2009 “Condition of the Guard” Address

The former head of the Iowa National Guard delivered his last "Condition of the Guard" address this morning at the statehouse.  Senate President Jack Kibbie was in charge of formally introducing Dardis to the General Assembly (150 Iowa legislators in the room).

"General Dardis and I have been friends a long time," Kibbie ad libbed after reading the formal introduction.  "The Dardis family was neighbors of ours back on the farm in Palo Alto County.  It is my pleasure to present to you General Ron Dardis." 

Read the Dardis speech below:

Condition of the Guard Address to the Eighty-Third General Assembly
“Strength, Courage, Character – Your Iowa National Guard”

By Maj Gen Ron Dardis, The Adjutant General, Iowa National Guard

18 February 2009

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen: thank you for that warm welcome. 
Speaker Murphy, President Kibbie – thank you for the invitation to address this joint convention of the eighty-third General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature. 
It is indeed a great honor and privilege for me to provide this annual report on the condition of your Iowa National Guard! 
Governor Culver, Lt. Governor Judge, members of the General Assembly, distinguished quests and fellow Iowans:
I want to begin by saying thank you – thank you to Governor Culver and Lt. Governor Judge for your strong support and outstanding leadership during this most significant period of time in the history of the Iowa National Guard.  You have been with us every step of the way. 
I want to publically thank you for your efforts to attend our homecomings & sendoffs and many other Guard functions and activities.  But especially for your support and admiration of all Iowans who serve their nation in uniform today. 
Governor Culver, thank you for your leadership as our Commander-in-Chief.
I also want to sincerely thank you, our citizen-legislators, who have done so much to honor and support the Iowa National Guard.  Through your legislative programs and participation in our events, you have done a great deal for our Soldiers and Airmen.  The state of Iowa has by far one of the strongest records of support of any state for its National Guard.  Our success is directly attributable to what you have all done for your Iowa National Guard – We thank you.
But above all, I want to thank the people of Iowa.  Their support is simply put – incredible.  What they did for our Soldiers and Airmen as they waged a gallant effort to mitigate damages caused by floodwaters and tornados, is a true testament to the wonderful community support we are so privileged to enjoy in this state. 
Even though their communities had been ravaged by record floodwaters, citizens made sure our Soldiers and Airmen were being taken care of.  You wouldn’t believe the food and baked goods that showed up wherever we went.  The support throughout these communities was humbling.  On behalf of the 9400 members of Your Iowa National Guard – We thank you!
Finally, I want to thank the fathers and mothers who continue to show their support for the Iowa National Guard by continuing to entrust us with their most sacred treasure – their sons and daughters.  Nothing is more important or a greater testament to the vitality of our organization than for a parent to trust us with what they cherish most. 
We will continue doing everything we can to honor that trust and strive to never allow it to be violated.  
Today, I deliver my sixth and final Condition of the Guard address.  It has been an honor of a lifetime to lead and represent the Soldiers and Airmen of the Iowa National Guard.  After more than 42 years of military service in the Iowa Guard – ten years as The Adjutant General – I can report that the Iowa National Guard is as resilient and ready as it has ever been. 
Strengthened by experiences borne of war and disaster response, defined by courageous acts here at home and in far away lands, and grounded in character handed down from generation to generation, the men and women of your Iowa National Guard are perhaps the most seasoned and prepared military force our state has seen since our units returned from World War II.
More than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen currently serving are combat veterans.   In the last seven years, we deployed nearly 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen outside the state of Iowa for combat and combat support duties in Iraq and Afghanistan, peacekeeping duties in the Balkans and in the Sinai Peninsula and domestic support missions in various states across the country. 
This impressive list does not include the 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen we activated during the floods of 2008, various tornado response missions, and multiple winter ice storms. 
Currently 700 of Your National Iowa Guard members are deployed overseas with another 200 alerted and preparing for deployment this spring and summer.
Your Iowa National Guard has truly become an operational force.  It is trained and ready to perform its federal, state and community missions with minimal preparation time. 
