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National Guard and Reserve

Serving in the National Guard & Reserve

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

Full disclosure: I ‘grew up’ in the Reserve Component of the US Armed Forces. The Missouri National Guard, to be specific. It’s what helped shape me into who I am today and had a bearing on how I approached the various positions I held in the Army. And no surprise, it will be the lens through which I write the rest of this post. Consider me a fan of the National Guard and Reserve…

I’m not writing this because there’s a military draft on its way, or that we’re getting ready for an extended conflict in the Middle East…no, I’m writing on this particular subject because the reserve forces of these United States of America are so vital to our national defense that they deserve some attention every now and again.

What kind of forces are we talking about? It’s what some of us refer to as the Seven Seals: Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve. Some of these part-time forces have been around for quite a while (the oldest is the National Guard, closing in on 400 years), and armories have been a hub in many of our communities for decades. And while many of us are familiar with the similarities, I talk with folks all the time who are surprised when they discover the differences between those components of our military reserve.

Some of those differences are branch-specific; with Army forces, both Guard Soldiers and Army Reserve Soldiers train one weekend per month and two weeks every summer (but there may be opportunities to go on orders for extended periods). Both National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers can be called into full-time service to support Army missions (and not just for combat deployments). The primary distinction, though, is that National Guard Soldiers serve a dual mission…either a State’s Governor or the President of the United States can call up the National Guard, for state emergency duty or a federal mobilization. That’s just what the Army has to offer for potential Citizen-Soldiers…the other branches of service have their own ways of doing business, and their own opportunities. Just know that today, serving in the Guard & Reserve is so much more than one weekend a month & 2 weeks in the summer.

Way back in the mid-1980s, when I joined the local National Guard unit while I was going to college, it was a different fighting force than it is today. While we were proud of our ability to shoot, move, and communicate (yes, I was in a Field Artillery unit), at the local armory it seemed more about the camaraderie and sense of belonging than anything else. But that was pre-Desert Storm, and pre-Global War of Terror. During that decade after the first Gulf War, leading up to 9/11, it felt like our reserve forces were changing…more modern equipment for many of our units, more inclusion by our active duty counterparts. Less about being “in the rear with the gear,” if we were even called up at all. Today, many of our brothers and sisters in the National Guard & Reserve, like their counterparts on active duty, have multiple deployments under their belt while also playing a pivotal role in their local community.

Many of the challenges that traditional members of the reserve component face revolve around their civilian employment…either juggling their co-careers (military service and a civilian occupation) or finding that good civilian job in the first place. I’ve spoken with too many job-seekers over the last decade who feel they’ve dropped out of consideration for an open job when that employer finds out they serve in the Guard or Reserve. I’d like to think that it’s a rare occurrence, not just because it’s less than legal, but because it’s a bad business decision. Folks with military experience bring so much more to an employer’s workforce than those without; I always argue that it more than makes up for the time they may have to spend away on training or on a deployment.

Fortunately, for those that have a civilian job and get called away to serve, there’s USERRA, which is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (esgr.mil/USERRA/What-is-USERRA). USERRA is a Federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed Service members and their civilian employers. USERRA “protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to perform service in the uniformed Services, to include certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service.”

USERRA’s protections are intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserve, National Guard, or other uniformed Services: (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. Just as important, the law is intended to encourage non-career uniformed service so the United States can enjoy the protection of those Services, staffed by qualified people, while maintaining a balance with the needs of private and public employers who also depend on these same individuals. For more information on this Act and the agency that is its biggest cheerleader, check out Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), at esgr.mil. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 “to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.”

I’m not a recruiter – never have been – but I maintain that it’s a great way to serve, if you’re qualified. And while, certainly, there are challenges with serving and maintaining a co-career in the Guard & Reserve, there are benefits, too. You might be eligible for G.I. Bill benefits, state-level tuition assistance to help pay for college, VA home loans to buy a house, and even health insurance. If you’ve separated from the Service & miss your time in uniform or know someone else that wants to serve, reach out to the local recruiter & see what’s on the table. With some of the Services, you’ll find over 100 different jobs you might be eligible for, from high-tech jobs to practical trade skills or vocations where you get to blow stuff up.

