DES MOINES, Iowa – Maj. Gen. Ben Corell, the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, delivered the annual Condition of the Guard Address on Thursday morning in a joint session of the Iowa House and Iowa Senate.
Watch the address provided by Iowa PBS above or read the transcript of his remarks as prepared for delivery provided below:
President Chapman, Speaker Grassley, Governor Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor Gregg
Distinguished members of the Iowa General Assembly, state officials, friends, family and my fellow Iowans
Good morning and thank you for allowing me this opportunity to provide you an update on the Iowa National Guard.
As I begin this morning I want to thank Governor Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Gregg for their strong and ongoing support of our Soldiers, Airmen, their families and civilian employers.
In a year like 2020, your untiring efforts on behalf of our Soldiers and Airmen is truly appreciated. Additionally, I want to thank you, our Iowa legislators for all you do for the Iowa National Guard. Your continued support is vital to our success.
I can report to you that is that Iowa National Guard is focused and is prepared to accomplish every mission we are assigned, whether at home or abroad.
2020 was an extraordinary year, it was humbling to see firsthand the collaborative efforts by so many local and state agency partners come together to support Iowans throughout this pandemic.
These partnerships, at every level reflects the sense of community and teamwork that Iowans expect and depend on.
These many partnerships facilitated our ability as a state to respond rapidly to emerging threats to help our fellow Iowans during this time of need. This response effort was truly all hands on deck, everyone working together.
As we have done throughout our history, the Iowa National Guard played a critical role while working together with our local, state, and federal partners responding to the needs of our citizens.
Because of the unique nature of our Citizen Soldiers and Airmen and our locations across the state, the Iowa National Guard is able to quickly fill critical gaps in response efforts.
Not since the historic floods of 2008, has the Iowa National Guard played such a diverse role in coming to the aid of Iowans during their time of need.
What makes the Iowa National Guard unique is the fact that the communities we serve are OUR communities. We live here. We work here. We are part of the community.
When a disaster strikes, we are called upon to ensure our neighbors, our towns, our families and friends recover as quickly as possible.
We have been involved in so much this past year. I’d like to highlight some of what we have accomplished: During our COVID-19 response efforts, the Iowa National Guard had over 900 Soldiers and Airmen on duty supporting Iowa’s response to this pandemic.
We were honored to assist Lt Governor Gregg and the “Feeding Iowans Task Force” helping Iowan’s who needed a hand obtaining food to feed their families through the support of our network of food banks and food pantries located in communities all across our state.
Soldiers and Airmen from the Iowa National Guard supported this effort by building over 20,000 boxes of food to hand out to our citizens and by delivering over 312 tons of food to our food banks and pantries.
The Iowa National Guard safely drove over 420,000 miles ensuring personnel protective equipment was available to first responders and health care professionals across the State at the same time ensuring timely delivery of Test Iowa lab samples to the State Hygienic Lab.
To put that in perspective, that’s nearly 17 trips around the Earth without serious incidents or injuries.
Our Soldiers and Airmen provided operations and management expertise to 12 Test Iowa drive through locations across the State ensuring all aspects of required site resources remained available to safely operate those Test Iowa sites.
Out the over half a million COVID-19 tests completed at all Test Iowa site locations, the Iowa National Guard assisted with more than 70% of these at our drive through Test Iowa locations.
Our Soldiers and Airmen made thousands of phone calls supporting the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Call Center’s helping to track down and mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
In November, at the request of Governor Reynolds, the Iowa National Guard began assisting with a patient transfer hotline to help manage increased demands on hospitals across the State.
As we know, the true heroes of the pandemic response have been our frontline healthcare workers, local first responders and public health professionals.
The men and women of the Iowa National Guard are honored to have played a small role in supporting these professionals meet the needs of Iowans as we collectively work to mitigate the suffering caused by COVID-19.
I am extremely proud of all of our Iowa National Guard members and their commitment to help the people of Iowa during this challenging time.
