Connecticut's National Guard Forced To Adapt For War

Mar 19, 2013

From colonial militias to combat reserve, the role of the National Guard has varied in more than 376 years. It shifted again after the attacks on 9-11. Appearing on WNPR's Where We Live, Colonel John Whitford of the Connecticut National Guard says people enlisted for different reasons over the last 13 years. "You've seen the guard change from a strategic force to an operational force. That's when you've seen many Connecticut National Guard army and air units going to Iraq to provide that assistance to the combatant commander."

Whitford says Connecticut has sent more than 5,000 guardsmen and women to Iraq and Afghanistan. "There have been Connecticut National Guard units who have deployed two maybe three. And in some cases four depending on the mission."

The war also forced the organization to come up with new ways to retain members whose service time was up. It followed plans set by another state to utilize seasoned veterans who were leaving in droves. "It doesn't do you any good to recruit 500 new people and yet 500 are leaving out of the back door."

Without a base or post to come home to, The Guard also had to come up with ways to treat those who returned with psychological wounds. "So the general partnered with some other state agencies like Department of Public Health to provide that assistance for traumatic brain injury and PTSD." Colonel John Wiltse was part of the first military unit in Baghdad that supported the U.S. Embassy. Looking back, he said he tries not to think about the politics, but instead focuses on the positive contribution his unit made on a ground level.