DES MOINES, Iowa – Maj. Gen. Ben Corell, the Adjutant General of Iowa, gave his third Condition of the Guard address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on Thursday morning.
Readers can watch the video of his remarks, courtesy of Iowa PBS, above or read the transcript of his remarks, as prepared for delivery, below. The bold text is part of the original transcript and not emphasized by The Iowa Torch.
Good morning everyone, and thank you for the warm welcome.
President Chapman, Speaker Grassley, Governor Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor Gregg, distinguished members of the Iowa General Assembly, and my fellow Iowans.
Thank you for inviting me to address this distinguished body and to once again share the story of our Iowa National Guard.
It is a tremendous honor to stand before you today representing the dedicated men and women of the Iowa National Guard. On their behalf, I want to say “THANK YOU” for all you have done over the years to assist us in building a professional, world class organization.
We are so very grateful for the strong support we receive from the members of this general assembly.
I want to publicly thank Governor Reynolds and Lt Governor Gregg for their leadership and support of all Iowans who serve, or have served our Nation and our State in uniform.
I continue to be appreciative of your trust and confidence in me as I serve as Iowa’s 27th Adjutant General. I am extremely honored to lead and represent the Soldiers and Airmen of the Iowa National Guard.
I truly thank this legislative body for your continued support of the Iowa National Guard. The resources and support that you provide make it possible for the Iowa National Guard to be prepared to respond to the needs of our State and our Nation.
I realize it is our people, the individual members of the Iowa National Guard, our families, and our employers who continue to sacrifice their time and talents that allow us to be always ready to respond when needed.
Our success is noteworthy considering the challenging and dynamic environment we’re operating in, not only with COVID -19, but also with the fluid situations that exist around the world.
Since the attacks on 9/11, we’ve mobilized and deployed more Soldiers and Airmen than any time in recent history.
More than 17,000 men and women serving in the Iowa National Guard have deployed in support of numerous campaigns around the globe.
This past year, twenty years after the attacks on our country, we all watched as the last U.S. service members left Afghanistan. For me, like many others who served there, it was difficult to watch.
I take solace knowing that I, along with those that serve beside me did everything in our ability each day that we served there to achieve an outcome different than what exists today.
Almost every community in Iowa has been affected in some way as our all-volunteer military met the security needs of our nation the past two decades.
Sadly, not all of our brothers and sisters returned home. 20 members of the Iowa National Guard along with 79 more Iowans from all branches of our military made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation in armed conflict since 9/11.
Today we have a new generation of heroes in our midst. The men and women who returned home after serving in the Global War on Terrorism are carrying freedom’s torch in the same proud tradition as veterans of previous conflicts.
Like the veterans of World War II, our next “Greatest Generation” have returned home with a renewed sense of purpose and energy, eager to contribute their skills and talents to improve life for their neighbors and for in their communities here in Iowa.
The Soldiers and Airmen of the Iowa National Guard answered the call on 9/11, and have served continuously since. We haven’t had the wealth of such experience and talent concentrated in our state since the end of World War II.
I want to thank the thousands of Soldiers and Airmen and their families for their time, service and sacrifice. Through them, the Iowa National Guard has made a difference in the world we live in.
Although the war in Afghanistan has now ended, the demand placed on the Iowa National Guard remains high.
Iowa’s Soldiers and Airmen have continued to deploy in support of our Nation’s defense, filling the operational requirements of our Nation’s armed forces around the world and here at home.
During this past year, the Iowa National Guard played a critical role in both overseas and domestic operations for our Nation.
In 2021, over 1,600 Iowa Soldiers and over 200 Iowa Airmen served on active duty missions throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
620 Soldiers from the 1st-133d Infantry Battalion, deployed to Qatar and the UAE in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
This was the fifth federal mobilization for the Ironman Battalion in recent years including a 22-month mobilization in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005 through 2007.
Members of the 1st-113th Cavalry Squadron along with members of 1st-168th Infantry Battalion deployed 160 Soldiers to support Operation Enduring Freedom, in the Horn of Africa.
The 1st-194th Field Artillery Battalion, deployed 250 Soldiers that supported security operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed 360 Soldiers to Kosovo supporting NATO’s KFOR mission focused on security and stability of the Western Balkans.
The 734th Regional Support Group deployed 80 Soldiers to Iraq and Kuwait and provided Forward Operations Base Life-Support in the Central Command area of responsibility.
