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11-28-23 WR Detroit WEBSITE
11-28-23 WR Detroit WEBSITE
National Guard Magazine |
February 2024

Conference Preview 2024

A historic American city experiencing a renaissance
hosts the association's big annual gathering

By Rich Arnold

The host city for the 146th General Conference & Exhibition, Aug. 23-26, is not the same place you grew up reading about, or even heard about 10 years ago.

Once America’s fourth largest city and the personification of the American Dream, Detroit suffered with the downturn of the U.S. auto industry. The city lost half its population and had to declare municipal bankruptcy.

But the bad times now appear to be in the rearview mirror.

The Motor City has attracted new investors, innovators and young adventurers, according to National Geographic. Go World Magazine says Detroit has “Comeback Fever” with palpable renewed energy and pride and a revitalized downtown featuring new bars, restaurants, stadiums and other entertainment venues along with remodeled hotels.

The rest of the country is taking notice. Tourism is back. So are conferences and conventions. The NFL plans to hold its popular three-day college player draft in the city in April. It’s expected to draw 300,000 people.

NGAUS will be part of the city‘s resurgence. And the National Guard Association of Michigan says the city and state are eager to show off their resurgent city to Guard officers from across the nation. That enthusiasm has translated to fundraising, which is enabling the host state to offer free or discounted conference registration to currently serving Guard officers.

NGAM has declared 2024 the Year of the Company Grade Officer and is offering free registration to all currently serving lieutenants, captains, warrant officer 1s and chief warrant officer 2s and a guest, according to Deb Salters, the NGAM deputy director.

Additionally, NGAM will charge only $50 to field-grade officers and chief warrant officers 3s, 4s and 5s and a guest. All other attendees will pay the standard $180.

This will be the third time Detroit has hosted the conference. Guard officers gathered in 1989 and way back in 1964, when speakers included U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn., and Michigan Gov. George Romney. (A little trivia: His son, Mitt Romney, spoke at the NGAUS conference in Reno, Nevada, when he ran for president in 2012.)



IN 1701, Anotine de La Mothe Cadillac, along with dozens of Frenchmen and Algonquian Indians, established Fort Pontchartrain de Detroit as a fur-trading outpost on the site of what is today the city’s downtown.

After the Seven Years War, the British military began its occupation of Detroit in the 1760s. Fort Detroit repelled several Indian uprisings, including one led by Indian leader Pontiac, known as Pontiac’s Revolt in 1763. The United States took control after the American Revolution.

Detroit became an incorporated city in 1815 and spent decades leading up to the Civil War as the final U.S. stop on the Underground Railroad that enabled to slaves from the South to escape to freedom.

The city became well known for its manufacturing of cigars and kitchen stoves until Henry Ford built his first car in 1896. It then quickly grew into the center of the American auto industry, so much so that U.S. carmakers, who were all headquartered in the city, collectively became known as simply “Detroit.”

During World War II, automakers shifted their attention to the war effort, producing tanks, trucks, jeeps, bombers and other equipment. Chrysler in Detroit alone built more tanks than all of Germany. Ford assembled bombers. Appropriately, the city became known as “The Arsenal of Democracy,” a term coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Twentieth-century Detroit also produced music. A former autoworker, Berry Gordy Jr., turned a photography studio into a recording studio and founded Tamla Records in 1959, which later became Motown Record Corporation. The label introduced the world to The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Commodores, Gladys Knight and The Jackson 5.

The hard times began in the 1960s. The U.S. auto industry, Detroit’s economic engine, began to sputter due to aging plants, labor/management strife and overseas competition. The once thriving working-class city was no longer thriving. The decline persisted until recently.

While The Big Three — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler (now Stellantis) — continue to be major employers in the Detroit metropolitan area, companies such as Rocket Mortgage, La-Z-Boy and Bosch USA now have headquarters in or around the city.

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation (VISIT DETROIT)


MANY VISITORS WILL ARRIVE VIA AIR at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), which is about 25 minutes from downtown. Transportation will be provided to and from conference hotels (see below) Aug. 22, 23 and 27.

At least eight hotels will accommodate conference attendees. Huntington Place, the city’s convention center, is the 16th largest in the nation and will host many conference events and the industry exhibition. It’s walking distance from some hotels and only a short ride from the rest. Shuttle buses will provide transportation from the official hotels to all conference events.

Social events get underway Aug. 23 with the Adjutants General Reception at the Grosse Point War Memorial and the Company Grade, Warrant Officer and Field Grade Officer mixers on Belle Isle in the Detroit River separating the United States and Canada.

The mixers figure to be a big draw. The Michigan Guard is partnering with the U.S. Virgin Islands Guard to give attendees a “taste” of Caribbean Carnival, according to retired Col. Beresford Edwards, the executive director of the Virgin Islands National Guard Association.

Offerings will include a short parade featuring Calypso music by the Virgin Islands Guard’s 73rd Army Band and costumed Moko Jumbies — the Caribbean’s unique stilt walkers. There will also be a market and Carnival-style food and drink.

The event is a product of the training relationship between Michigan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Michigan Guardsmen will be the first to deploy to help the next time a hurricane hits the U.S. territory in the Caribbean.

This year’s Fun Run will be a 5K Urban-Athlon Run. It’s scheduled for the morning of Aug. 24 on Dequindre Cut, a recreational path that was developed in place of the tracks of an old railroad line. Participants will have to maneuver around inflatables and other obstacles during the event.