The extended duration of this event and the diverse type of missions we conducted highlight the value of our Citizen Soldiers and Airmen to the State of Iowa.
These missions at home did not stop us from supporting federal missions around the world through various active duty deployments.
In total this past year, we provided over 1700 Iowa Soldiers and Airmen to serve on active duty missions throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. We also supported domestic operations at the Southwest border, and this past summer’s California wildfires.
2020 saw the largest number of Iowa National Guard members deployed overseas in more than 10 years.
I could not be prouder of their accomplishments as they execute these missions and we look forward to their safe arrival home later this year.
In addition to our COVID-19 support and active duty deployments, we responded to numerous other missions supporting the people of Iowa.
th The most significant was the Derecho that devastated portions of Iowa on August 10 . In
the days following the Derecho, our mission focus was to support power restoration efforts in Linn County.
The Iowa National Guard responded with over 200 Soldiers and Airmen with their equipment and removed over 1400 loads of debris, totaling almost 15,000 tons while clearing 593 city blocks.
The Iowa National Guard provided cyber security expertise and equipment through our cyber professionals from the 168th Cyber Support Squadron helping Secretary of State Pate safeguard a fair and accurate election process for Iowa.
The Iowa National Guard cyber initiatives demonstrate how our federal missions are linked to the evolving threats we face here at home on a daily basis.
We remain actively engaged in supporting the domestic counter drug mission by providing aviation, analytic capabilities, training, and drug demand reduction support to law enforcement agency efforts to reduce illegal drug trade.
In 2020, the Iowa National Guard Counterdrug program supported the seizure of over 3600 lbs of illegal drugs and $3.7 million dollars in currency while providing support for 15 anti- drug coalitions.
Additionally, we trained over 6300 law enforcement professionals from across the country through our counter-drug schoolhouse on Camp Dodge.
Our RC-26 Reconnaissance aircraft based at the 132nd Air Wing here in Des Moines is a proven resource supporting law enforcement agencies and is instrumental in supporting the Counterdrug mission.
This past year saw a staggering number of state active duty requirements and overseas deployments for the Iowa National Guard, I could not be any prouder of these great men and women who make so many sacrifices to serve in our National Guard here in Iowa.
While executing all these missions, our Soldiers and Airmen still found time to demonstrate that they are among the best in the nation at what they do.
The 185th Air National Guard Refueling Wing in Sioux City, who will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, was awarded its 14th (4th consecutive) Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
The 132nd Air Wing in Des Moines celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, and was awarded its 15th (5th consecutive) Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
The 109th Medical Battalion in Iowa City was the 2020 Army National Guard Philip A. Connelly Award winner recognizing culinary excellence within the Army Food Service Programs.
These recognitions demonstrate not only the training and readiness of the Iowa National Guard but reinforce the individual commitment, motivation, and pride of our Soldiers and Airmen.
While it is important to reflect on where we’ve been and the many challenges we’ve faced in 2020, we must also look forward to the year ahead. The Iowa National Guard will continue to be asked to support our nation’s federal missions overseas.
We currently have nearly 400 Soldiers and Airmen preparing to mobilize and deploy to Europe, Africa and the Middle East Areas of Responsibility over the next several months.
While mentioning upcoming deployments, this year brings an exciting new dynamic to the relationship with our State Partnership Program partner, Kosovo.
We have coordinated for logistics and maintenance personnel from the Kosovo Security Force to serve with the Iowa National Guard in upcoming deployments to the Middle East.
This will mark the first expeditionary deployment for members of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) to serve outside of its borders.
The KSF has demonstrated their commitment and preparedness to serve alongside us.
As a nation they are taking steps to be a security provider and not just a security consumer.
Based on the engagements the Iowa National Guard has had with the KSF over the last 10 years, we know they are ready for this step forward. This effort will strengthen our state partnership while highlighting the professionalism and competency of the KSF to other coalition partners.
