Thursday, October 06, 2005

On Deployments

apologia - I feel the need to say something about the use of the National Guard. My experience with this last deployment (Operation Crescent Relief, New Orleans) has left me with an irresistible compulsion to share my thoughts. I beg forgiveness of our readers for what will prove to be a bit of a lengthy piece that may not interest too many. You may seek a full refund at your leisure.
NOTE: These opinions are mine, and mine alone. Nothing I express is the position of anyone but me, and certainly not a representation of the opinions of anyone in any part of the US Armed forces in any official capacity.

That said, I need to provide a short background of my experiences with deployment. I will endeavor to keep this short and to the point...

1993 - I was called up for three weeks of State Active Duty with the Illinois Army National Guard to assist in relief efforts with the Mississippi flooding in July of that year.

1997 - I was called up out of the Army Reserve for 8 months in support of Operation Joint Guard/Joint Endeavor [Bosnia]

2004-2005 - I was called up with the 33rd Area Support Group of the Illinois Army National Guard for a total of 15 months active duty (12 months in Afghanistan) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

2005 - I was, again, called up with the 33rd Area Support Group for 5 weeks in support of hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans [Katrina and Rita].

1993 was classic National Guard work. Sandbagging, running for my life through a cornfield when the levee near Nutwood, IL breached, and helping municipal authorities in overwhelmed Alton, IL.

1997 was purely a result of the Army being sold a raft of crap. The regulars were quite blunt in telling us the reason we Reservists were called up and sent (in my case to the 21st TAACOM). Quite simply, the Army had been assured that if they could just make it 9-12 months, the whole thing would end and the boys would be home by Christmas. I stepped off a C-130 at Sarajevo Aerodrom 18 months to the day from when the President had said we would be gone from Bosnia...We were also quite unsettled by what we were asked to do. It was quite a break from our normal mission. But we managed to get the job done, even if it was years too long in seeing the Europeans take the job on fully.

2004-2005 was the other side of the classic Guard mission. Support in time of war. The war was a bit odd, having entered the "post-Taliban ouster" phase, (less than stand-up conventional fighting) but was still normal enough (if darned exotic to me, personally speaking).

2005 was almost a reprise of 1993, except that it was a huge amount of National Guard, from many places - alongside active component soldiers, the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. I see why the Navy was involved. The Coast Guard was a natural too. In fact, if anyone has been slighted in the whole Katrina relief effort, it has been the United States Coast Guard. The Coasties were saving people before anyone realized there was a major problem. They saved thousands and did not receive even a tiny fraction of the credit they were due. It was easier for the press to follow the 82nd Airborne around New Orleans.

I am still shuddering about the 82nd being brought into this effort. I happen to be a big fan of Posse Comitatus, and I am still waiting for someone to give me a good reason for heaving it aside - and not simply because one State of the Union wet its pants at crunch time. Why is Florida able to avoid folding like a broken cot everytime a hurricane slams ashore? Why should North Carolina have it's sovereignty flushed down the hopper whenever a tropical depression forms? You can get all the Federal help you can handle if you just ask for it. Also, I didn't hear of a single governor refusing Louisiana's call for help - EMACs (assistance compacts between states) were flying off the fax machines in every state capital. Wars aside, there are still a few hundred thousand Army and Air Guard available for such a call...

I thank you for putting up with this. This has been boiling up for a bit - especially since about week two of this last deployment. I will cover that tomorrow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 82nd? Really? That seems a bit over the top. I bet if they weren't sending the 101st to Iraq they'd have mobilized the whole division. Now *that* would have been something else.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

Michelle - if those of us in the Guard saw one more story about the 82nd, we would have puked. CNN, USA Today, et al, would have led you to believe that only one outfit was in New Orleans...I have to defer to the Coast Guard for 1st place honors - but damnnit, the Guard did almost everything else! Maybe I should lay off the rum before commenting...

12:20 AM  
Anonymous David [.net] said...

The NG was in the Superdome from the very beginning keeping people safe, and that fact sure had trouble finding it's way into "news" pieces.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous kathy from austin said...

Great points and thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts. Louisiana connot become the template for dealing with disasters going forward because, well, the state and local authorities represented the single worst disaster. I can't think of any other state in the union that would have handled this in a more dysfunctional way. Even nutty California deals with earthquakes responsibly. Mentally compare: Jeb Bush; Rudy Guliani; Rick Perry; Bill White; with Ray Nagin and LeBlanc's blubbering lack of leadership. The lesson that should be taken here is that we should take precautions when a disaster strikes LA (with the exception of the brave souls from Vermillion Parish), and allow for the relative competence from the other 49 states.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Tsymyn said...