Later that morning, the annual area meetings and caucuses begin at 9 a.m. The tradeshow ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 10 a.m., followed by free brunch for all on the tradeshow floor. Officer professional development for company-grade officers is also scheduled for before the First Business/Professional Development Session begins at 12:30 p.m.

As always, key lawmakers and defense leaders will appear. Additionally, this is a presidential election year, and the association will invite the Democratic and Republican nominees for commander in chief to speak. NGAUS has hosted at least one presidential candidate in every election year since 1992.

The all-attendees Governor’s Reception evening is set for the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in nearby Dearborn. It’s one of the area’s top attractions. The New York Times calls it “one of the world’s coolest museums.”

The collection includes the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theatre, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright Brothers bicycle shop, the Rosa Parks bus and many other historical and cultural exhibits. It’s the nation’s largest indoor–outdoor museum complex and is visited by more than 1.7 million people a year.

This year’s Spouses Luncheon is set for the Detroit Institute of the Arts. The gallery was the first public museum in the United States to obtain a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. In 1922, the museum purchased Self Portrait, which is still part of its permanent display, for $4,200.

The annual States Dinner will conclude the conference Aug. 26 in the convention center’s Grand River Ballroom. It returns to its traditional day this year. After-dinner entertainment plans are still in the works.

Detroit-style pizza (VISIT DETROIT)


PLAN TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT, because Canada is only a short drive away. You can pick up a taxi or ride-sharing service to take you through the tunnel underneath the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario. It’s actually south of the city.

In Detroit, the free People Mover will take you around the downtown area from Huntington Place all through Greektown, Bricktown and the nearby hotels. Get to a station and just miss the People Mover? Stick around. It will only be a five-minute wait for the next one.

A popular daytime destination is the RiverWalk along the Detroit River. Part of the greater transformation of the Detroit riverfront, the 3.5-mile walkway is the perfect place to enjoy some fresh air and get some exercise in the Motor City. Along the way, there are several parks, fishing piers, picnic areas and even a carousel.

Elsewhere in the city, there’s Eastern Market, the largest outdoor farmer’s market in the nation. It’s open on Tuesdays and weekends. For music lovers, the Motown Museum is the place where Hitsville USA got its start.

For sightseers, there’s the Guardian and Fisher buildings, which are two Art Deco high-rise structures built in the 1920s. Also worth a look is the Spirit of Detroit, a large bronze statue located at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Woodward Avenue. It’s intended to represent hope, progress and the spirit of man. Detroit Lions fans covered the statue with a very large Lions jersey at the start of the NFL playoffs.

At meal times, the Dime Store is one of the best brunch spots in the city. And Astoria Pastry Shop is in Greektown and features cannolis and baklava, among other goodies. There are a lot of Coney Island hot dog restaurants throughout the city, and of course, the city is known for its Detroit-style pizza (think rectangular, thick pan pizza with the sauce on the top).

Detroit Beer Co. is a hopping brewpub (pun intended!), and make sure to try some of Michigan’s most popular beers: Bell’s and Founders. And Woodward Avenue and Parker’s Alley showcase some top retail destinations for shoppers.

Popular day trips include the state capital of Lansing and the Michigan History Center. For sports lovers, the University of Michigan is in Ann Arbor, about 45 minutes away. It’s home to The Big House, the largest stadium in the United States, which has a capacity of more than 107,000. It’s where the newly crowned college football champs play.

Be sure to come early or stick around after the conference as room rates at the conference hotels will be extended to three days before and after to encourage longer stays. Come see what everyone is talking about in one of the nation’s best comeback stories.

For more about Detroit, visit www.visitdetroit.com. The latest conference details will be posted at www.ngaus.org.

Rich Arnold works in the NGAUS Communications Department. He can be reached at [email protected].



NGAUS members should register through their state or territory Guard associations. Exhibitors and industry representatives must register at www.ngaus.org/conference. Regular conference registration is $180; however, the fee will be free or discounted this year for many currently serving Guard officers. Registration covers admission to all the sessions, the exhibition, the Governor’s Reception, all mixers and the States Dinner. Most other activities are extra.


Attendees should use the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW). It provides easy access to the city, only a few minutes away.


A shuttle will be provided to and from the airport on the main travel days, Aug. 21, 22 and 27.


● Westin Book Cadillac, 1114 Washington Blvd.
● Cambria, 600 W. Lafayette Blvd.
● Courtyard Marriott, 333 E. Jefferson Ave.
● DoubleTree, 525 W. Lafayette Blvd.
● Fort Pontchartrain, 2 Washington Blvd.
● Hollywood Casino, 1211 Chrysler Drive.
● Indigo, 1020 Washington Blvd.
● Renaissance Center Marriott, 400 Renaissance Drive W.

State and territory Guard associations will have specific hotel assignments. NGAUS will register distinguished guests.

Exhibit Booth Sales

Prospective exhibitors should contact Dawn-Marie Copin, Tradeshow Logic sales account manager, at (770) 432-8410, ext. 159 or via email at [email protected]. A prospectus and registration forms are available at www.ngaus.org/conference under the “Exhibitors” section of the conference page.

Learn More

Find out more about Detroit at www.visitdetroit.com. Visit www.ngaus.org/conference for the latest conference details. National Guard and Washington Report, the association’s weekly e-newsletter, will also provide updates. Also, follow us on social media, including X (formerly Twitter) at hashtag: #NGAUS2024. Additionally, many state and territory association websites will post their specific plans. The NGAUS conference app will be available this summer.