The 3654 Support Maintenance Company deployed 150 Soldiers to Kuwait maintaining military equipment at 22 separate locations within the U.S. Central Command.
75 Soldiers from the 171st Aviation Regiment deployed to Kuwait and supported Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Spartan Shield.
We have now welcomed home almost all of these units, our Soldiers and our Airmen as they successfully completed these overseas missions this past year.
In addition to our overseas mission requirements, we have continued to provide Iowa National Guard members to respond here at home. In the last few years, we’ve been as busy on the home front as we have been overseas.
Last January, we sent 265 Iowa Soldiers and Airmen to assist federal agencies with security missions during the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
This past October, we welcomed home 24 Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team who spent a year supporting federal operations on the Southwest Border.
As they returned, we sent off several dozen Soldiers from the 376th Aviation Detachment, serving on federal duty supporting Customs and Border operations on the Southwest border again this year.
This past November, 65 Airmen from both the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City and the 132d Wing in Des Moines deployed stateside to support Operation Allies Welcome.
Operation Allies Welcome is the ongoing effort to bring Americans home from Afghanistan and bring vulnerable Afghans to the United States and support their resettlement.
This past year saw a significant number of deployments for the Iowa National Guard both at home and across the globe.
I could not be any prouder of these great men and women who make so many sacrifices to continue to serve in our Iowa National Guard.
While executing all these missions, our units still found time to demonstrate that they are among the best in the nation at what they do.
The 185th Air Refueling Wing, in Sioux City, was awarded its 15th overall, and 5th consecutive Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
The 132d Air Wing, in Des Moines, was awarded its 16th overall, and 6th consecutive Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
These accomplishments are a direct reflection of the training and readiness of the Iowa National Guard, along with the individual commitment, motivation, and pride of our members.
While we are proud of our past accomplishments, we now look forward to the year ahead.
The Iowa National Guard will continue to be asked to support our Nation’s federal missions overseas.
We have alerted several units for possible deployment later this year.
We anticipate we will deploy members of the 209th Medical Company from Iowa City and members of the 1133rd Transportation Company from Mason City to support Operation Atlantic Resolve in Poland.
Atlantic Resolve is part of the Deterrence Initiative focused in Eastern Europe, which enables the U.S. to provide deterrence to adversaries while supporting our NATO partners.
As we continue to meet the demands of deployments and respond to our State and Nation’s homeland security needs, we remain mindful of the unpredictable nature of the world we live in –
A world where extremist ideologies and great power competitions are realities that must be dealt with.
As a nation, we must maintain our vigilance and continue to provide our all-volunteer force with the resources they need to fight and win when called upon.
Our countries leaders must choose wisely on when we want to use our military power, and then clearly define what the desired end state is for the missions that we ask our military to perform.
One way the Iowa National Guard continues to support stability and peace efforts around the world is through our State Partnership Program relationship with the Kosovo Security Force, or KSF under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program.
Last year, the Iowa National Guard and Kosovo Security Force accomplished an historic co-deployment to the Middle East.
KSF logistics officers deployed with us serving in the 734th Regional Support Group and KSF maintenance personnel deployed with us serving in the 3654 Maintenance Company.
All KSF members were based out of Kuwait supporting Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.
This deployment demonstrated the KSF’s operational readiness for future missions while building trust and interoperability for additional opportunities for Kosovo to be a security partner to stand side by side with our partners and allies.
This strong partnership with Kosovo didn’t happen overnight.
It developed over years of engagements that built relationships through mutual goals, respect, and shared interests.
This past November, the Iowa National Guard held a series of events celebrating our decade-long partnership with Kosovo.
This anniversary was celebrated not only with senior leadership of the KSF, but also with senior Kosovo government leaders such as the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense, demonstrating the level of importance that we each place on this relationship.
We will continue to strengthen this partnership. We have plans for several more training opportunities this year as we work for additional co-deployment opportunities between the KSF and the Iowa National Guard.
Just like our relationship with Kosovo, partnerships within our State are equally important and vital to our success.
When talking about the Iowa National Guard, people often focus on our state and overseas missions. But we can’t forget that the Iowa National Guard is a community-based organization with an important community mission.
Through interagency partnerships with local and State partners, we strive to add value for the people of Iowa.
