Correction Required - By Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett (Ret.)

NATIONAL GUARD
May 2016
Washington Update

By Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett
(read online digital version)

When the National Commission on the Future of the Army released its report in January, NGAUS was pleased that it recommended greater use of the Army National Guard.

And during the press conference that accompanied the release, several mentions were made of 12304(b), a mobilization authority created in the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that makes it easier for the Pentagon to utilize the Guard and Reserve.

Under 12304(b), service secretaries can call up units in support of combatant commands. It’s not a presidential call-up, as other authorities are. But it’s only available for preplanned missions, such as duty in Kosovo or the Sinai, which were examples mentioned in the commission’s report. Combat and national emergencies are not included.

Like the commissioners, we think this is an excellent way to put the Guard in the game. Both the Air and Army Guard can be called up involuntarily under this authority for up to 365 days if notice is given two years in advance.

There is, of course, a numerical version of alphabet soup under Title 10 for mobilizing the Guard. For example, 12301(a) is full mobilization and 12302 is partial mobilization. And 12304(a) addresses call-ups of up to 120 days for emergencies.

This new authority seems like a good way for combatant commands to take advantage of the capabilities of our citizen-soldiers and airmen without the bureaucracy and red tape present in other mobilization authorities. But there is a twist that tarnishes its shine. Namely, the men and women answering the call don’t qualify for many of the benefits they receive under those other authorizations.

Their service under 12304(b) does not qualify them for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. They do not receive pre- and post-mobilization TRICARE. And their service does not count toward early receipt of retirement payments.

This is simply not right. Those on these preplanned missions are doing the same work they do in other circumstances, but are not getting the same benefits. Others on the same mission may receive those benefits when there is no difference in the duties they perform.

No doubt, 12304(b) is a plus for the combatant commanders and the Pentagon, who have easier access to the troops they need. But those troops pay a price by not receiving the rewards they would serving on similar or identical missions under a different authority.

Probably, the average airman or soldier is not aware of this when preparing to answer the call. They are right to presume they’ll receive the same education, health and other benefits as they have on other mobilizations.

Why would they think otherwise? Their preparation is the same. The work they perform is the same. The hardship of being away from family members and friends and the disruption to their civilian lives are the same.

The only thing different is the reimbursement beyond the paycheck.

Again, this is simply not right.

For now, leadership in armories and at bases around the country must make sure soldiers and airmen are aware of this oversight—and that’s what it probably was, an oversight. I doubt Congress purposely shortchanged Guardsmen and Reservists while creating this new authority.

NGAUS is addressing this issue with Congress and the Pentagon. I’m glad to see the Defense Department has already signed on to including the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit with 12304(b) service.

We want the services to use this new mobilization authority. It keeps this operational Guard operational.

But we want to protect the benefits Guardsmen have earned by taking on missions of many types and performing them at or beyond the standard the nation expects.

In return, they deserve the benefits they’ve earned.

The author is the NGAUS president.