I thought I’d include some quick links here, just in case you want to make a connection (yes, a Military Connection). Keep in mind that these links may change, or the links might stay the same but the options for joining might be different based on the needs of that particular Service. Visit the Army National Guard at https://www.nationalguard.com/; the Air National Guard at https://www.goang.com/; the Army Reserve at https://www.goarmy.com/reserve.html; the Coast Guard Reserve at https://www.gocoastguard.com/reserve-careers; the Navy Reserve at https://www.navy.com/forward; the Marine Corps Reserve at https://www.marforres.marines.mil/; and the Air Force Reserve at https://afreserve.com/.

So, when you come across that ‘weekend warrior’ in your local community, I encourage you to see beyond the uniform. Sure, you can thank her or him for their service, or show your appreciation in other ways; but I hope you consider more consciously the challenges they face, even in times of peace and no deployments. Consider how they juggle the co-careers of military service and a civilian occupation, or how they’ll leave it all behind to deploy when necessary. And if you weren’t already, I hope you’re now a fan of the National Guard and Reserve, too.

Until next time…

Army National Guard Pilot Reaches Lofty Heights

Army National Guard Pilot Reaches Lofty Heights

Army National Guard Pilot Reaches Lofty Heights

By Debbie Gregory

Ever since she was a little girl in Mexico, Army 2nd Lt. Liliana Chavez knew she wanted to fly. In high school, she joined the Junior ROTC, and her path was set.

The 24-year-old aeromedical evacuation officer achieved that lofty goal, flying UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72A Lakota helicopters for the Texas Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment.

At the University of Texas Pan-American, Chavez joined the ROTC program and went up for the aviation board. She was chosen, and attended the grueling 21-day survival, evasion, resistance and escape training (SERE) that all pilots and Special Forces members must pass.

The philosophy behind SERE is that every member of an aircrew must be able to survive on their own in any environment under any condition should their aircraft go down. SERE specialists teach Airmen everything they need to know to do just that. From building shelters and procuring water to land navigation and evasion techniques, these highly trained experts impart the skills needed for Airmen to survive on their own and evade the enemy until they can be rescued and brought home.

“It was tough, but I always had a positive attitude,” she said. “I tried to sing and make something positive out of a crappy situation.”

“I came here as a permanent resident,” Chavez said. “My dad worked his butt off to get us all here the correct, legal way.”

Her moral compass and work ethic are guided by her father’s example.

“I always stop to sit down and think, ‘Would this make my dad proud?'” Chavez said.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Chavez has plans to go back to school for earth and coastal sciences, diving and studying earth forms. “I want to be an astronaut too, one day” Chavez said.

Chavez’s message to the young girls who hope to emulate her?

“I’d tell them don’t limit yourself. The sky is actually not the limit — you can be an astronaut if you want to.”

Serial Fraudster Arrested for Stolen Valor- Again!

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By Debbie Gregory.

You would have thought that spending a few years in federal prison sentence for impersonating military personnel would have taught Kyle Barwan a lesson. But apparently, he’s a slow learner.

Already wanted in Florida on several “stolen valor” charges, 27-year-old Barwan was arrested in Ayer, Massachusetts, after a roommate followed up on another one of Barwan’s suspicious tales.

Barwan, formerly of Polk County, Florida, had relocated to Ayer and was living with a roommate.

Suspicious of Barwan’s claims, the roommate turned amateur detective and found that Barwan had not only been arrested several times for stolen valor, but also had a nationwide warrant out for his arrest.

On September 29th, Barwan was again arrested and held without bail. He will be returned to Florida sometime in this month.

Barwan was previously arrested in 2010 in Vincennes, Indiana and charged with impersonating an officer and possession of cocaine. He was convicted of both offenses and sentenced to 18 months.

Then, in 2012, he was arrested again in Kentucky for impersonating an Army Chief Warrant Officer with intent to defraud. He was sentenced to serve 16 months in prison, followed by one year of probation.

Barwan’s run-in with the law in Florida occurred in January, when he told a woman on the online dating service “Plenty of Fish” that he was a military officer who had served five years in Afghanistan and England, claiming he had been shot in the face while storming a building.

Barwan allegedly asked the victim for money. She became suspicious, and went to the police.

When news broke of his arrest was released, several more victims came forward.

Barwan was enlisted in the Army National Guard of Kentucky in 2007, but was discharged in 2008 in less than 180 days for failing to meet medical procurement standards.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Army National Guard Training Changes

guard class

By Debbie Gregory.

