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May 18, 1996

People in this area take great pride in the national guard. We have always supported our local unit, whether it was a Field Artillery battery, an Infantry company, a headquarters outfit or a regimental band. All those units have been based at the Perry armory at one time or another and we still look upon the guard as an extension of ourselves, a response to our country's call to be responsible citizens. Many of the sons and daughters of Noble county have been staunch members of the national guard and the Army, Navy and Air Force reserves and still more have been in full-time military service, both in peace time and during times of grave emergencies. We sent them reluctantly perhaps, but always willingly, to defend the freedoms we enjoy as, citizens of the United States of America.

So perhaps it seems a trifle odd to us that the national guard and the reserves have to worry about enlisting new recruits and training them adequately to achieve the greatest military proficiency. One of their chief allies in this endeavor is an organization known as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, or ESGR This group of mostly civilians exists to explain and define the role of the guard and reserves and to stress the need for time off from civilian occupations for training. Recently I was privileged to join a group of some 40 Oklahoma business and professional people on a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend briefings at the Pentagon, that impressive and gigantic building that serves as the nerve center of our nation's military might. The purpose was to stress the importance of the guard and reserves as key elements of the U.S. defense posture and to sketch a portion of the world's most obvious potential trouble spots.

We have always understood that point of view in this area, but we also understand why we must be reminded of it from time to time.

With the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in recent years, there has been a tendency to relax our nation's defenses and enjoy at least an interlude of eased international tensions including the deliberate dismantling of portions of our military structure. Unfortunately, we still cannot afford to do that completely, and the word “afford” is the right one. It costs dearly to be safe in a world where freedom and liberty are maintained by tenuous and fragile ties. There are new enemies out there with covetous eyes on this country. Some emerging powers are quietly going about the business of accumulating muscle which they can use to bludgeon anything or anyone who gets in their way.

In the overall scheme of today's strategy, the national guard and reserves play an even greater part than heretofore. Each branch of the full-time service is now all-volunteer and many reductions in force have been effected for budgetary reasons. In Oklahoma we held our breath while the downsizing process was going full tilt, praying that Tinker Field, Fort Sill, Vance Air Force base and other posts in this state would be spared. Thankfully, they were, although many communities in other states have been devastated by the loss of military components.

Because of cutbacks in the full-time military branches, the national guard and reserves have been assigned more important responsibilities. Training and equipment have been greatly upgraded. At one time it was traditional that the national guard and reserves received only weapons and other gear that was being discarded by the full-time military branches. No more. Guardsmen and reservists now have the same armaments and material as that used by their full-time brothers and sisters in arms. Their training also parallels that of the professionals. So, if the guard and reserves are called up in a time of national crisis they can move in shoulder to shoulder with the full-time military and nothing will be lost because of inadequate training with outmoded weapons.

Training comes in the form of weekends on duty at the armory or at sites where special points can be emphasized, and at summer camp where broad-scale tactics are employed. Attendance and participation in those events are absolutely necessary if our reserve strength is to be adequately maintained, and our nation's security thereby assured. Employers have a special role in all this, of course, and that was another point made clear by the trip to Washington. The cooperation of employers in allowing reservists and guardsmen time off for training is essential, and we owe the owners of businesses and industries a vote of thanks for their willingness to make this possible.

Yes, we who live in this area do have a tradition of pride in the national guard and reserves and we should be pleased that their strategic roles have been upgraded. Because of them, we enjoy a freedom from fear to a degree that would not otherwise be possible. Thank goodness we do have a strong military reserve to help guard this country. They deserve our continued support in every way.