We faced numerous obstacles with the vision to deploy the KSF with units from the Iowa National Guard. The persistence and support from the Department of State, the Iowa National Guard, the KSF, and the Government of Kosovo, allowed us to turn this idea into a reality.
As I mentioned last year, the vision of the Iowa National Guard is to be the most trusted organization in Iowa. We continue to work every day to build and maintain trust in all that we do.
My vision for the Iowa National Guard is focused on always being ready to defend our country and come to the aid of Iowans in times of need.
This requires us to be responsible stewards of our resources ensuring our organization is ready for any task or mission put before us, and last but not least, to be responsive to the needs of our State and Nation.
To help accomplish this vision, we are focused on four Lines of Effort which will drive the Iowa National Guard’s strategic objectives for the next seven years.
These Lines of Effort include; Fielding a Competent and Ready Force; Maintaining the Right Force Structure in Iowa; Developing and Maintaining Sustainable Infrastructure across the state; and Caring for our Service Members, our Employees and our families.
To meet the needs here at home and the security requirements abroad, the Iowa National Guard must remain focused on fielding a competent and ready force.
That means we must anticipate future needs for both the State and Nation as we develop plans that will increase predictability for our service members, their families as well as our civilian employers.
It is my belief that the demand for the Iowa National Guard will remain high as we look to the future.
The citizens of Iowa expect and depend on us to be always ready and prepared to respond to any threat or challenge.
This requires our units to be disciplined, physically fit, results-oriented, and achieve all readiness objectives.
We continuously define and measure these benchmarks ensuring we have a clear and precise picture of readiness.
I assure you, as I have committed to the Governor, the Iowa National Guard is now and will always be ready to respond to the needs of the people of Iowa.
Our second Line of Effort is Maintaining Force Structure. When we talk about Force Structure we mean having the right size and the right type of units stationed in the right areas of the state.
This effort requires a total team approach to achieve results. There is much emphasis on strength readiness – keeping our positions filled with quality members.
Recruiting and retention is a critical task that must be at the forefront of everything we do.
In 2020, we focused on our strength goals and successfully filled 100% of the positions allocated to the Iowa National Guard from the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.
There are always challenges in meeting our readiness goals as we compete with a strong job market and face competition from other services and neighboring states offering competing educational incentives.
My goal is to ensure that those Iowans who want to remain in Iowa and serve in the military choose to be a member of the Iowa National Guard.
We know that quality state education incentives play a critical role in keeping our members here in Iowa.
Thanks to the funding that this legislative body has provided, we remain competitive with our state educational incentives for our members who want to pursue their education goals at Iowa colleges and universities.
We must also improve our efforts in the recruitment of diverse Iowa citizens. While we’ve made great strides in diversifying our force, we still have a long way to go.
I continue to ensure equity and inclusion remains a top priority across the Iowa National Guard.
I require my Senior Leaders to understand the demographics within their units and have the tools to positively impact and improve diversity and inclusion within our ranks.
Our diversity metrics continue to demonstrate a positive trend with an increase in the percentage of females and minorities serving the Iowa National Guard.
We currently have 3 Female 0-6, Colonels in the Iowa Air National Guard and just this month, we promoted 2 female officers to Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, the first time in 15 years that an Army female has achieved this career milestone.
The Iowa National Guard is committed to Diversity and Inclusion across all spectrums.
We continue to engage with community groups through various outreach programs as well as conduct events that not only introduce our Soldiers and Airmen to various cultures but showcases the opportunities that exist in the Iowa National Guard to all Iowa citizens.
Our third line of effort is our ability to Maintain and Develop sustainable infrastructure.
Stewardship of resources entrusted to us requires us to be responsible not only for our people but also for the state and federal resources we receive to operate with.
These limited resources provide our units with quality infrastructure; specifically our armories and our maintenance facilities across the state.