Army National Guard Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy is looking at flexibility and specialized training to create more career opportunities and shorter deployments for National Guard soldiers.

Guard members will continue to serve 39 days a year — one weekend each month and a 15-day training exercise.

Guard Soldiers respond when disaster strikes at home and also answer the call when the country needs them, all over the globe. Theirs is a unique dual mission–serving both community and country.

Beginning in 2018, brigade combat teams will have four rotations to the combat training centers at Fort Irwin and Fort Polk annually.

The 2018 budget request seeks to add 7,000 new Guardsmen to the force.  The focus will now shift to more specialized deployments, that is, sending units with mission-specific skills to carry out operations. As a result, he believes soldiers will benefit in the form of more flexibility.

With that said, the new system and increased training commitment could end up costing Guardsmen more time away from their day-to-day lives, as well as their families. But the hope is that increased flexibility will make up for it.

Kadavy is proud of the men and women under his command and what they have accomplished after more than a decade of war. And with this new plan, which Kadavy calls “Army National Guard 4.0,” he believes he will be shaping the National Guard for the 21st century, the one that will meet the future requirements and demands of the nation.

“We had to take some good hard looks at what we would have to do if we received a demand to mobilize units quickly to a contingency anywhere around the world, say in 15, 20, 30, or 60 days and what type of readiness would we use if we had to achieve that,” Kadavy said. “That’s different than what we were doing over the last 15 years of war.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Reserve Component Forces Deserve Greater Job Protections

Soldiers from the Wisconsin and Utah Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve sing the Army song after donning the historic "Old Abe" patch ceremony at 101st Division Headquarters, at Fort Campbell, Ky., June 16, 2015. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) became the first division headquarters to convert to a multi-component unit division headquarters. The purpose of multi-component unit division headquarters is to fully integrate Reserve and National Guard Soldiers into the modification table of organization and equipment.

By Debbie Gregory.

Since the founding of our Republic, the citizen soldier has been ready, on-call to leave home and protect our nation. Although the United States has the greatest standing military force in the world today, that force cannot accomplish its mission of protecting liberty without the support and augmentation of our Reserve Component (RC) whether from the Army or Air National Guard or from the Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, or Coast Guard Reserve.

These Guard and Reserve troops comprise about half of our fighting forces. When citizen soldiers leave their families and civilian employment to protect our liberty, we have an obligation to them to protect their legal rights.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, also known as USERRA, is a Federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed servicemembers and their civilian employers. It ensures that the RC are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service.

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) informs and educates servicemembers and their civilian employers regarding their rights and responsibilities governed by USERRA. ESGR does not enforce USERRA, but serves as a neutral, free resource for employers and servicemembers.

It is up to Congress to update USERRA to reflect the increased training commitments of today’s force, and consider additional tax benefits such as deductions for hiring reservists and tax exemptions for “differential pay.”

Although USERRA compliance is the law, these efforts to reward employers who go above and beyond current requirements would be of great benefit to our RC. If you are an employer and would like to sign a statement of support, please contact  Debbie Gregory at [email protected] , and in my capacity as Director of Employer Engagement, for California ESGR, I will be happy to arrange a signing ceremony.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Guard Your Mind and Body during PTSD Awareness Month

guard your health

June is PTSD Awareness Month, a great opportunity to raise public awareness about PTSD, a behavioral health concern that impacts the lives of many Americans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects:

  • 11 to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans
  • 12 percent of Gulf War Veterans and
  • Approximately 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans

For those affected by a behavioral health concern, everyday tasks can sometimes feel overwhelming, but exercise can help. Incorporating regular physical activity can alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression by improving behavioral health, boosting moods, and improving sleep quality.

No matter your age or fitness level, regular exercise can positively impact both your mind and body. Working out releases endorphins, those “feel-good” chemicals that trigger feelings of happiness. Walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and other forms of exercise can help those with PTSD by providing a distraction from painful memories and reducing physical tension.

Regular exercise can also provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, helping you gain confidence as you achieve your fitness goals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults get 150 minutes of exercise each week, which is just a little more than 20 minutes a day.

