Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of Major General R.Martin Umbarger, Joint Forces Headquarters, Adjutant General of Indiana, Indiana National Guard
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the issues regarding the care, treatment and benefits of our soldiers, airmen and families. Soldiers and Airmen of the Indiana National Guard continue to answer the call on behalf of our Nation and State of Indiana. As you know, the National Guard is a dual missioned organization. We have a State mission in support of local first responders in their time of need responding to man-made and natural disasters of our state. Our other mission is the Federal mission of reinforcing the Army and Air Force and their missions all over the world. Since 911, you must agree, our great soldiers and airmen have done this important mission in spades. We currently have over 14,500 soldiers and airmen assigned and makes and we are proud to boast of being the fourth largest Army National Guard in the nation. We are presently at 106% of authorized strength and over the past three years Indiana ranked in the top five states in the nation in recruiting and retention successes. Each of the past three years the nation’s top recruiter has come from our ranks. Over 14,000 soldiers and airmen have been deployed to fight against the global war on terror. Presently, 4,133 Indiana Guardsmen, both Army and Air are deployed to multiple sites worldwide doing a variety of missions, no state has more deployed than Indiana at this time. The accomplishments of our brave soldiers and airmen are many, but the stresses of multiple deployments have taken the toll on our force and caused many adjustments to be made by my Joint Forces Headquarters-Indiana staff to support them during pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment phases. Prior to 911, what used to be a normal baseline of events, insufficient staffs of maybe one deep assisted with providing benefits to Soldiers, Airmen and Families. Today, in order to properly “care of the Soldier/Airmen/Family”, sweeping changes, administrative procedures, changes to staff authorization has been made.
Prior to 911, the staffing of the Indiana Guard was either 1-2 people deep or non-existent concerning Veteran’s Services to Service members and Families. Since 911 and the multiple deployments of our Hoosier Guardsmen we have created a new Directorate on my Joint Force Headquarters-Indiana staff. The Directorate is called J9 (Civil Military Affairs Directorate). We are only one of very few states which have created the J9 Directorate to support Servicemembers, Families and Employers during pre-deployment, deployment and post deployment periods.
The 9 key components of the J9 (Civil Military Affairs Directorate) are:
* Reference attached Information Briefing
- Family Programs – being briefed by Major Cathy Van Bree.
- Veteran’s Transition Assistance – being briefed by COL (Ret) Roger Peterman.
- Selective Service
- Ceremonial Unit
- 38th Division Band
- Funeral Honors
- Command Historian
- Employer Support Guard/Reserve
The creation of the J9 Directorate was designed to assist Servicemembers, Families and Employers during the entire period of service being performed by the Servicemember. This innovative approach to a combined effort lessened the administrative burdens on the traditional administrative personnel sections, and provides a unified focus for benefits and services for the Servicemember and family.
Several other changes in the staffing and priority were also made to assist the Servicemember through innovative techniques and hard decisions. The Indiana National Guard Relief Fund was established to assist families that incur economic difficulties during deployment. This 501c3 fund was established as a result of many Hoosiers and organizations wanting to contribute financial assistance in any way possible to help our soldiers and their families. This fund assists families during times of economic difficulties as a result of their deployment. Stay behind Title 10 Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers were authorized at each Armory/Headquarters. These professional soldiers are very important to the continuity of support to the Servicemember during the pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment phases. An example would be a total of 17 Title 10 soldiers combined with Military Technicians man 28 armories vacated by the 76th Infantry Brigade deployed to Iraq.
Our number one asset in the Indiana National Guard always has been and will continue to be our people; our Soldiers and Airmen. All the weapons systems, vehicles and military equipment are absolutely essential to our mission, but nothing is more important than our Servicemembers and family. During these demanding times to provide professional military units for Federal missions in support of our nation, and provide support for Homeland Security missions, we have instituted many initiatives to provide support to the Servicemember . In many cases we have re-assigned personnel in order to provide the proper support, if you will, taking it out of hide. However, recently, I am very pleased to say we have received additional funding and authorizations which enables me to provide this much needed support to the soldiers and airmen. One program, the Community Based Health Care Program (CBHCO), is a great program assisting our Wounded Warriors. In the past, once our soldiers returned they were quickly demobilized off Title 10 which was bad for soldiers. The Army CBHCO program allows our Wounded Warriors to remain on Title 10, close to or at home, and work at a military facility while their medical issues are being resolved. The sustainment of this program, and others to assist the Servicemember is a must. With the exception of the Veteran’s Transition Assistance Advisor Office, which requires at least one more advisor, we are now staffed at a “sufficient” level to provide the proper support, but I am concerned that these resources may some day be pulled from us. This would be a mistake, as we have learned the hard way as a nation that caring for our wounded and our veterans must continue long after the conflicts end.
I thank you, key members of Congress, for providing the funding for programs such as the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. Programs such as these that care for our soldiers and families prior to deployment, during deployments and long after their return from deployment is critical to their proper reintegration back into their civilian careers. As a nation we have come along way of taking care of those that are serving our country. I thank all of you for the support you have given to our Heroes that have volunteered to serve their State and Country. I thank you for the privilege and opportunity to be with you today. I am very proud to wear the uniform and serve in the ranks of these great young men and women.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. Are there any questions?