Though we often have months to train, prepare and execute our missions – that doesn’t always happen as was the case with the inauguration mission, which we were asked to execute in less than one week. 
Your Iowa National Guard is again a national leader in personnel strength management – recruiting and retention.  Both the Iowa Air and Army National Guard began fiscal year 2009 with over 100 percent of authorized strength.  And our retention rates exceed national goals and are among the highest in the nation.  We have been at 100 percent strength for more than eight years in a row – a significant accomplishment considering all we have been asked to do since 9-11.
 Last year I told you that I worried that our military services were becoming stretched and stressed, especially the Army and Army National Guard.  And while I am still concerned about the toll the demands of an operational force have on our service members and their families – not to mention employers and communities – I take comfort in the aggressive steps we have taken not only in the Iowa National Guard but also at the state and federal level to do all we can to ease the burdens of service. 
The Secretary of Defense’s commitment to one year mobilizations – from beginning to end – has brought much needed stability and predictability to our Army Guard.  And while far from perfect, the Army’s Force Generation cycle continues to provide us with adequate time to prepare and train our forces.  Rather than days and weeks to prepare for a deployment, we often have more than a year – in some cases nearly two years – from a unit’s notification of sourcing to mobilization. 
And with continued stability in Iraq and the Army’s gradual progress in rebalancing its forces, we are moving closer to realizing the goal of one yearlong deployment every four to five years for reserve component units. 
Despite these improvements, we must be mindful of the unpredictable nature of a dangerous world.  Even as the United States prepares to drawdown forces in Iraq – and let me just say how proud I am of the Iowa National Guard’s role in helping stabilize a seemingly hopeless situation and do our part to help put that nation on the road to a more prosperous and hopeful future – the new Administration is continuing plans to increase military forces in Afghanistan. 
As those plans unfold we can expect that the Iowa National Guard will once again be called on to provide forces, possibly in significant numbers not unlike we saw in 2003 – 2005.  Despite improvements the Army remains out of balance and undersized.  The demand for Soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the number of troops who have had enough time to "reset," or "dwell." The Army will deploy more than 160,000 soldiers in 2009, with more than 60,000 of those coming from the National Guard. 
This means on average we expect to deploy between 8-12 hundred Soldiers per year and another 6 to 8 hundred Airmen every 18 months for the foreseeable future. 
Plans are in place to restore balance to the Army by 2011 but in the meantime the Reserve Component, including the Army National Guard will play an important role in helping the Army meet its current operational requirements. 
Just as important as the plans to rebalance the Army in reducing the stress and strain caused by seven years of war is the work we have done here at home to take care of our Soldiers and Airmen
and to mitigate the stress caused by deployments on families.
We have established a services directorate within the Iowa National Guard headquarters.   This directorate consolidates a variety of services into one place making it easier for service members and families to receive the care and support they need. 
This is especially important for service members needing trauma, crisis or violence programs as a result of mental health issues, domestic violence situations or other similar circumstances.  
The Iowa National Guard is not immune to the suicide situation confronting the Army.  We too have experienced an increase in the number of suicides and suicide attempts last year.   Like all leaders, I am troubled by this issue.  There is no clear trend or cause that is readily apparent.  There is nothing that we can point to and say if only we fix this or change that we can prevent it. 
The reality is that this is a complex and challenging issue.  It is not only an Army or military issue but one that we all must deal with.  Young men and women joining the military are not unlike those going off to school, learning a trade or beginning a career. 
They are at a stage of life that is full of changes and oftentimes uncertainty.  Relationships begin and end.  Careers start and often take unexpected turns.  Financial responsibility proves challenging.  Like their civilian counter-parts, men and women in uniform must navigate these difficult life events. 
To help them cope with these and added stressors caused by deployments, separations and combat related anxieties we have developed a broad suicide prevention program for the Iowa National Guard. 
This program focuses on developing positive life coping skills; encouraging a behavior to seek help when needed; raising awareness and vigilance toward suicide prevention; Integrating suicide prevention programs throughout our units; and conducting suicide surveillance, analysis and reporting.