There are a number of ways to achieve 20 minutes of daily exercise:

  • Take a brisk walk with friends or family members
  • Squeeze in a short online workout video, like Guard Your Health’s free #WarriorReady workouts
  • Go for a jog around the neighborhood

When taking control of your health, find a routine that includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sound sleep patterns. Exercise can also be a valuable addition to a behavioral health treatment plan with guidance from a healthcare provider.

Remember, if you are struggling with a behavioral health concern, you are not alone. If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is only a phone call or text away. Dial the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1), or send a text message to 838255 for immediate help.

Guard Your Health is a health and medical readiness campaign for Army National Guard Soldiers and their families sponsored by the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon’s Office. Guard Your Health provides Army National Guard Soldiers with the information, motivation, and support to overcome challenges and make healthy decisions for themselves, their families, and their units. To learn more about improving your health, visit the Guard Your Health website, like “Guard Your Health” on Facebook, and follow @ARNGHealth on Twitter. For more tips to max your APFT and stay mission ready, subscribe to FitText, Guard Your Health’s text message program, by texting FIT to 703-997-6747.

Citation Guide

Breene, Sophia. “13 Unexpected Benefits of Exercise.” Greatist, 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 May 2016.

“Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms.” Depression (Major Depressive Disorder). Mayo Clinic. Web. 19 May 2016.

“How Common Is PTSD?” PTSD: National Center for PTSD. US Department of Veterans Affairs. Web. 25 May 2016.

“How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?” Physical Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 June 2015. Web. 20 May 2016.

Khazan, Olga. “For Depression, Prescribing Exercise Before Medication.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 May 2016.

“Mental Health By the Numbers.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Web. 18 May 2016.

“Physical Fitness Training Year-Round Boosts Resilience.” Real Warriors. Web. 18 May 2016.

Weir, Kirsten. “The Exercise Effect.” American Psychological Association. Web. 20 May 2016. December 2011, Vol 42, No. 11.

Army Troop Levels Lowest Since WWII

armytroop

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is juggling global operations as it continues to deal with the lowest troop levels since before World War II.

In March, the Army has had approximately 2,600 soldiers depart active service without being replaced, leaving the end strength at 479,172 soldiers.  The Army’s reserve forces total 548,024 soldiers, (348,463 soldiers in the Army National Guard and 199,561 with the Army Reserve) for a total force of 1,027,196 soldiers.

The number of women serving on active duty April 1 stood at 69,171, a total that includes 15,654 officers, 52,698 enlisted soldiers and 819 West Point cadets.

The female population of the Regular Army was reduced by 340 members in March.

During the past year, the size of the active force has been reduced by 16,548 soldiers.

The Army is on track to achieve, or exceed, the budgeted end-strength of 475,000 soldiers by the end of September.

The drawdown is expected to continue for two additional years, with an end-strength goal 460,000 soldiers in 2017, and 450,000 in 2018.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-NY has introduced legislation to stop ongoing drawdowns for the Army and Marine Corps, potentially adding 55,000 soldiers back into Army plans. He argued the world is less safe than it was when the Obama administration announced the troop cuts, pointing to threats from the Islamic State group, Russia, China and North Korea.

The Army estimated its reductions of about 40,000 troops would save $7 billion over four years, officials said when they were announced in July. The reduced troop levels were attributed to mandatory spending caps under the 2011 Budget Control Act.

In a major war overseas, at 980,000 soldiers, the Army would not have enough troops to provide them with “dwell time,” the rotation home which has been common in recent conflicts.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Go Guard! – Guard Duo Celebrate Historic Win

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By Debbie Gregory.

For the first time in the competition’s 33 year history, a National Guard team has won the Army’s Best Ranger.

After coming in second place two years in a row, Capt. Robert Killian and his partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, were named the winners of the 2016 Best Ranger Competition.

The grueling competition, held each spring at Fort Benning, is open to soldiers who have already completed Ranger School, a challenging three-month infantry training course.

Following a 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, Capt. Killian of the Colorado Army National Guard and Staff Sgt. Friedlein of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard earned their place in Ranger history. All of the competitors are put through events that test their physical conditioning, Ranger skills and team strategies.

A five-time competitor of the event, Killian said, “It’s a big thing for the Guard and I’m humbled and honored to be the first.”

“It still really hasn’t totally sunk in yet,” Friedlein said. “I’m just really amazed. I can’t believe we did it after the three days of struggling and just constantly trying to chip away at first place, then taking the lead after night orienteering and losing it on the obstacle course, just fighting all the way to the end.”

