Thursday, September 08, 2005

Not so hard for this Guardsman to believe

I am proud to post this, my brother's thoughts on the duties, the training, and the life of a National Guardsman:
People shooting at the rescuers? Yeah this has been a known aspect of the human condition at least back to when I was trained. I was in the National Guard in the late 70’s and early 80’s and part of our mission as told to us in training would be to protect the firemen during the act of putting out the fire.. No we didn’t get a fire engine and surround it for practice; we were simply told to be prepared for this mission.

The problem with being a guardsman in these instances is the unresolved conflicts that arise from training and situation. We were trained as soldiers, don’t shoot
civilians… you are soldiers, don’t shoot civilians… and so on went the training. If we are not to shoot while we have been trained as members of the Army that that is our primary tool in obtaining our goals, then what are our other tools to use in such a situation? Enter the MP’s, trained in how to posses a weapon and yet how to be civil. 100% of MP units are Guard and Reserve units I am told. Course they were what was missing in theater in the early days of Iraq and why there is a shortage of MP units in the states today.

I remember the relief in conflict at not being armed myself as I went into a crowd control situation, my weapon had a trigger and it was the soldier holding the weapon. I was not trained in restraint I was trained to follow clear orders and to respond to aggression. At times when the orders would be less than clear, a daily occurrence, and aggression prevalent, the animal condition within us guardsmen may prevail. (I am speaking from the late 70’s when the memory of Kent State was still very fresh) When trained, it takes but a nudge to set off a series of mechanical actions seen later as pulling the trigger. Add to this the dehumanizing techniques that effect both sides, the donning of gas masks (putting on “the bug” as you looked like a giant insect) and the display of strength when entering the field. (stomping and weapons held high) Judgment was further reduced from within the bug, only training would prevail, you carry a weapon because it has a trigger. Yeah, not so hard to believe that someone would take a shot at the rescuers.

The raw deal for Guard and Reserves: Yeah, we served and serve. Yes you can count on us to do our best. The deal though was that in exchange for signing up for the whole 6 years was that the federal government was to use us wisely and at absolute need, and the state government could use us at any time the situation demanded more resource then was normally on hand. We were your first line of defense in natural disasters, and yes the first line of defense in aggression. We were told that we would probably end up as fodder in a true theater, but that we could buy the 6-9 months needed to further mobilize the regular services. When we signed up for 6 years, being used in place of the regular services wasn’t part of the deal, we were the Guard, the home force you could count on to get your backs and yes fight from the front as needed.

I am proud to see my brothers and sisters serving in the south and overseas. I am told that my old unit, the 103rd Medical Battalion out of Lancaster PA has been in theater in the Gulf since the first days. This was told to me by a Guardsman returning that I met in Atlanta airport, he was a bit distracted or dazed and was definitely preoccupied with something as he told me , so I don’t know how accurate the information is. I told my wife that if this is true that my extended family was there. She didn’t understand… her reply was that I didn’t even know those people.

Yes I do.

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