Movie goers are gettinga special treat at their local cinemas: a fast paced, epic two and half minute video/commercial for the National Guard by singer Kid Rock, the self-described "Pimp of the Nation" selling the idea of enlisting in the guard as a really good idea. Bombs! Helicopters! Explosions! Stopping your tank just before it crushes the soccer ball of a little foreign boy who smiles shyly when a Guardsman leaps down, steps into the street and hands back the toy!
Kid Rock has been a long time supporter of deployed military, visiting bases as part of USO tours–a really tough gig and a brave caring thing to do. So knowing he’s seen the front lines firsthand–he was in Iraq in the winter of 2007 and for Christmas in 2006–it is disturbing to see him hyping overseas combat in his National Guard recruiting video.
In theory, if we were not at war, joining the National Guard isn’t a bad idea: two weekends a month, two weeks a year, and you help out in disasters here in the US. The National Guard has provided phenomenal and much needed help during Katrina, numerous wild fires, the Los Angeles riots and now during Ike. However, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 80 percent of the 350,000-strong Guard has been mobilized and deployed overseas, many units several times, with 548 killed.
A Guard unit’s overseas tour of duty can last up to a year.
In May the Pentagon announced that about 14,000 National Guard units from tornado- and hurricane-vulnerable states have been alerted for combat mission in Afghanistan in the fall. While Guard forces are capped at 352,000, Congress is being asked to authorize a force of 360,000. The Guard is allowed to exceed the cap by 3 percent, but must find offsets to pay for the additional service members. If Congress raises the threshold, then it would provide the Guard with the necessary funding for new members–and hopefully better screening.
In 2007, according to Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense for manpower, reserve affairs, installations, and logistics, the Guard took in 860 recruits with criminal convictions.
Pay has been in issue for some stateside Guard members with activated Guard members in Missouri suffering a monthlong delay in pay while they are processed through the state’s payroll system, while overseas deployment creates a whole other series of hardships.