Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 16, 2013

Soldier of Steel: Superman and the National Guard

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on May 16, 2013

In the tradition of Navy recruitment at theaters showing “Top Gun,” and what I hoped would be a similar boost for public health from “Contagion,” the National Guard has hitched itself to the new Superman movie that will hit theaters on June 14.

I saw this video during the previews before a showing of “Iron Man 3” (which itself is absolutely worth going to see…).



First off, just to be clear, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the men and women who serve in the National Guard.  And I think this recruitment video is well done, and the rest of their campaign found on http://www.soldierofsteel.com/ is innovative…for a government program anyway (play a game or watch some workout videos!).

What struck me in the theater is the juxtaposition of the scenes, all obviously showing the homeland rather than national security missions of the National Guard, with the title “citizen soldier.”  Everyday men and women (who looked incredibly fit and reminded me that I need to get back to the gym) morph into these citizen soldiers who arrive at the scene of disasters to rescue you or your neighbors.

That happens.  If you are reading this blog you are undoubtedly aware of the vital role National Guard units play in response to natural disasters or terrorist attacks while under the control of their respective governors.

However, as “citizen soldier” suggests, the National Guard is not strictly a homeland response force but also plays an enormously important role in national security planning. To be blunt, when push comes to shove, the Pentagon expects these forces to be deployed and aid in the projection of American power overseas.  In simpler terms, they are soldiers expected to perform military duties — such as killing our enemies — whether or not it’s hurricane season in their home states.

I am not arguing against this role.  In fact, along with the Reserves, the Guard plays an absolutely vital role in the defense of our nation.  With the withdrawal from Iraq and the slow extrication from Afghanistan, in the immediate future it is much less likely that National Guard units will be deployed in warzones (hoping that we don’t get drawn into foolish adventures in Syria or Iran…or forced to respond to North Korean or other provocations).

Yet I can’t help but be a little…something, since disturbed is too strong and piqued too weak…by this particular representation of the Guard’s duties.  Yes, it presents the opportunity to help your neighbors following disaster.  Yes, you put on the uniform and will be called upon to perform heroic duties.  But remember that you may not only end up digging children out of rubble but quite possible be responsible for inadvertently putting them, or at least foreign children, under it.

That is not an anti-war or anti-Guard or anti-military statement.  Just one that aims to point out that war is by necessity messy with boundaries often hard to define.  As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan showed far too many times, there are few defined “front lines” and innocent civilians are too easily thrust into the line of fire.

Joining the Nation Guard is to join a honored profession and to serve our country.  It is not, however, a job in a solely homeland security/disaster response force. And I wish that this recruitment campaign could make that point just a little more clear.

From a recent Baltimore Sun article on the last deployment of the Maryland National Guard to Afghanistan:

More than a decade of deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and other battlegrounds since Sept. 11, 2001, has produced a highly skilled and deeply experienced generation of warriors. But with the United States out of Iraq and planning to leave Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. James Adkins sees a new challenge.

“Many of the soldiers that are serving now have known only war,” he said Thursday from Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, where members of the 244th Engineer Co. are training for a deployment starting later this year.


Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Maryland National Guard has deployed nearly 4,000 soldiers and airmen to Afghanistan. Members have had a broad range of duties such as mentoring the Afghan Army and police, serving as infantry, evacuating wounded soldiers and flying drones.

Twelve Maryland guard members have been killed in action.


Since arriving at Fort A.P. Hill, an Army base north of Richmond, members have trained on weapons and tactics. On Thursday, they used a new GPS system to find their way through a wooded area.

“Warrior-type tasks,” Pennington said. “Your basic battle skills.”

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Comment by Quin

May 16, 2013 @ 6:54 am


I guess you missed this one from the USAF from 2011 (so bad they couldn’t even use real aircraft but some CGI leftovers from some Michael Bay movie)


It’s a function of two things: 1) people are tired of the war and making everyone look like a bunch of bad @sses on TV can’t fill the boat spaces anymore. Even my former employer, the USMC, is working humanitarian relief into their ads {insert SHOCKED face here}:


2) Sutton’s Law which is based on Willie Sutton’s great line “because that’s where the money is.” You could feel it about 4-5 years ago when people realized the SOFA talks in Iraq were not going well and the tenor of the 2008 campaign (especially the current President) focused on winding down operations overseas. The troops were coming home and so was the money.

