and blue, reflecting our national colors and patriotism. The outside gold stripes are symbolic of merit. Additional awards are denoted by bronze and silver oak leaf clusters.

More than 6,000 National Guard troops have been assigned to southwestern border states by the government's Aug. 1 deadline - though only about half of them are on duty along the border, the Guard said Monday. Guard officials said 6,199 troops were somewhere in the four southwestern border states, with many still in training. Col. Mark Allen, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, said 2,000 to 3,000 were on the border, most searching for illegal activity.

The Guard never intended to have 6,000 troops "with their toes on the border," said Col. Mark Allen, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau. The number will fluctuate depending on Border Patrol requests, he said. Bush's plan for curbing illegal immigration, announced in May, called for as many as 6,000 troops on the border. The Guard said they would be there by Aug. 1.

California has assigned more than 1,200 troops, Guard spokesman Maj. Dan Markert said Monday. About half will be at the border looking for illegal activity; the other half will be in support roles ranging from plumbers to office workers. Most of the troops in Arizona are working at Border Patrol stations doing such jobs as communications and administrative support and vehicle repairs, Maj. Paul Aguirre said. Some are assigned to military bases to receive incoming troops.

In New Mexico, troops are helping spot illegal immigrants, building vehicle barriers and working in office positions, Agent Patrick Berry said. Soldiers near El Paso, Texas, were doing video surveillance and tending to horses, Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier said. The Border Patrol credits the Guard with helping arrest 2,296 illegal immigrants, and seizing 14,496 pounds of marijuana and 200 pounds of cocaine, said patrol spokesman Mario Martinez.

Last week, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said that in the 69 days after Bush's announcement the agency registered a 45 percent drop in arrests along the U.S.-Mexican border, compared with the 69 days before. But T.J. Bonner, who heads a union representing Border Patrol agents, credited a severe summer heat wave with the drop. "It's normal for traffic to decline when the heat hits triple digits," said Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

More than two-thirds of the Army National Guard's 34 brigades are not combat ready, mostly because of equipment shortages that will cost up to $21 billion to correct, the top National Guard general said Tuesday. Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum spoke to a group defense reporters after Army officials, analysts and members of Congress disclosed that two-thirds of the active Army's brigades are not ready for war.

The budget won't allow the military to complete the personnel training and equipment repairs and replacement that must be done when units return home after deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, they say. "I am further behind or in an even more dire situation than the active Army, but we both have the same symptoms, I just have a higher fever," Blum said.

One Army official acknowledged Tuesday that while all active Army units serving in the war zone are "100 percent" ready, the situation is not the same for those at home. "In the continental United States, there are plenty of units that are rated at significantly less than a C-1 rating," said Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey. "Backlogs at the depots, budget issues and the timeliness of receiving funds to conduct training are all critical to the Army's ability keep their force trained, ready and at the highest readiness level possible."

Once a taboo subject for the military, often buried deep in classified documents, readiness levels - generally ranked from C-1 (the best) to C-4 (the worst) are now being used as weapons themselves to force money out of Congress and the administration. And while Army officials still won't specify how many units are at which levels, they are being more open about the overall declining state of readiness.

A key element of the problem is that Army units returning from the war have either left tanks, trucks or other equipment behind or are bringing them home damaged. Once back, many soldiers either leave the Army or move to other posts, forcing leaders to train others to replace them. As a result, the unit's ratings drop, said Ey, an Army spokesman.

Last week, several House Democrats said publicly that two-thirds of the Army brigades are rated not ready for combat, and Army officials have not disputed that figure. On Tuesday, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., also declined to be specific, but said the Army is "very much worse off" than it was in late 1999 when the military said two of the 10 Army divisions were ranked at the lowest readiness level, C-4. At the time, two divisions equaled six brigades.

The issue gained political momentum when then-candidate George Bush, during his nominating convention, said the Clinton administration let the U.S. military might erode. Now, as the 2006 elections approach, Democrats are saying the Bush administration is shortchanging the military.

The Senate late Tuesday agreed to an amendment, offered by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to add $7.8 billion for the Army and $5.3 billion for the Marine Corps to the defense spending bill for 2007. The added funding would bring the bill to a total of $467 billion, including $63.1 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stevens said the new $13.1 billion is for equipment repair and replacement, and to meet the requirements for continued combat operations, primarily in Iraq. The Senate planned to continue debate on the bill Wednesday. Stevens said earlier that lawmakers were talking with the Pentagon "to see if they really need that money." Congress members, including Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., discussed the issue at a breakfast meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the Pentagon late last week.

