Guinn: Pentagon must rethink role of National Guard

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Gov. Kenny Guinn talks at his office Wednesday about his trip to the Middle East. Guinn visited Nevada troops last week in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Gov. Kenny Guinn talks at his office Wednesday about his trip to the Middle East. Guinn visited Nevada troops last week in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Gov. Kenny Guinn said Wednesday he believes the Bush Administration must rethink the role and needs of the National Guard.

He said this is the nation's first war where half, and sometimes more, of the troops deployed overseas are guardsmen. Because he, like all governors, is commander in chief of his state's guard units, Guinn said it was important to take the administration up on its offer to tour Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait last week.

He said he got a first-hand look at the war zone and a chance to talk to Nevadans deployed there.

But he said it was also an opportunity to talk to the Pentagon and Bush Administration about what the guard will be doing at home in the future and what changes that requires.

He said he and other governors on the tour won a commitment from the administration to fund the full 350,000 guardsmen nationwide instead of a reduced number in the original budget proposal.

Then, he said, they talked about updated equipment.

"When they take troops over they take our equipment," he said. "When the troops come home, the equipment doesn't."

He thanked the administration for its $20 billion commitment to replace that gear with modern equipment but said both the new equipment and training should be tailored to a different mission.

"We want to be able to say the equipment and training we have relates to homeland security," Guinn said.

He said the Nevada guard didn't need 200 artillerymen after Sept. 11, 2001. It needed more military police to patrol airports and other vulnerable locations. He said they don't need new attack helicopters: "We want helicopters to help us with forest fires."

"We're trying to get them to come and look at how we should operate - for homeland security."

He said he hopes the administration and Pentagon will hear those arguments.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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