The 143rd General Conference & Exhibition was called to order mid-day Saturday, officially opening the nation’s largest gathering of current and retired National Guard officers and their supporters.
Retired Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the NGAUS chairman, led off the event. McGuire, who ended his military career as adjutant general of Arizona when he retired earlier this year, is slated to be replaced following elections during the four-day event, which began Friday with a golf tournament, receptions and mixers.
In addition to selecting new officers, the event also serves as professional development for Guard officers and is an opportunity for members to set the future legislative agenda for the association, which serves as the National Guard’s voice on Capitol Hill.
More than 3,500 current and retired Guardsmen, their families other supporters are attending the event at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Hosting the conference was no easy task. NGAUS moved the event from North Carolina in mid-April due to concerns with being able to hold an in-person event amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
McGuire thanked the Nevada National Guard Association, state Guard leaders and others for facilitating the move and ensuring the conference was held without issue.
“We’re glad to get together and glad to have everyone here,” he said. “This is the entertainment capital of the world. Thank you to Nevada for flexing very quickly.”
As always, the conference opened with the posting of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and a prayer. In true Vegas fashion, however, a review followed that featured Elvis and Michael Jackson impersonators.
Maj. Gen. Ondra L. Berry, the adjutant general of Nevada, welcomed NGAUS to the state, but also issued a challenge.
“I challenge you to come here with an attitude of taking back a toolbox of information where you can be a value add to your state, territory or district and better tell the National Guard story,” Berry said. “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it and those who don’t study what the National Guard has been doing for this country for over 300 years and specifically over the last 18 months don’t know the history that’s being made every day by the National Guard.’
“You can’t have the greatest country in the world without a great National Guard,” he added. “From pandemics to polarization to protests, from homeland to warzones… the National Guard has elevated ‘Always Ready, Always There.’”
Berry said NGAUS attendees must be ready to pick a fight to ensure Guardsmen are cared for, receive the benefits they deserve and have the right and modern equipment that ensures they are ready to fight the nation’s wars, protect the homeland and have strong partnerships.
“There is no time left to wake the sheep,” Berry said. “It’s time to wake the other lions. Go ahead and roar while you’re here and get it done.”