Good insight. I'm blessed to see that someone who was actually there (as opposed to 5½ hours away in Monroe getting ready to receive 25k evacuees) has the same opinion of it that I do. Makes me feel super-competent. I want to hear the rest of your story.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last night The History Channel had a Mail Call episode devoted entirely to the Katrina relief efforts by the various military services. As you would expect "Gunny" was pretty even handed in spotlighting efforts by the Coast Guard, National Guard, the 82nd, etc., etc.

It is worth watching if you find it repeated. I learned more about the task of cleaning up from a half-hour of MC than I have from weeks of the MSM coverage!

One odd bit: Gunny wasn't talking in his usual top-of-his-voice sound level so I kept doing a double take to see if it was actually him doing the talking ;-).


9:13 AM  
Anonymous Hiding in Atlanta said...

The irony of this is that the left seems to be ones crowing the loudest that the federal response was too slow and that federal troops should have been sent in immediately, the ones who I would have presumed to be against sending federal troops into any domsetic situation as a first responder. I still don't understand why they are willing to abandon Posse Commitatus so readily.
Oh well...

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

The left is more interested in bashing Bush than it is in preserving Posse Commitatus. They, most unfortuntely, have a very short-sighted agenda these days.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How extensive were the gun confiscations and forced removals of people, truly?

From the MSM, I got the impression Federal Agents, National Guard, US Army, and other "specialists" trampled just about every Amendment of the Bill of Rights ... including the 3rd Amendment.


11:02 AM  
Blogger Major John said...


From what I understand, nobody was forcibly removed, and the gun confiscations were a local/LA phenomenon - certainly not done by us.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Mighty Quinn said...


"The left is more interested in bashing Bush than it is in preserving Posse Commitatus. They, most unfortuntely, have a very short-sighted agenda these days. "

C'mon. We can do better than this. Talk about individuals, not 'the left.' Talk about actions taken by these people, not some mysterious 'agenda.' Don't use political labels as an excuse to stop listen to half the population.

We're lucky enough to have first hand accounts of this stuff from real people (MJ and Inner Prop). Don't make this a left-bashing site or a right-bashing site. It's too important and too useful for than kind of thing. Leave that to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Major John said...

MQ - in addition, the erosion of Posse Comitatus is being cheered on just as heartily by the Right as the Left. I think this is what dismays me so. Both sides of the aisle should be saying, "er, just a second if you please..."

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Dan Hamilton said...

About the gun confiscations. The story ISN'T the CHIP, NYPD LEOs, and others who did them. The story is that ALMOST ALL of the LEO's, NG, etc IGNORED the order. Would have nothing to do with it. Saying you have got to be kidding.

I wonder if the anti-gun people paid attention.

The Order was given. The Order was Ignored. The Order was killed.

Those CHIP LEOs should be on their knees thanking God that the press didn't crucify them for slamming that old lady into the wall. Any other time and they would be swinging in the wind.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Army Wife said...

Yeah the frequent deployments are one thing, but the length of deployment being 18 something else......

4:03 PM  
Blogger AST said...

I agree with you about Posse Commitatus. The news media lead the charge into bad decisions like this and are the first to criticize politicians when they follow their advice.

A failure by the MSM to understand the situation, does not constitute grounds for overruling the Constitution or making FEMA, the USArmy, or the NG from other states first responders.

I don't think anybody should be allowed back into NOLA until the Director of FEMA certifies that Louisiana and its major cities have decent emergency plans in place and people who know how they're supposed to work. These people live below sea level. They are incredibly vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, but they don't seem to have a clue about doing something at the local level to protect themselves. To allow them to call in FEMA seems an awful lot like co-signing for an unsecured loan to your deatbeat dropout brother-in-law to start a space elevator business.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oklahoma had a goodly number of Guardsmen/women in LA under the command of BG Deering and we seemed to receive a lot of good press also, must of taken our own PIO folks down there. Yours is a great post and your service to your country is appreciated.

From an old retired ARNG member of 40 years.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Am on leave (wedding in NY) was CO of MP Company in St Bernard Parish. Am currently here by way of my Instapundit Fix at the Hotel Lobby of the Danbury Marriot (free - Thanks Marriot CEOs) Tell you all about it when I get back home.

Leave you with this - THe People at JFHQ-GA are "livid" about the PoCo thing, not to mention the whole LTG Honore episode (not withstanding his otherwise good work)

Your suspicions on the gun stuff are absolutely correct.

