From the office of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye:
The National Guard is our nation’s oldest component of the Armed Forces and its origin can be found in the U.S. Constitution.
Whether mobilizing to assist the people of Kauai after Hurricane Iwa or Iniki, the Hana community after the 2006 earthquake or the people of West Hawaii after the recent tsunami, the National Guard has been there, providing aid and comfort.
Abroad, the Guard and Reserve have fought in every American war and conflict — most recently, in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In fact, the Guard currently makes up about 48 percent of our nation’s total available military manpower.
The National Guard has earned a seat at the table of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — it is a simple matter of respect and parity.
In these difficult budgetary times, the Guard should be present to discuss and advocate for resources, and to contribute its expertise to our nation’s defense strategy. Debate will continue on the fiscal year 2012 budget in Washington, D.C., after Labor Day.
In Hawaii, there are more than 9,100 members of the Guard and Reserve. As of June, more than 7,233 members were activated, many of them for multiple tours. Additional deployments are slated for Afghanistan, and possibly Iraq. The Army Guard has had 17 deployments.
The Air Guard has flown many missions and the KC-135s, and the security forces have deployed 10 times to Air Expeditionary Wings in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Between 2004 and 2005, 87 percent of the Hawaii Army Guard was mobilized. This is the highest percentage of any state National Guard since 2001.
On Aug. 10, we watched and applauded the homecoming of 140 guardsmen and women from Company B. It was both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Tears of joy and happy family reunions.
Yet, there was a humbling pause at the sight of the black armbands in honor of their brothers, their replacements from the Colorado National Guard and the Kansas Army Reserve, who lost their lives in the downed Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan.
The Guard has continued to step forward each and every time our nation calls. The least we can do is afford it the respect and parity it rightly deserves. Not the leftover equipment. Not the hand-me-downs. And, not relegated to second-class status.
That’s the reason I have insisted on partnerships for the KC-135s, the C-17s and F-22s between the Pacific Air Force Command and the Hawaii Air Guard.
The National Guard has fought side-by-side on the battlefield; it should be seated side-by-side with the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The downed Chinook carried active duty Guard and Reserve — all of their blood spilt in Afghanistan.
The Guard has earned a seat, a voice and a vote at the table of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The position of vice chief at the National Guard Bureau should also be re-established.
Fair is fair.