In addition, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army has ordered a suicide prevention “STAND DOWN” and subsequent intervention training to be conducted during the next four months. 
Through these and other programs we will continue to do all we can to impact this problem.
By far, one of the biggest areas where the Iowa Legislature has impacted the Iowa National Guard is through its support of our Military Construction program, which is the best in the nation.
Your Iowa Guard Facilities Management Office, represented here today by COL Scott Ayres and Mr. Mike Brothes, was recognized with the 2008 States Installation Management Excellence Award as the “best installation management program in the country.”  National Guard Bureau uses this award’s program to assess how well the 54 states and territories manage the more than 3,000 nationwide installations. 
I’ve always known that we have the best office in the country but now it’s official.  Let me give you a little back ground.
In 2000, we had approximately 3.279 million square feet of building space in the Iowa Army National Guard.  Nearly 30 percent of our 52 armories at that time were more than 45 years old, inefficient and were below authorized strength.  We undertook an aggressive five year realignment plan of closure, relocation, rehabilitation and new construction. 
Today, we have 3.631 million square feet of space in 49 armories.  Only 13 of those armories are more than 45 years old.  During the next year we will be closing four armories at Camp Dodge, and replacing old armories in Iowa City, Muscatine, Middletown and Cedar Rapids.  When these facilities are completed and all of our affected units relocated, only five of our armories will be more than 45 years old. 
A remarkable accomplishment made possible by the great work of our facilities office as well as the partnership between Your Iowa National Guard, the Governor, General Assembly and our federal congressional delegation. 
In the last couple of years we’ve been nearly as busy on the home front as overseas – ice storms, tornados and the unprecedented floods of 2008 here in Iowa, not to mention providing support to other states and territories in response to natural disasters and homeland security events. 
This includes sending Soldiers and Airmen to the Gulf Coast during Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav, and assisting with national special security events like the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis and the 56th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.  – A first for the Iowa National Guard. 
The floods and severe weather of 2008 were by every measure unprecedented.  This is the largest disaster ever in Iowa history and ranks among the top ten disasters nationally (as of last week, public assistance numbers by FEMA will move Iowa to 5th worst in U.S. history). And the Iowa National Guard was smack-dab in the middle of the response.
  We alerted the entire Iowa National Guard to preposition troops and equipment in areas of expected missions.  We deployed more than 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen across the state, including the recall of nearly 1,000 Iowa Soldiers conducting annual training in South Dakota.  This was the most extensive military operation on Iowa soil since the Civil War. 
We focused on protecting critical infrastructure and saving lives – our forces maneuvered throughout the state, fighting to stay one step ahead of the rising flood waters and assist state and local responders with combating the devastation caused by these disasters. 
There are many incredible stories to share and accomplishments to highlight but there is one special capability that your Iowa Guard provided that is unique. 
For a period of three weeks between 13 June and 3 July of 2008 the Iowa Guard’s 71st Civil Support Team (CST) helped local, state, and federal authorities remedy the dangers posed by hazardous materials that threatened hundreds of miles of flooded rivers throughout Eastern Iowa. 
This was a unified effort between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the 71st CST.  Working through a Unified Command Center located at the CST HQs, the 71st helped agencies plan their responses, survey existing threats along flooded rivers, and assisted in the recovery of over 18,000 hazardous materials containers ranging from 1 to 5,000 gallons in size.
This combined operation, spearheaded by the 71st CST, helped cover a gap caused by specialized response requirements that are unique to flooding.  The EPA and the Iowa DNR were able to utilize the CST’s skills and assets until further resources were mobilized and brought into the state.  This was truly an outstanding example of how multiple agencies were able to integrate the National Guard into a seamless response that brought safety and security to the public.
And while the Iowa National Guard was perhaps the most visible partner helping fight these floods, we were one of many organizations – from the local, state and federal level that responded to Iowans in their time of need. 
