National Guard pushing for health insurance, better pay, more training

The National Guard is in a period of slight transition. After two decades of high operational tempo during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which at times made Guard service as much of a commitment as active duty status, the component is taking stock of what it does and what it does. what can it offer.

Top of the National Guard Bureau chief’s priority list is getting Guardsmen to be covered by military health insurance at no cost, regardless of their duty status, as well as pay and training that would put them on par with their active duty counterparts. Today, 60,000 Guardsmen are uninsured, receiving no health benefits from their civilian employers.

“It will cost something, but I believe the cost of being prepared is greater than the cost of that health care,” Army Gen. Hokanson told reporters on Tuesday. morally and for the medical readiness of our force.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Healthcare for Our Troops Act in December, which would make TriCare Reserve Select, an insurance plan already available for a fee to National Guard and Reserve troops, at no cost. is available.

Improving duty conditions is another top priority, which will streamline dozens of different plans for how Guardsmen earn pay and benefits while on active duty orders, resulting in many Guardsmen receiving less compensation than their active duty counterparts.

Hoakson said, “We are away from our families for weeks, months, even years, but simultaneously performing the same mission and the same duties and not being treated the same is something that has to be resolved.” need to.”

With an eye towards maintaining an active component, the Guard is also planning more massive exercises Training rotation and modernization of its brigades and divisions to more closely reflect the active duty Army.

“It will keep us seamlessly interoperable with the military, make rotations more predictable and provide more leadership opportunities to our defenders,” Hoakson said. “Above all, it will ensure that we are ready whenever our country calls.”

That’s what the upcoming constituent-wide fitness challenge aims to do.

“From March, we are starting a monthly fitness challenge for our force,” he said. “The Challenges emphasize not only exercise, but also healthy lifestyles like nutrition and total fitness to encourage our Soldiers, Airmen and their families to take care of themselves, become more resilient, build personal preparedness, and have fun in the process.” Emphasizes things.”

These moves placed the National Guard alongside the active-duty Army and Air Force at a time when their missions began to look more distinct. Regular deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are characterized by both active and guard service between 2001 and 2021, but The Guard is spending more time on domestic mobilization these days.

For example, tens of thousands of Guardsmen were activated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, many of them working in hospitals or public testing and vaccination centers for months at a time.

“And so what we’re really trying to do is encourage our Guardsmen and our instructors at every level of leadership to make sure that we focus on readiness, because we don’t know how long Have to be ready,” Hoakson said. “So do everything we can at the individual level, and at the small-unit level, to build that readiness so that we’re ready when called upon, or if it’s a massive mobilization – so we’ve got the groundwork we can reduce the amount of organizational preparation we need to make.”

These moves also serve a dual purpose, at a time when it is getting harder and harder to recruit an entire army.

“It’s really twofold. Obviously, the first is, they make a significant investment in devoting a large part of their life to their training and then give up one weekend a month – and many times it’s more than Goes,” Hoakson said. “So we want to make sure that whenever we call upon them, they can step on the field and play their positions. And if they have medical care, they can get preventive care, or if they get injured at any point, they’re ready to go and medically prepared.”

But at the same time, Hokanson said, salary and benefits are a huge recruiting and retention tool.

“When you look at the current environment, a lot of the things that we traditionally relied on to encourage people to join the Guard – educational benefits, training, those kinds of things – many corporations still do. .. So we need to maintain contact and synergy with that environment to provide those things that encourage people to join our organization and then to stay,” Hoakson said.

“One good thing is that once we get people into the organization, our retention rate is very high. But the key is to get them in that front door, and show them what we have to offer.

Meghan Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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