By Maj. Gen. Janson "Durr" Boyles
Every National Guard officer should attend a NGAUS conference at least once. Chances are, after your first, you’ll want to return again and again.
I say this more as a fellow Guard officer than as the NGAUS chairman of the board.
In fact, the 145th General Conference & Exhibition, Aug. 18-21 in Reno, Nevada, will only be my second as a board member, but I’ve been attending the conference for years.
The NGAUS conference is the most important event of the year for Guard officers — O–1 through O–10.
For those of you who have never attended, it’s where the 54 becomes one. Together, we set a unified legislative agenda, grow professionally and enjoy some camaraderie.
Of course, we do arrive and sit together as state delegations. We’ll also share some state pride. But our common passion for our unique component in the profession of arms crosses state lines.
I’ve long used the conference to network with my peers from around the country. I can communicate with them via phone or email, but it’s always better in person.
We talk Army and Air Force. We share information. We also talk baseball and family. The conference is an environment where we can let our hair down a bit and get to know each other better.
It’s the same with other ranks. Company-grade officers in our delegation always leave the conference with their iPhones full of Guard contacts nationwide. They also get rare exposure to Guard senior leaders in the special CGO officer professional development program.
The conference’s formal all-ranks professional development is also second to none. Where else can you ask questions of Pentagon officials? Last year, we hosted the Army chief of staff, the Air Force chief of staff, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and the Army G-2, the service’s senior intelligence officer who happened to be an expert on Russia.
Expect more of the same in Reno. Many of the speakers will address this year’s theme: America’s National Guard: A Local Force with Global Reach. It’s a great description of our organization in the year we mark the 30th anniversary of the State Partnership Program.
The exhibition is also a big part of the proceedings. That’s why NGAUS includes it in the formal name of the event. We’ll have more than 300 companies on the tradeshow floor. It’s an opportunity for you to not only see and hear what our industry partners are working on but to also ask questions.
One of the reasons they exhibit is to get feedback from you: those who use their products and services.
I also like going to new locations every year. Neither my civilian nor military career has taken me to the West Coast very often, so I am looking forward to seeing and experiencing northern Nevada. I know it’s a beautiful part of the country.
We’ll have some additions to the program in Reno that I’m also looking forward to seeing. One is the Minuteman Speaker Series on the tradeshow floor. It will feature short presentations by NGB and industry on modernization.
There will also be a one-hour Spouses Seminar on Aug. 20 before the traditional Spouses Luncheon. Kelly Hokanson, the wife of Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the NGB chief, and Margo Berry, the wife of Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, the adjutant general of Nevada, will host the event, which will focus on family issues.
The host state has also made a couple of changes in the traditional order of social events. The States Dinner, which traditionally concludes the event, will be after the First Business/Professional Development Session. The final event will be the Governor’s Farewell, which will feature a private concert by country-music star Josh Turner.
The additions and changes are part of an effort to enhance what’s already a great event.
I hope to see you there. Let us know what you think.
The author is the NGAUS chairman of the board. He can be reached via [email protected].
You can still register for the conference through your state or territory association. Locate your state or territory association's contact information at the NGAUS State Association Directory. Exhibiting and non-exhibiting industry should register here.