DES MOINES, Iowa -- In his annual Condition of the Guard address Thursday, Major General Timothy Orr told lawmakers what his branch needs to focus on in the upcoming year.
“Recruiting and retaining quality individuals is our highest priority, in doing so we must broaden the appeal of military service to include people from across the fabric of our society” said Orr.
Major General Orr made it clear that keeping young Iowans interested in the National Guard is critical for the future.
“With only three of ten 17 to 24-year-olds eligible for military service, there's concern among military and civilian leaders alike about the readiness of our military forces to defend this nation in the years to come” he said.
So how did he make his case? One way was talking tuition.
“100% tuition assistance, that young men or a young lady can receive when coming to school and coming out debt free. That's pretty key, and still serve your state and nation” said Orr.
Another was talking about what their service members can do once they're in.
An example of this is Senior Airmen Jessica Thomerson, of the 233rd Intelligence Squadron, Air National Guard. While flying missions with the civil air patrol she pioneered a means for transmitting overhead pictures via radio frequency to help first responders immediately assess damage from natural disasters and access routes to help victims.
Orr also highlighted the work being done in Iowa, like the Guard's counter-drug program which trains hundreds of first responders in how to administer the overdose reversing drug narcan. State Senator Zach Nunn, a guardsman himself, says examples like that help him assure tax payers the money the guard is appropriated every year is going to good work.
“One of the big things I want to take back to my constituents, whether they're military or not, is what's it doing for our local community? And so, when I can see the dollar add value as was highlighted today, federal dollars coming in to train law enforcement, over 900 law enforcement officers trained in how to provide lifesaving support to people in my district, that's free money that we're getting from the feds that are directly being put out to first responders” said Nunn.
Major General Orr asked lawmakers to take the Guard’s message back to their districts to help maintain interest.