The response effort was incredible – teamwork at its best.  Your Iowa National Guard built goodwill with civilian leadership, community leaders across the state and the citizens of Iowa.  We fulfilled our mission to come to the aid of Iowans in their time of need, even though we had nearly 1,600 Soldiers and Airmen deployed for their federal mission. 
Each year I take a little time to introduce you to some of our Soldiers and Airmen and share with you some of their experiences and accomplishments.
As you’ve heard, this has been another busy year.
At the 185th Air Refueling Wing – a young single mother by the name of SSgt Kimberly Hebere
r deployed as a trauma nurse to what was supposed to be Bagram AB, Afghanistan. 
Once she arrived in country she immediately went to work.  On the second day of her six month deployment, she received orders to move to Forward Operating Base Salerno, or FOB Salerno, a compound with over 300 Army Soldiers on the mountainous border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  FOB Salerno was designed to administer emergency triage to wounded US and Afghani military personnel. 
SSgt Heberer was one of a handful of Airmen integrated at FOB Salerno.  The base is located just north of the province of Khost, where hundreds of Taliban and al-Quaeda fighters are believed to be hiding.
  Since 2003, the primitive base has been built up from a single concrete building and sand bag perimeter.  Guard towers and fighting positions have been built and a field landing strip and helicopter pad exist. 
Her story is incredible.  Think about it.  A single mother who volunteers for a six month deployment finds herself imbedded with the Army and is on the front line of combat. 
Here is a little bit about how she spent her “summer vacation.”
Yes, pretty much each night a bad guy tried to send a message in the form of bullets or mortar attacks.  One time I was ordered to go to the hospital during an attack in the middle of the night. I lived in the same dorm as the x-ray tech she was on call and had to go too.  We put on our vests and Kevlar, engaged our weapons and ran to the hospital.  I could hear the rockets flying overhead on to the FOB – I didn't look up because it was so dark.  It was the only time I was scared.
In total, SSgt Heberer provided Combat Care to over 3,000 United States and Coalition Forces.  She was part of a team that provided assistance to over 200 trauma patients and 120 post surgical patients.  She was part of three mass casualties and expertly supplied emergency staff with laboratory tests and blood products for critical trauma patients. 
Ssgt Herber is a true American hero and a dedicated member of your Iowa Guard team.  She epitomizes the outstanding quality of the wonderful men and women who serve in uniform today.
From April 25th – July 6th 2008, members of the 185th Air Refueling Wing deployed to Manas Air Base in Krygyzstan were they set numerous daily and monthly refueling records.  On May 24th, the 185th offloaded a total of 804,800 pounds of fuel, breaking a one day refueling recorded of 800,000 pounds that had stood for more than a year.  Nine days later the 185th off loaded 822,000 pounds of fuel, another record, ¬and just six days later they offloaded another 877,300 pounds of fuel.  In the span of 16 days, the 185th set five daily records.  Another amazing accomplishment by your Iowa Guard!
The 133rd Test Squadron, Iowa Air National Guard, in Ft. Dodge, served the state with distinction, leading the fight against the Iowa Floods in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport in June and also provided outstanding assistance and support to the city of Parkersburg after the tornado struck there. Over 90 members of the 133rd Test Squadron answered their state’s call to flood duty.
The 133rd also deployed four officers and six enlisted members to the theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan to help in the fight against terrorism. They also successfully conducted business as usual, providing key test and evaluation of Air Force Command and Control platforms. Their federal mission is critical to the success of our Air Force to maintain its global Air Superiority posture. 
The 132nd Fighter Wing had another busy year with deployments, inspections and emergency support response missions.
Of notes was its Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment to Balad Air Base in Iraq.  The wing deployed four aircraft and 387 personnel to support coalition forces.  They flew 515 combat missions totaling 1,962 flight hours.  They expended 18 munitions during close air support missions, executed 54 tactical reconnaissance sorties and maintained a 15-minute alert launch capability to support special operations units. 
The wing also sent 31 Security Force Service Airmen to Eskan Village, Saudi Arabia to provide integrated base defense.  Another 86 Airmen participated in Expeditionary Combat Support deployments to USAFCENT and USAEF bases in support of the Global War on Terrorism operations. 