The West Des Moines Armory project is a great example of this. It involves a partnership between the City of West Des Moines, West Des Moines Fire Department and the Iowa National Guard.
This 20 million dollar project, 75% federal and 25% state-funded, will posture the organization well into the future.
I thank this legislative body for your support on this project that was approved last legislative session.
Another example of interagency partnership we are working on with our state partners is the concept of a Midwest Traffic Incident Management Training Center.
This training facility would be constructed on Camp Dodge and would allow for driver training on a closed track, accident investigation, and on-scene management of roadside incidents for the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Iowa National Guard.
The Iowa Department of Transportation has the lead on this initiative but the Iowa National Guard is in full support of the concept and a partner in this effort.
These types of partnerships facilitate our ability as a state to respond rapidly to emerging threats to help our fellow Iowans during times of need.
These partnerships, at every level, reflect the sense of community and teamwork that Iowans expect and depend on.
As I’ve said before, my vision for the Iowa National Guard is focused on always being ready, whether defending our country or coming to the aid of Iowans during 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 in order to be responsive to the needs of our State and Nation.
The Iowa National Guard is focused on four lines of effort to help accomplish this vision: 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 Employers, 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.
We often talk about the impact federal funding has with the Iowa National Guard’s support to the state’s economy.
But just as important, is the impact in terms of human capital created by our members returning from military training or from deployments.
This training and operational experience is a value-added component that Citizen Soldiers and Airmen bring back to their military and civilian jobs, enhancing the value they provide to their workplace.
This operational experience and training is something impossible to replicate, regardless of time or resources available to our civilian employers.
When our Soldiers and Airmen leave Iowa for a deployment, they embark on a journey that leaves them forever changed.
They are challenged both physically and mentally in ways that are hard to imagine.
They are charged with performing, often in dangerous and inhospitable environments, incredible tasks day in and day out.
Yet, they do so with a steely professionalism and determination that few who have not experienced this can understand.
And when they complete their mission, they return home to their families, friends, employers, and communities to pick up where they left off.
For the great majority of these individuals, they return to Iowa more focused, more disciplined, and generally more capable than when they left.
Ensuring that our Soldiers and Airmen are Always Ready to respond comes with challenges;
Challenges that are no different than those being experienced across this country. This leads into our second line of effort: Maintain Force Structure.
Employers and organizations across the country struggle to maintain their readiness and ability to operate at full capacity due to the lack of personnel.
The sudden emergence of COVID has been, and continues to deliver a severe blow to our economy, our businesses, and communities.
Federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates will no doubt impact our organization, these mandates have already started to create dilemmas within our ranks where members must decide to either get vaccinated, or to be forced to leave military service.
We see ourselves as complementary to our full-time Iowa employers. As a primarily part-time work force, our members typically enter our ranks as recent high school graduates.
By utilizing the job training and education benefits, they enter the workforce as disciplined, skilled, and educated employees.
Regarding education benefits, last year the number of service members that utilized the Iowa National Guard Service Scholarship increased by 18%. The most recent fall semester has seen our highest benefit usage ever: $2.8 million in assistance.
That’s Iowans serving Iowa, going to Iowa schools, investing in Iowa’s future.
It is only from the continued support of this legislative body and your commitment to fund the Iowa National Guard Service Scholarship that we are able to provide this incentive to our members.
This not only benefits our men and women, but also the communities and employers across the state where they live and work.
I am proud to say that in 2021, the Iowa Army National Guard’s strength numbers were 102% of our authorized strength.
Additionally, 81% of eligible soldiers chose to reenlist and continue to serve in the Iowa Army National Guard.
The Iowa Air National Guard is doing equally well. In 2021, we finished the year at 101% percent of assigned strength, with a retention rate of 93%.
Recruiting and retention is a critical task for us; when our ranks are full, we maintain the flexibility to perform all of our State and Federal missions when we are called upon.
The Soldiers and Airmen we are recruiting today are high quality young men and women,
Iowan’s who join knowing they could be called upon to serve our Nation and State at any time.
This success didn’t happen by accident.
It is the result of the hard work of our members working together as a team-building and community-based organization that the people of Iowa can trust and depend on today and in the future.
Our third line of effort is our ability to Maintain and Develop Sustainable Infrastructure.
Part of my responsibility as the Adjutant General is to look to the future and ensure the Iowa National Guard is postured for continued success.
