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.”