Events this weekend includes weapons firing, extended road marches, day and night land navigation courses, Ranger skills and parachute jumps. All events are timed, and competitors score points for each completed event. Both team members must complete each task.

Killian said he plans to return to the competition again next year with a former teammate now taking the Special Force qualification course.

The Best Ranger Competition was established in 1982 and has been compared to Ironman and Eco-Challenge competitions.

Rangers Lead the Way!

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Army National Guard Wooing Potential Warrant Officer Candidates

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By Debbie Gregory.

Warrant officers are technical and tactical experts. They are considered to be the best of the best in their field.  As it struggles to fill its warrant officer ranks, the Army National Guard is offering up to $20,000 to qualified candidates. The Guard is focused on recruiting for 39 career fields in particular and has opportunities across the 54 states and territories.

The Army Guard is losing to retirement almost as many warrants as it is bringing in every year. It currently has approximately 8,570 warrant officers in its ranks today, but as of January, more than 3,800 of the Guard’s warrant officers, or about 44 percent, were eligible for retirement.

Part of the issue is the need for experienced, technical experts. The other issue is attrition, as the vast majority of warrant officer candidates serve as enlisted soldiers before making the switch.

So far this fiscal year, which began October 1st , the Guard has gained 242 warrant officers and lost 232. The previous year, the Guard gained 573 new warrants, but lost 622.

So while the Guard is seeking applicants from within, it is also accepting soldiers transitioning from the active Army. And the Guard is offering a $20,00 bonus to:

  • Transitioning warrant officers in exchange for a three-year commitment. The service commitment doubles to six years if the warrant officer chooses to switch career fields and needs further training.
  • Enlisted soldiers from the regular Army who leave active duty to join the Guard and go warrant in exchange for a six-year commitment.
  • Current Guard who go from enlisted to warrant, after completing MOS-specific training and sign on for six more years.

While becoming a warrant officer provides soldiers with highly specialized training in their chosen field, the training could translate into enhanced civilian career opportunities after the Army.

Active Army enlisted soldiers and warrant officers interested in learning more should contact the Reserve Component Career Counselor at their installation for more information. All other interested candidates also should talk to their state, territory or District of Columbia warrant officer strength manager. To find a warrant officer strength managers, go to http://www.nationalguard.com/contacts/wosm.

For the full list of requirements, go to http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/.

 

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

How Much Time is Needed to Properly Train Guard Troops?

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By Debbie Gregory.

Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, the Army National Guard director, has contemplated whether 39 days a year for training and drill is enough for the Guard Soldiers. His conclusion? More training is needed.

To that end, the U.S. Army’s top officer is planning to more than double the number of required annual training days for some National Guard units.

Given the plan to reduce the active force from 490,000 to 450,000 by 2018, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley had asked for more insight into how the Guard trains and maintains readiness.

The current training includes two drill days a month, plus an additional 15 days a year, for a total of 39. The Guard troops also get two Combat Training Centers rotations/year, one at the Joint Readiness Training Center on Fort Polk, Louisiana, and one at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

“Maybe we need to look at changing that … maybe I should take some of the Guard and significantly increase the number of training days they train in a given year — maybe 60 to 100 days a year to reduce the response time on the back end when they get alerted and mobilized,” Milley said.

Kadavy said that the minimum 39 days are antiquated, and that the Army National Guard has done a significant amount of “learning” as its units have geared up for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 14 years.

“We need to continue to exercise to some degree those lessons-learned, and then learn new lessons and continue to progress,” he said. “I think our Army and our nation needs us. I always believe readiness should be looked at as an investment and not simply as a measurement of cost.”

Kadavy also said a priority for the Army National Guard is ensuring leader development. Combat experience alone doesn’t ensure success of the Guard, he said.

But “leaders of character will,” he said. “I depend on these leaders of character to help foster a climate of trust, because we all know trust is the bedrock of our profession.”

He also expressed concern with maintaining a resourced and modernized Army National Guard. To meet emerging challenges, he said, the Army National Guard “must be able to maintain a viable investment strategy for both equipment and facilities.”

The last thing Milley wants to do is send unprepared units into combat.

“We have to lean on the Guard, but that means that I have to get their readiness levels up to a level that is combat capable in the shortest amount of time post mobilization,” Milley said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.