Representing the deployed Airmen of the 132nd Fighter Wing are SSgt Cindy Jones and SSgt Steve Alcorn.
In June of 2007, 120 Soldiers from Troop A, 1st Squadron, 113 Cavalry were called to active duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Their mission was to operate a Joint Visitors Bureau where they provided Distinguished Visitor housing and security for more than 15,000 guests.  This mission enabled these guests, which included Presidents, ambassadors, congressional members, senior military leaders from various coalition forces, and entertainers, to operate in a safe and secure environment. 
Alpha Troop provided transportation and security for more than 400 distinguished visitor missions taking them into some of the most hostile areas of Iraq at that time – Mosul, Baqueba, Rusafa and throughout the Diyala province.  They are proud to report that none of the distinguished visitors they were responsible for suffered any injuries or accidents despite being subject to improvised explosive Devices, and indirect and small arms fire.  
Representing Alpha troop are CPT Jeff Perrin and Sergeant Major Harrison McNaughton.
Also in June 2007, 120 Soldiers from Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry were mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The 1-168th Infantry was previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 so many of the company’s Soldiers were volunteers, who came from all over Iowa, parts of Nebraska, Illinois, and South Dakota.
Once the company arrived in Iraq, they conducted a variety of missions including limited visibility and daytime patrols in the Al Faurat Village, and tower security in Camp Slayer.  During these patrols, Delta Company discovered several weapons cache sites, which netted rocket propelled grenades, sniper rifles and AK-47s. 
In addition to these finds, Delta Company conducted the first joint patrols with the Iraqi Army in the Al Furat area.  These joint patrols were instrumental in building legitimacy for the Iraqi Army and helping Delta Company build trust with the local Sunni population. 
Delta Company conducted more than 500 combat patrols, had ten engagements with the enemy, and suffered one wounded in action.  Representing Delta Company are CPT Adam Giroux and 1SG Ricky Singer.
Approximately 330 Soldiers were mobilized from the 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery and Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry in June 2007 for peacekeeping duties in Kosovo.  Their mission was to ensure a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and assist the transition to civil authority.
A highlight of the Battalion’s deployment was Kosovo’s long anticipated declaration of independence from Serbia.  This occurred on February 17, 2008, completing the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.  While Kosovo Albanians celebrated this moment with fireworks and outdoor gatherings in the frigid February night, Kosovo Serbians were understandably disappointed. The world held its breath and watched.
As the days counted onward, calmness fell over Kosovo. Where many predicted there would be widespread violence and rioting there was, in fact, an air of relief.  This was in large measure to the presence of Kosovo Force (KFOR) Soldiers, including your Iowa National Guard Soldiers keeping peace in that troubled part of the world. 
Representing the 1-194th Field Artillery Battalion are LTC Matt Pitstick and Command Sergeant Major Dave Enright. 
Last year I told you the story of the 833rd Engineer Company.  This company, if you recall, deployed to Iraq with the 224th Engineer Battalion from October 2004 to December 2005 in what was one of the most difficult and deadly deployments for any Iowa National Guard unit.  With less than 14 months of rest, the 833rd was again called up and deployed to Iraq. 
During this deployment, the 833rd conducted 495 combat patrols, found 100 improvised explosive devises and 13 pieces of unexploded ordnance.  They successfully destroyed 55 of these explosive devises in place, clearing more than 65,000 kilometers of roads, making them safe for coalition forces.
Representing the 833rd Engineer Company are CPT Benjamin Lampe and 1SG Steven Dreher. 
In November of 2007, approximately 130 Soldiers from the 186th Military Police Company mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The 186th MP Company, which provides security and law enforcement support, arrived in Iraq in January 2008. 
During their deployment the MPs conducted detainee operations at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, guarding both general population detainees and High Value detainees, and transported more than 4,000 detainees. 
They also assisted in the security and construction of a new detention facility in Taji, Iraq, which is the first purpose built reconciliation facility in the country. It was designed to focus on education and vocational opportunities for detainees to help them reintegrate into society as productive citizens.
