DES MOINES, Iowa -- The head of the Iowa National Guard told lawmakers Wednesday morning his soldiers are pouring more money into the state of Iowa than they are taking out.
During the annual Condition of the Iowa National Guard Address, General Timothy Orr said military activity overseas is reduced more now than the United States has seen in the last 14 years.
"Today, more than 40% of our currently serving soldiers and airmen are combat veterans, the highest percentage in our organization’s modern history. Their accomplishments and capabilities are a testament to the years of training and investment Iowa and our nation have put into the Iowa National Guard to form a vital piece of the on-demand, all-volunteer force that defends our nation,” Orr said.
Stronger, better and cost-effective -- that's how Orr described the condition of the Iowa National Guard.
Because most of the Iowa Guard's funding comes from the federal government, Orr said the Iowa Guard puts more into the state economy than it takes out.
"This year, the Iowa National Guard brought in more than $353 million of federal funding into the state, which is more than 97 percent of our department’s budget. Our soldiers and airmen pay more in-state property, payroll, and sales taxes than what the state provides in funding to the Iowa National Guard,” Orr said.
The vice chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee also spoke, saying Iowa should be proud of the first female who enlisted in a combat role within the Guard.
“And I was in the Navy during a time where women weren't even allowed onto the ship that I was assigned to. So that's an important step forward for service, that's equal and fair, and not gender based,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson.
While Danielson said he was happy with the Condition of the Guard Address, he still sees room for improvement in how veterans with mental health issues are treated.
"We also need to pay attention to what's going on with our own mental health investments and the facilities they might likely show up at, whether they're a veteran or not. I've been deeply concerned that we've had bipartisan agreements on mental health investments, the governor has vetoed them,” Danielson said.
Danielson's counterpart on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Rep. Quentin Stanerson, said his focus is on the success of the Home Base Iowa Initiative.
"Going from where we started to now where we're at. We're one of the friendliest environments for veterans to come back to and I think it's showing," Stanerson said.
Since 2013, 36 communities in the state have become Home Base Iowa communities, providing incentives for vets to move their families to those cities. The initiative has helped 1,700 veterans find jobs in Iowa.