I do thank this legislative body for your continued commitment and dedication to this effort. Without your support, we would not be successful in providing the facilities required to maintain our readiness.
A portion of my responsibilities as the Adjutant General is to look to the future and ensure the Iowa National Guard is postured for continued success.
I believe a future Army National Guard Readiness Center located south of the Des Moines metro area will posture the organization well into the future as we look at the shifting demographic trends within the state.
We have been in communication with the city of West Des Moines and they do have an interest in creating a future multi-use facility with us. The land for this proposed action has already been secured by the city and we look forward to advancing this project over the next couple of years.
This spring, we will dedicate our state of the art Davenport Readiness Center, one of the newest military facilities in the state.
This $23-million dollar totally federally funded project supports the recruiting, administration, training, and logistical needs for over 350 Soldiers now and into the future.
Additionally this spring, there will be a ribbon cutting for our new federally funded tracked vehicle maintenance facility designed for use by our Sustainment Training Center on Camp Dodge.
The Sustainment Training Center provides collective technical and tactical sustainment unit training for the entire US Army.
This new building will add additional capabilities for the Sustainment Training Center and will provide new opportunities for soldiers from across the nation to train in Iowa.
My 4th line of effort and the most critical component of everything we do in the Iowa National Guard is taking care of our service members, our civilian employees and our families.
Without our people, the Iowa National Guard does not exist. We recognize that military service places significant demands and stress not only on our service members but also on their families.
Please join me in applauding the dedication and sacrifices given by our families.
We owe them all an organizational culture that recognizes and values their contributions and sacrifices.
As I mentioned earlier, my goal is to be the most trusted organization in the state of Iowa.
In order to build trust there must be transparency, which is one of my priorities for the Iowa National Guard.
We acknowledge that sexual assaults, sexual harassment and retaliatory behaviors still happen and continue to be a problem for the military and for society.
I remain committed to holding those who cross the line accountable and am focused on eliminating these actions and behaviors from our ranks.
Respect, trust, and discipline are the foundation of unit cohesion and readiness. Leaders have the responsibility to build and maintain that foundation.
The Iowa National Guard is committed to creating a culture of prevention before, intervention during, and delivering compassion and human decency in the face of a catastrophic event.
We know we must work to earn the trust of our Soldiers, Airmen, civilians and fellow Iowans every day.
This transparency not only applies to sexual assault and sexual behavior, it also applies to behavioral health, mental health, and suicides.
Taking care of our service members involves open and frank discussions about difficult issues.
Like sexual assault and sexual harassment, these issues are not just military or National Guard issues, these are challenges across our society.
We are working hard in every aspect to build the trust in our organization that we will always do what is right.
We need to continue to invest in programs and activities that educate our Soldiers, Airmen and families on prevention and intervention to ensure our service members get the help they need, when they need it in order to increase our service members’ safety, security and resiliency.
I am committed to building and maintaining the trust of those who serve in our formations and to do what is expected of us by our fellow citizens.
If we are to be truly successful in our mission, we must look beyond the next year or two.
We must prepare for what the world will look like in the years to come.
The world in which we live in today presents complicated security challenges that are constantly changing at an ever increasing rate and scope.
In order to meet these future challenges we have designed and implemented a strategic plan called the Iowa National Guard Strategy 2028.
This strategic plan will guide us over the next seven years to ensure that we are prepared to mobilize, deploy and execute diverse missions as part of the U.S. military or in support of the Governor for the people of Iowa.
Over our existence in the last 182 years, thousands of Iowans have steadfastly defended America both at home and abroad through service in the Iowa National Guard.
As demonstrated through the years, the Iowa National Guard has always been there, and we proudly stand ready today to respond to the unknown challenges that lie ahead both here at home and abroad.
The Condition of your Iowa National Guard remains strong.
With your continued support, and the support of Iowans everywhere; we are always ready – we are warriors, we are citizens, we are your neighbors – standing together strengthening the future of Iowa.