Stewardship of the resources entrusted to us requires us to be responsible not only for our people, but also for the State and Federal resources with which we are entrusted.
Iowa National Guard’s annual federal dollar investment into Infrastructure spending in an average year is over $25 million dollars, putting money back into our economy and providing Iowa companies with projects and employment for their workforce.
In the past 21 years, the Iowa Army National Guard has completed major modernization projects on 33 of its older Readiness Centers and Maintenance Facilities across the state.
Our most recent Readiness Center renovation was in Carroll, a facility that had not received any major renovations since it was built in 1987.
This $2.5 million renovation was completed last year and included updated mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems – paid for with both federal and state funds.
These types of renovations, using Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Funds, allow us to leverage federal dollars to ensure that our infrastructure can support our ability to quickly mobilize and respond to meet our State and Federal obligations.
I appreciate this body’s continued support with the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Funding. Completing these updates and renovations is of particular importance allowing us to safeguard continuous operations and prevent disruptions when disasters strike, whether natural or manmade.
Our ability to mass our forces across the state in key locations was especially important during the Eastern Iowa Derecho, where we staged Iowa National Guard members at our Cedar Rapids Readiness Center in order to quickly assist utility companies in electrical power restoration.
Another way we are working to improve our state response ability across agencies is though our Continuity of Operations initiative.
This effort will allow all state and local partners a redundant backup system in order to accomplish essential response functions and maintain communication continuity across the state in the event our states primary communications system go down.
Using both State and Federal funding sources, we are investing in capabilities that will make Iowa’s emergency management systems more responsive.
This initiative will require state funding support that we will ask for this year from the Technology Reinvestment Fund.
Successful completion of this project will prevent lapses in critical communication capabilities during a crisis, ensuring our ability to meet the expectations of Iowans in times of need.
Finally, I want to share with you a little about a few of our Soldiers, Airmen, and Families.
As I’ve said before, without our people, the Iowa National Guard would not exist.
We recognize that military service places significant demands and stress not only on our service members but also on their families.
Today I have with me several members of the Iowa National Guard, who are typical of the types of people that make up our organization that I would like to introduce to you:
I’d like to first introduce Private First Class (PFC) Taylor Patterson.
PFC Patterson is the 1st female in Iowa National Guard history to enlist, and become qualified as an infantry soldier after successfully completing infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
PFC Patterson is from Ankeny and is attending Iowa State University studying animal science as she breaks barriers for others to follow.
Next, I would like to introduce to you Chief Warrant Officer 5 Stephen L. Swisher.
Chief Swisher retired this past November as the longest serving member in Iowa National Guard history having actively served our State and Nation for 44 years, 7 months and 18 days.
Chief Swisher enlisted on December 2, 1976, at the age of 17. Chief Swisher and his wife Lori live in Glenwood.
Please join me in recognizing both of these outstanding members of the Iowa National Guard.
Our people are truly what makes our organization world class.
I want to make you aware of a program we are using that helps make the Iowa National Guard unique and stand out among others while adding value to our communities and our State.
It is called the Expedited Citizenship and Sponsorship (ECAS) Program.
This program allows the Iowa National Guard to help Soldiers who have completed at least one year of Iowa National Guard service, gain US citizenship.
We began supporting this program in April 2020. Since then, at least 45 Iowa Soldiers from 18 different countries have gained U.S. citizenship and continue to serve as Iowa Citizen Soldiers.
This program is changing lives while adding value and diversity to our organization and to our State.
In closing, if we are to be truly successful in our mission, we must continue look into the future.
We must be prepared for what the world will look like in the years to come.
There are complicated security challenges emerging in our world every day and we know that we must always be ready to respond when called.
Trust that we are well postured to fulfill any mission that may arise whether it be for the people of Iowa or for our Nation –
From our strong strength numbers, to our sound infrastructure management, our solid partnerships, and the consistent support from communities across Iowa…..AND
Most importantly with our greatest resource, the thousands of Iowa men and women who are willing to stand beside me and answer the call to serve our Nation and our State.
I assure each of you that the condition of our Iowa National Guard is now, and will continue to remain, strong.
Your Iowa National Guard has always been there, we’ve always answered the call, and we have never failed a mission.
We are ALWAYS READY!
Thank you for this opportunity to share with you the story of our Iowa National Guard.
Frontpage Photo Credit: The Des Moines Register/Pool