In addition to the National Guard's needs, the Army has said it needs $17 billion this year to meet its equipment and combat needs. Dodd said Tuesday he wants to see the Army's full request met, and he plans to offer an amendment to do that later this week. The Army's readiness score is based on four factors: whether a unit has all the equipment needed; whether the equipment is working; whether it has the number and types of personnel needed; and whether they are properly trained.

The mood was upbeat Saturday as about 300 Oklahoma National Guard troops gathered in Oklahoma City to prepare for their deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border - part of President Bush's plan to combat illegal immigration. Many troops said they serve their country with pride, no matter what the mission. And most who spoke with The Oklahoman said they support the president's increased border control efforts.

Pfc. Justin Edwards, 22, a landscaper from Elgin, said further border control is needed to protect U.S. jobs. "I think it's worthwhile," he said. "I don't have a problem with the (Mexican) people. They're coming over here for job opportunities. But they also take away opportunities from people who are from here."

Troops from three Oklahoma Army National Guard units, based in Tulsa, Enid and Okmulgee, soon will be deployed to watch the border, bring supplies to border-patrolling troops and check the identification cards of those crossing into the United States, Col. Pat Scully said. Some will leave this weekend; others may not go until early September. The Oklahoma troops will stay for two- to three-week stints, Scully said.

The deployments are part of Bush's plan to beef up security along the 1,951-mile border. He asked states to send a total of 6,000 National Guard troops for the effort. The troops will rotate shifts until 6,000 Border Patrol officers have been trained and can take over.

Governors command state-level deployments of the National Guard. Gov. Brad Henry gave his OK for Oklahoma troops to leave for the border, making Oklahoma one of 10 states that had backed the plan by the end of July. Four of those were border states.

Scully has said that Oklahoma has 350 National Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost that many - 300 - will be sent to the U.S.-Mexico border over the next two months. Oklahoma has about 9,700 National Guard members. Critics say the security plan is political maneuvering in an election year. Bush visited the Rio Grande Valley last week to rally support. The visit was the president's first to that area since he was elected, the Houston Chronicle reported.

But on Saturday, as troops filled out paper work, gave blood samples and received pre-mission briefings, talk was of patriotism and duty. "I used to think immigration was kind of unfair," said John Dillon, 49. "But now I think immigration is one of the greatest parts of our country. I'd like to see everybody get a chance to do it - legally." "It's a shame that it's come to this, but if it's necessary to protect our border, then I'm all for it," said Spc. Carol Braxton, 25, who is not being deployed but was checking troop records Saturday.

Braxton said it would make more sense to control the border with police officers. For some, it was just business as usual. "It's just another mission, so I feel fine about it. Just go down there and do our job," said Capt. Brian Laney, 37. "Our leaders ... have decided this to be an important mission, so it's my job to support it."

The nation's governors are closing ranks in opposition to a proposal in Congress that would let the president take control of the National Guard in emergencies without consent of governors. The idea, spurred by the destruction and chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina's landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi, is part of a House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act. It has not yet been agreed to by the Senate.

The measure would remove the currently required consent of governors for the federalization of the Guard, which is shared between the individual states and the federal government. "Federalization just for the sake of federalization makes no sense," said Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat who had rough relations with the Bush administration after the disaster last year. "You don't need federalization to get federal troops. ... Just making quick decisions can make things happen."

Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a Republican, said "a whole bunch of governors" were opposed to the idea after the proposed change was brought up in a private lunch meeting. Some two dozen governors met in Charleston for three days of discussions at the annual summer gathering of the National Governors Association. The association's leaders sent a formal letter of opposition to House leaders last week.

The language in the House measure would let the president take control in case of "a serious natural or manmade disaster, accident, or catastrophe," according to the NGA. "The idea of federalizing yet another function of government in America is a, the wrong direction, and b, counterproductive," Sanford said. "The system has worked quite well, notwithstanding what went wrong with Katrina."

Associated Press Writers Alicia Caldwell in El Paso, Texas, and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report. 6,000-Plus Guard Troops in Border States. The Oklahoman. August 1, 2006.
Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report. Army Guard Units Said Not Combat Ready. The Oklahoman. Wed August 2, 2006.
John David Sutter. Oklahoma Guardsmen to secure U.S. border. The Oklahoman. August 6, 2006.
Associated Press. Governors Object to Bush's Guard Plan. The Oklahoman. August 6, 2006.

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