-C'pn Brunch

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Marine with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, an entire infantry battalion sent down out of pre-deployment work-ups to do nothing that couldn't have been done by civil authorities. I was a confirmed Republican before this. I have now renounced my membership in the Grand Old Party. This was one of the greatest abuses of troop manpower in the history of the United States since Posse Comitatus was passed.

Why the f*ck would you send a battalion of grunts, then take away their rifles, flak jackets and kevlars and put them on the rolls digging out drywall and lugging broken tree branches? We are fighting a war, are we not? This is the same battalion that played "hey diddle diddle right down the middle" with insurgents in Fallujah last year. Yes, it's a demonstration of our nimbleness that we changed missions so completely, but it is a useless, pointless waste of time dragging these Marines away from valuable training to do something that could easily have been done by other organizations.

The same holds true for the 82nd Airborne. Sending "elite" troops to help in disaster recovery in CONUS is a travesty. And now the President is talking about doing the same in case some people get the flu? This seems like a Pentagon power grab to me. It's shameful.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the by, as an addendum to my above comment regarding the Marines, the justification for falling outside of Posse Comitatus was that they took our weapons away. We had them locked in conex boxes with duct tape over the buttstock with our names on them. Seems flimsy to me.

Sgt D.

10:57 AM  
Blogger soldier boy said...

major john,
i am a guardsman currently serving in iraq. my battalion is a combat arms unit assigned to an active duty brigade. i completely feel your pain about the "regulars" not seeing eye to eye with the reserves. we are treated like redheaded step children, and are constantly under estimated in our capabilities. the whole way the active duty does business really makes me sick. the simple fact of the matter is that most guardsman could care about a certain form being filled out in triplicate, or any number of the army's little ways that drive all soldiers crazy! i'm not trying to say we are a bunch of non-desciplined idiots, but i'm sure you know what i mean. the simple fact is, we get the job done. i hope that the situation we face is not the norm, as national guardsmen make up half of the troops in iraq, and without us, the job could not be done.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see your point about Posse Commitatus but I'd point out that the use of active duty troops for national disasters is hardly a recent phenomenon. In fact, in your post you specifically mentioned Florida as never having needed active duty troops, when that same state saw the 82nd Airborne and Marine Corps Units go in under orders from Clinton in '93 after Hurricane Andrew.

-The 101st Airborne going into Little Rock, Arkansas in the 50's to desegregate the local school.

-The 82nd went to Detroit and Washington DC in 1967 and 1968 respectively.

-Marine Corps Units were used to survey and track drug smugglers across the Mexican border in the late 90's.

Those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Unfortunately, It's hardly a new phenomenon.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

I have never claimed the use of active troops for civil use was new, just often not necessary. LR was different - the GOV was using his Guard in defiance of fed authority. Andrew was the lesson that FL took to heart, and now has its act together. Riots in 68, 72, etc., that could not be contained by civil authorites were exactly what Posse COmitatus envisioned - that is when it is permissable and necessary for the feds to come in.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an American living overseas I have to say that the incompetence of the NO & LA officals left me speechless & ashamed. Then I became very worried when the regualr army was called in. Posse Comitatus is not something that should be lightly disregarded.

4:37 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

Has anyone notice beside me that Louisiana is French? France is corrupt. Louisiana is corrupt. (The governments, not the lay people.)

Any one for giving it back? lol.

Seriously though, Thank you! Coast Guard, National Guard, and volunteers. Also, thank you all Americans who contribituted to the aid of our fellow Americans. I just pray the money reaches them.

I am tired of the government stepping in where I am responsible to help my neighbor. I donate a GIFT, and then I have to pay taxes?

I agree with all of your points (at least the ones I read) that the Army and Navy should not be here, and Louisiana is NO state to model ANYTHING after, let alone security! Thank you, and everyone have a great day.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Trauma Chick said...

I worked on the medical front lines with the Navy and the NG in Mississippi. A friend of mine was out there making the Coasties look awesome, Go Mark! I am proud to have served on the front lines with the Navy, the Army and the Guard. I wasn't going to go in on the front lines in Louisianna without being able to shoot back if it was necessary. At home my cops and tactical medics do a great job covering my back. Our reception in Mississippi was outstanding on all fronts. I even had help keeping the maurauding palmetto bugs out of my sleeping bag.

6:20 PM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

I thank you for putting up with this.

Relax, your blog is always here for you. Be loquacious!

9:46 AM  
Blogger RTO Trainer said...

Posse Commitatus was not heaved aside.

The two activities that federal troops are barred from with regard to 'U.S. Persons" are searches and arrests. In nearly every other respect active duty troops (which includes National guard troops when on Title 10 orders) may provide support to law enforcement.

