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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
Military News

Altman: Florida National Guard to feel pain of cuts

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One thing that has gotten lost in talk of military budget cuts is the impact on the Florida National Guard.

All services are looking at trimming personnel. The Army is proposing reducing the Army National Guard from nearly 350,000 members to 315,000, according to Florida National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. James Evans.

The savings from that, he says, look like they will be applied to readiness and modernization, not force structure.

The Army National Guard, says Evans, “has developed a proposal that meets the required budget reductions of the (Budget Control Act) while preserving a capacity and capability that can best respond to the needs of the nation, both abroad and at home. While there is no ‘good’ solution ... the (Army National Guard) proposal recommends minimally acceptable reductions in military construction; facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization; readiness; training; schools; recruiting and retention and other areas. It also reduces full-time manning by nearly 9 percent.”

The bottom line here in Florida would be a nearly 10 percent reduction of the Florida National Guard from its current 10,000 members, says Evans.

“For a state whose ratio of guardsman-to-citizen is already next to last in the nation, and whose vulnerabilities far exceed those of other states, this is unacceptable,” he says.

Another issue not sitting well with the Florida National Guard is the Army’s plans to further reduce the number of Guard aircraft.

“We believe that there should be a strategic pause in order for a formal aviation study to take place,” says Evans. “We believe the reductions to the (Pentagon’s) sequestration bills for 2014 and 2015 provide us an opportune time to make sure we get it right.

“Under the current Army plan, the (Florida Army National Guard) expects to lose four aircraft. You may recall, the (Florida Army National Guard) has already lost its C-23 Sherpa and C-130 Hercules aircraft in recent years ... all valuable to our domestic response mission.”

All this comes at a time when Army and Army National Guard leadership are sparring over diminishing resources, with the head of the National Guard Association of the United States chaffing at Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno’s recent statement that active-duty and guard and reserve members were “not interchangeable.”

Evans, understandably, stands up for the role of the Florida National Guard.

“We believe the Army’s Active Component of the Department of Defense must continue to be the force that remains ready to respond immediately to threats overseas,” he says. “It should be sized and resourced to decisively accomplish its mission and should be augmented by the Army National Guard as reinforcement is needed.

“The (Army National Guard) must provide capacity, depth, and reversibility in order to meet any overseas threat, on any scale, while also remaining ready to immediately respond to protect life and defend citizens in the homeland.

“The Army must right-size and balance the force to meet its missions within the fiscal realities of the current budget environment. An (Army National Guard) soldier costs less than a third of an active component soldier to sustain.”

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The last time I saw Skip Parrish, it was about a year ago. We were aboard the SeaStriker 22, a camouflaged patrol boat prototype built by Tampa’s River­Hawk Fast Sea Frames, doing about 70 mph across Tampa Bay.

Parish, a Sarasota inventor, was there because of his interest in marrying these fast-moving vessels with unmanned aerial vehicle technology.

Fast forward to the run-up to the Winter Olympics.

Parish spends his time thinking about ways to keep people safe. To that end, he developed and patented a method of remotely detecting explosives by using a laser to detect vapors.

The idea came to him about five years ago.

“We were reading the papers and seeing a lot of (improvised explosive device) events in Iraq,” says Parish. “I essentially got tired of reading the paper and wanted to do something about it, so I started experimenting and built a device that can ‘see’ explosive vapors and drug vapors from a long distance.”

In December, with the approach to the Winter Games in Sochi filled with stories about potential extremist attacks, Parish sent an email to the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls in an effort to strike up interest in his technology.

A few days later, Parish was informed by State that his invention falls under the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), both of which require a rigorous review that would not be finished until well after the Sochi games conclude.

Asked for an explanation, the State Department told me Parish’s invention is regulated under rules governing “the export of U.S. origin Launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs and Mines” and devices to detect those things.

The State Department’s ruling, says Parish, was frustrating.

“I am a bit biased,” he says. “I built it, I didn’t see anything that ought to be ITAR there; the government does. I follow what they do. But any time there is civilian loss of life in any of these events, it is distressing to not make any difference where there are civilians.

“I do not want to read the paper the next day to see someone killed by these people.”

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Congrats to Amanda Patterson Crowe, who made it to the quarterfinals of the Military Spouse magazine’s Military Spouse of the Year contest.

Crowe, 36, is married to J. Michael Crowe, 36, a Navy chief petty officer stationed at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.

A former Navy reservist and military spouse for the past six years, Crowe is executive director of In Gear Career (ingearcareer.org), hosting monthly networking events for military spouses and working to make “connections with local employers who are interested in hiring military spouses.”

Crowe is “very honored” by the nod.

“I would love to have more business leaders involved in those events — they don’t always need to have a job open to contact me,” she says.

Crowe is in rare company. The magazine collected thousands of nominations from all six service branches of the military.

The first round of public voting took place Tuesday, with more than 130,000 votes cast for the base-level winners.

Out of all those nominations, Crowe was one of 180 spouses elected by popular vote to represent their respective base, National Guard state or Coast Guard district.

The six branch winners will be announced Feb. 20. The final voting round, March 4, results in the awarding of the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year on May 9.

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Ride 2 Recovery, which supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans, featuring cycling as the core activity, is holding Honor Ride Tampa on Saturday at the Tampa Convention Center’s Sail Pavilion, 333 S. Franklin St.

There is no cost to injured veterans to participate.

For others, it’s $65 a rider registered by Friday or $75 a rider registering the day of ride.

Teams of five or more are $50 per team rider registered by Friday or $60 per team rider registering the day of ride.

A portion of the registration fee is tax-deductible.

Registration includes goody bag with tech shirt, route slip, SAG support, fully stocked rest stops and a finishing medal.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission helmets must be worn at all times by all riders.

Day-of-ride registration and packet pick-up is 7 to 8 a.m., and the ride starts at 8 a.m.

Participants can sign up online by going to active.com/tampa-fl and then clicking “Ride 2 Recovery — Honor Ride Tampa 2014.”

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One soldier died in Afghanistan last week.

Chief Warrant Officer Edward Balli, 42, of Monterey, Calif., died Jan. 20 in Kandahar Province of wounds from small arms fire when he was attacked by insurgents. Balli was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe, Vilseck, Germany.

There have now been 2,295 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s longest war.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

Twitter: @haltman

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