The 186th MP Company is one of most frequently deploying units in the Iowa Guard.  The company previously deployed to Iraq in 2003-04, Bosnia in 1995-96 and to the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 for Operation Desert Storm. 
Representing the 186th MP Company are CPT James Grimaldi and 1SG Dean Kennebeck. 
In February 2008, approximately 90 Soldiers from the 109th Medical Battalion departed Iowa for the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt as part of the Multinational Force Observer Mission were they provided command and control to various units for logistics, medical, aviation, and explosive ordnance removal support to 11 MFO contingents.  The mission of the MFO is to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and to employ best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms.
Representing the 109th Medical Battalion are LTC Joel Harris and Command Sergeant Major Randy Osweiler. 
In February of 2007, 3 Embedded Tactical Training Teams consisting of 50 personnel mobilized from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team for duties in Afghanistan where they deployed to provide advanced combat training to the Afghan National Army and National Police. 
Team members mentored Afghan National Army leaders on improving overall unit readiness and conducting counter-insurgency operations, with a focus on operations that separated enemy elements from the civilian populations, achieved results with local Afghan National Security Forces in the lead, and set conditions for reconstruction and economic development.
Team members were also among the first Police Mentor teams in Afghanistan, where they provided mentorship at the Regional, Provincial and District levels as well as Border Brigade level that focused on the implementation of 5 key management systems including Personnel, Finance, Logistics, Training and Operations. 
Representing the 2nd Brigade Embedded Training Team are COL Tom Staton and Staff Sergeant Matt Smith. 
As I have said our Soldiers and Airmen have served all over the world.  And no matter where they go one thing is for certain they leave the place a little better than they found it.  With less than a week to plan, train, and deploy we sent 1,000 Iowa National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to Washington D.C., to help provide security during the 56th Presidential Inauguration. 
And what happens when you put 1,000 Iowans in the middle of 1.5 million people?  They find a way to make a difference.  Each one of these Soldiers and Airmen did a remarkable job and served as tremendous ambassadors for our state. 
Yet one group of young men stands out.  They didn’t do the minimum.  They did what Iowans always do – they went that extra mile and for their efforts they earned the respect and admiration of a grateful family. 
Read letter
Whether standing watch on the streets of Washington, D.C., building sandbag levies along the Mississippi river or helping train the Afghan Army, the men and women of your Iowa National Guard embody the spirit of service we all seek. 
Last year marks the first time since 2003 that the Iowa National Guard has not suffered any combat related deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan.   Thankfully, I have no new Gold Star Families to present to you this morning.  And as we continue to deploy Soldiers and Airmen into harm’s way, we pray that this trend continues. 
We will be forever grateful to the families of our 20 Iowa National Guard Gold Star families who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their state and nation.  Our hearts go out to the families of our fallen heroes and our prayers will be with them always.  God bless our fallen heroes and may they never be forgotten. 
However, there is one very special group of Soldiers that I would like you to meet whose sober duty is to help us honor and pay tribute to our fallen comrades in arms – both those lost in service to their state and nation as well as our veterans who are leaving us at an ever increasing rate. 
These soldiers are charged with the solemn duty of providing military funeral honors.  These honors are one small way of showing our country’s eternal gratitude we have for those who have faithfully defended our state and nation. 
These Soldiers perform their duties with professionalism and unbridled respect.  They spend countless hours preparing and rehearsing to make sure their movements and actions are carried out in perfect harmony.  Death respects no calendar and is not deterred by inclement weather or busy schedules.  And neither are these Soldiers. 
When we are preparing for a long holiday weekend or a vacation with our families, these Soldiers are polishing their shoes, pressing their uniforms and practicing their movements.  The Iowa National Guard is extremely proud of the work these Soldiers do throughout our state. 