That's why we Guardsmen were utilized under Title 32 authority, so we could offer full support to law enforcement, including searches and arrests if necessary, though even then those activities were avoided and left to the authorities unless no option for that was available.

Listenoing to LTG Honore, he was very aware of all this as well; what was proper and what was not.

A word about guns in NOLA, "the rest of the story" if you will:

The Oklahoma Guard was singled out by a Dave Kopel (a 2nd Amendment attorney) as having engaged in gun confiscation. What did happen is that unattended firearms were taken into custody. These weapons have been turned over to ATF. ATF is in the process of tracing every weapon so it may be returned to it's legal owner.

So what we were doing was gun restoration, not confiscation.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

I'm more afraid that the future is where Posse Comitatus is in trouble - not this past operation.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How quickly everyone believes the hype and the MSM. Yes, there were problems in NO and in LA as a whole during Hurricane Katrina...but someone who has lived...spent his time in the 82nd ABN...and returned back home to LA...the the simple truth is that the people of the City of NO want it that way.

Pure and simple. I make no excuses for the catastrophe that was my state during Katrina...but over 1.3 million citizens of Orleans Parish and surrounding areas managed to evacuate in a timely and orderly maner. Period. Some 100k+ stayed...not because they didn't have options...but because they made a choice not to use them. They decided not use the 12 pickup points Nagin and the Parish set up. They decided not to go to the primary shelters and instead went to the Superdome...a location that by Sunday had enough food to last 15k people 3 days...and was not the site of the killings and lawlessness the MSM made them out to be.

Those people made a choice. To blame the leadership of the City, Parish, and State (exclusively) because the MSM and the Republican party (per the advisors) needed a scape goat is to totally disregard the facts.

No Mandatory Evac was necessary to convince 1.3 million people to leave. And early polls (ala 6 months ago) showed that a third of the populace would not leave no matter what...which leaves us at a simple can't make people leave. All you can do is provide them the opportunity...and it was done. Then to someone how sit back and say that a city and state government with less than 5000 law enforcement personnel and NG on hand to secure, rescue, transport, triage, and ulitmately control a city and populace of that size without help and enough resources is just to show personal ignorance of the subject.

Planning for a disaster starts with we the people. Then moves from there. The people of the City of NO failed. Sure...the leadership may have made some mistakes...but in the end if those people would have left...this would not have been an issue.

The other issue that seems to fall on deaf ears around this great country of ours is that NO is steadly 1st or 2nd in murders per capita. What does that say? That NO is a lawless city. The surrounding cities in the NO area are great...but NO is not. It is a poor community that chooses to stay that way. And it is a community that ever since I was a kid did things their own way. They vote that way...they make those decisions. That is what they is what they get.

One last thing...the gentleman that made the remark about Louisiana being French...they should be given have a lot to learn sir. But I believe you would think twice about saying that any where else but in Blogshpere. Tell that to the nearly 4k LANG men and women from the 256th Inf Bde that came home just days after Katrina and Rita slammed into their state. Corruption? You honestly believe that LA is the only currupt state in a national political system that rewards corruption? You sir need to grow up...and stop making childish statements when you lack facts and thought to actually debate an issue.

Now that I have taken enough time I will close with this...not weeks after Katrina LA was once again faced with another killer storm. And this time on the SW side of the state...and this time it's no longer interesting...why? Because we did it right. No need for BS MSM coverage. We took our licks...and we are getting up.

As far as you comments about Posse Commitatus...please tell me how you plan on moving 200k plus people, security 90k sq miles, feeding all of those people, and returning a major region back to an economically viable condition...without man power? And tell me who is more qualified to do that? FEMA? The Red Cross?

Instead of should be revelling in the fact that you are a apart of the only organization world wide with the skill set, resources, and man power to accomplish such a daunting task. Personally I am proud to have served in an organization that was not only capable of going anywhere in the world in 18 hours and killing...but going anywhere in our country and helping.

That is not an issue with Posse Commitatus...and sorry to the Marine who commented...but isn't it better to help save lives than to take them? Training can wait...if it is time to help should be not only willing but grateful for the opportunity.


3:59 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

CL - it is an issue with Posse Comitatus when the President (and both political parties) say that the Federal Government should act, militarily without waiting for any trivia like a request from the sitting state authorities, etc. We have hundreds of thousands of National Guard, the Coast Guard, State Police, County law enforcement, local authorities, private relief organizations, FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, etc. But they all get shoved aside to put in Active Component forces FIRST? No thanks.
If all those are not enough - AND YOU KNOW AHEAD OF TIME that they won't be enough, then ASK for help and you will get it. Not a big problem, but the alternative is...

4:22 PM  

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