Assuming we can stay out of another major conflict in the next 20 years (and in about 237 years we’ve never gone more than 30 years without one), the fight between the Title 10 forces and the National Guard over money, oops I mean domestic relief missions, is going to be worth the price of admission. Luckily I bought my seats early.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 16, 2013 @ 7:11 am

Thanks Arnold and a useful posting. Some basic factoids might be of help.

[1] Since WWII over 50 separate commissions and studies of the role of the NG! Each study pretends the others never were completed or had nothing useful to say. Even FEMA did a study for the Congress conducted by NAPA [National Academy for Public Administration] on the NG and its roles with recommendations of course. The major recommendation of that report was that NG STATE roles be studied and clarified. Never done. Why one might ask? Because the NG is in fact the law enforcement backup for the Governors who almost continuously shortchange the law enforcement element of the Public Safety arena and Governors are always afraid of riots and civil disorders occurring. And that is a correct conclusion IMO! So while many NG deployments in disasters and other events are labeled humanitarian the NG often having unloaded weapons, AND PERSONNEL TRAINED TO VIEW OTHERS AS THE ENEMY NOT SURVIVORS OR VICTIMS, THIS COULD BE VIEWED AS A PROBLEM AND I DO SO VIEW IT!

I have at least a dozen other points to cover but wonder if there are readers who would like me to do so? Otherwise will spending my time helping others in hopefully a useful manner!

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 16, 2013 @ 7:14 am

When in the STATE role the NG is not subject to the Posse Commitatus restrictions of the Active Duty forces!

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 17, 2013 @ 12:17 am

Extract from the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act [Public Law 100-707]:

“Utilization of DOD Resources –
(1) General Rule – During the immediate aftermath of an incident which may ultimately qualify for assistance under this title or title V of this Act, the Governor of the State in which such incident occurred may request the President to direct the Secretary of Defense to utilize the resources of the Department of Defense for the purpose of performing on public and private lands any emergency work which is made necessary by such incident and which is essential for the preservation of life and property. If the President determines that such work is essential for the preservation of life and property, the President shall grant such request to the extent the President determines practicable. Such emergency work may only be carried out for a period not to exceed 10 days.”

This section of the law does NOT include NG resources which are subject to STATE Gubernatorial control and if a declaration occurs are reimbursed by FEMA to the STATE!

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 17, 2013 @ 7:18 am

BTW with over 4000 NG armories nation-wide all linked by fiber optics and modern communications wondering if these could become alternate STATE EOCs when the primary EOC incapacitated?

Comment by Quin

May 17, 2013 @ 8:06 am


That Stafford Act section has an interesting history. It was inserted by Trent Lott who, during one of the storms that hit Mississippi, found some unemployed Seabees and got peeved when he found out they weren’t being utilized to respond to the storm. With how fast declarations get turned around now (especially for the no doubters) its essentially redundant. If a disaster is bad enough that DoD forces are necessary, then the declaration probably has already been approved. As far as I know last (maybe only?) time it was used was for Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 17, 2013 @ 9:44 am

Quin! Thanks! Disasters in Insurlars areas always a problem. Now with disaster op centers in both Puerto Rico and Hawaii on permanent basis seldom the same problem.

When the Federated States of Micronesia became independent of US Trusteeship since WWII in drafting a permanent treaty their leadership was allowed to pick federal programs they wanted to continue. Disaster relief was at the top.

Of course the exploitation of that entity post treaty highlighted by Casino Jack Abramhof and Tom Delay. Well corruption is often a manmade hazard and some like Naomi Klein conclude that disasters can in fact be exploited by those with intentions to do so.

Guam and American Samoa have disaster declarations on an almost routine basis.

By the way most DoD civil interface regulations woefully out of date. Why?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

May 18, 2013 @ 10:35 am

The nation’s first line of defense!

“The National Guard traces its history to the establishment of three militia regiments by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony 13 December 1636. The first muster of the three regiments is generally thought to have occurred in the Spring of 1637 on Salem (MA) Common. The term “National Guard” was first coined in the 1790’s by the Marquis de Lafayette in describing anti-royalists French Revolutionary citizen forces” –

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 19, 2013 @ 8:09 am

Who knows Chris but the next revolution in the USA could well be led by the NG!

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