General defends Nevada Guard

A full-color photo of members of the 126th Medivac Company sits leaning against the wall in Nevada Adjutant General Giles Vanderhoof's office.

He received the photo just before being called to Ohio to hear about a new plan to reorganize guard units in the United States and hasn't had time to hang it properly.

Guard members sit smiling around their helicopter in front of Khandahar Airport, as the major general tries to figure out how to bring Nevada's Air and Army Guard together without hurting 3,000 members' ability to do their jobs.

Vanderhoof just returned from Ohio, where he met with other adjutant generals and was handed the charge of uniting Nevada's air and national guards by Oct. 1.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum told the adjutant generals the states need to consolidate their headquarters to keep up with modern threats. Blum claimed that each state has three guard headquarters. Blum said the war on terror requires air and army units to work together.

However, Vanderhoof points out that there is only one person who could be considered staff for the Air Guard in Nevada.

"The Air Guard units are like a city," he said, describing Air Guard units' self-reliance. "The colonel here serves as a liaison between me and the Air Guard."

Vanderhoof said he isn't rejecting the call to streamline the Guard command, but he does plan to examine it closely. What he won't do is pull people out of operational units to create a joint command.

"Joint is not a bad word," Vanderhoof said. "But how are you going to do that? The devil is in the details."

And one detail Vanderhoof took issue with was Blum's announcement in the press before any of the adjutant generals were consulted.

Instead, Nevada's top military officer learned of the changes when his wife called him and read him a newspaper account.

"We still have Nevadans in Southwest Asia being shot at," he said. "We don't have a bloated staff."

Blum agreed to reorganize his own staff by July 2.

"We fight wars jointly, having a joint command makes a lot of sense. Nobody should rebel against it. We should take a look and see how we can make our operation work better in a joint fashion."

"But we are almost in the position where we may have to pull people out of operational units to create the staff," he said.

The Nevada Air Guard professional staff is manned at 92-93 percent, while the Army Guard has 52-57 percent of the positions it is permitted filled. Of the 3,000 Nevada guard members, 650 are full-time staffers.

"We have to provide support staff where we are short and we'll see that we're not robbing operational units to build headquarters," he said.

Vanderhoof will have been in the Nevada National Guard for 44 years on June 14. He joined when he was 17, just out of Sparks High School. He spent the first 11 years of his career as an enlisted man, rising to the rank of master sergeant before receiving his commission.

"I'm so proud of our Nevada Guard," he said. "Even before 9/11, we were heavily committed. After 9/11, operations spiked. When you call up the Guard, you're calling up America."

At 60, he is halfway through his four-year term as Nevada's highest ranking military officer and expects to retire when it is over.

"In the back of my head, I still think I'm 30," he said. "I've had a good run and there is not another state I'd rather have this job in."


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