Representing more than 150 dedicated military funeral honors Soldiers across the Iowa Army National Guard are:
• SFC Paul D. Ramirez, 209th Med Co
• PFC Jeffrey R. Gifford, 1/113th RSTA
• SSG Paul E. Brisbois, 334th BSB
• SPC Nathan F. Conlon, 1/194th FA
• SSG Scott A. VanWyk, 734th RSG
• SGT Peter G. Moeller, 209th Med Co
• SGT J. V. Winkowski, Co C 1-133rd Inf Bn 

There is another group of individuals I’d like you to meet.  These men and women are unique and special in so many ways, yet perhaps what sets them apart – aside from their kilts of course – is their deep love and respect for our men and women in uniform. 
The McKenzie Highlanders have performed at sendoffs and homecomings for our units and at the funerals of our fallen heroes.  
• Steve Layton
• Steve and Paula Moeckley (MECK lee)
• Jim Jorgensen
• Bobby Mohr
• Ron Husted (HYOO sted)
• Duff McFadden

They volunteer their time and talents to add something special to these occasions – their unique gift of music.  I’ve been told that the sound of their pipes is often the one lasting memory that many have of these events.  They seek no pay or special accommodations simply the honor of performing their craft in tribute to our men and women in uniform.
They have become an important part of the Iowa Guard team. 
2009 has been declared the year of the Non Commissioned Officer.  Our NCOs have evolved over time.  Some may recall a notorious gruff Sergeant, with the ability to instill fear in to the hearts of even the hardest of men, charging forward fearlessly and continuously bellowing orders. 
Today, our NCOs are the warriors, the leaders, the trainers and the caretakers – they take care of the Soldiers they lead, from ensuring the best training, the best support – to giving comfort when tragedy strikes – consoling a Soldier and his family.
The NCO is strong and courageous, a fearless fighter, and yet a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, who cares deeply about family and community. 
They are the backbone of Your Iowa National Guard.  We could not succeed without them.  The strength, courage and character of our NCOs are legendary.  We are indeed fortunate to have such true professionals in our ranks.  And while we take time this year to recognize the significant accomplishments they make to our organization, we realize that in order for us to accomplish our mission, every year is the year of the NCO. 
Representing the NCO Corps of the Iowa Army and Air National Guard are Command Sergeant Major Doyle Norris and Command Chief Master Sergeant Gary Garland.  
As I conclude my comments, I want to begin by thanking the men and women of the Iowa National Guard who have contributed to our success these past ten years.  We succeeded because we approached our many challenges not as individuals or separate organizations but as one team – the Iowa Guard Team. 
Teamwork is the foundation of my command philosophy, and is I strongly believe, the foundation of our success.  So I thank each of them for being a team player and for being a valued member of the Iowa Guard Team.
Together, we have made history in the Iowa National Guard.  Just as our ancestors did during the Civil War and World War II, we answered our nations call to duty with honor and distinction. 
We trained and mobilized thousands of Soldiers and Airmen.  We've transformed nearly all of our Army National Guard units and undergone major conversions throughout the Iowa Air Guard. 
We've closed and consolidated armories where needed, and expanded and built new facilities to maintain strength and readiness.  We've responded to natural disasters here at home and across the country.  We've trained for challenging exercises and prepared for difficult inspections.  We've made hard decisions now in order to position the organization for future success.
The Iowa Guard Team has earned a well-deserved reputation for accepting challenging missions and achieving remarkable results.  This is the legacy of our organization.  This is the legacy of Your Iowa Guard.  As I prepare to relinquish command to COL Tim Orr, I leave knowing that your Iowa Guard will continue to build on this legacy and that it will remain Mission Focused and Warrior Ready.
I'm confident Soldiers and Airmen will serve COL Orr with the same degree of professionalism and dedication that they provided to me.  The Iowa National Guard is not about one person or one position.  It is about the people who serve in her ranks.  And after more than 42 years of serving among them, I know there are no more finer citizens than the thousands of Iowa National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who proudly wear the uniform. 
Thank you for your hard work, your commitment, your dedication, and for continuing to set the pace for the Iowa Team.
Again, I thank you for the invitation to come before you today.
God Bless you and your families and God Bless our Soldiers and Airmen serving in harm

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.