CAMP SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, Dec. 7, 2019-The President of the National Guard Association of the United States’ (NGAUS) said that the National Guard Association will become its most powerful state association in its fold if it works with its adjutant general.
NGAUS President Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson said the rift between the NGAC has drawn national attention at the NGAC’s annual conference. Robinson said the National Guard’s other 53 states and territories have a compelling interest in seeing NGAC’s representation jump from the cellar, with the fewest delegates at the 141st NAGUS Conference in Denver in 2019, to the front row with the highest count at the 142nd Conference at Boston in 2020.
“California’s 53 Congressional Representatives gives NGAUS a powerful political punch,” Robinson said.
California has 12% of the 435 total Congressional representatives, five percent more than Texas, and more than double New York’s representatives. Although Robinson was tactful and graceful, he essentially said California’s intrastate disputes are dividing its members, working to Active Duty’s political advantage, and harming the other state National Guards. He was pleased that NGAC President Stan Zezotarski and Brig. Gen. (CA) Pete Cross were at the conference to reconcile differences and find common ground. And he praised California National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin for sending Cross as his surrogate when last minute scheduling conflicts precluded him from attending the conference himself.
“There is not one successful Association that works independently of their adjutant general,” Robinson said. “Every successful Association works closely with their adjutant general, with general officers from their state’s leadership sitting on various Association boards.”
Robinson said the future of all National Guard Associations is with the next generation, encouraging the NGAC and California’s State Military Department to recruit younger officers and mentor them into key Association positions. Robinson said Associations nationwide are showing a tendency of growing older. He emphasized that the NGAC focus its recruiting efforts on junior and field grade officers.
“If we don’t get them into the room now,” Robinson said, “we’re going to lose the younger generation.”
Robinson facilitated a brainstorming session, of sorts, for growing additional NGAC chapters. Robinson spotlighted the NGAC’s Capt. Rasheedah Bilal, NGAUS’ Area VI Company -Grade Officer representative, as a possible poster candidate to recruit and enroll this younger generation in NGAUS’ Capitol Summit Program that brings Company Grade Guardsmen from each state and territory to the nation’s capital for legislative orientation and hands-on training in the legislative process.
Robinson’s pep talk set in several initiatives in motion. Cross and Zezotarski have continued conversations for expanding NGAC chapters at State Military Headquarters in Sacramento; supporting a senior NGAC member’s efforts to resurrect an Air Wing Chapter, the 195th at Beale, AFB; and supporting NGAC Chairman Lt. Col. (retired) Jerry Clements’ efforts to revive the 40th Divisions Artillery (DIVARTY) chapter.
Clements is investing research into a NGAC brochure spelling out the benefits of membership to include recruiting gifts—such as a special NGAC Polo Shirt—unit awards, and NGAC monetary awards to support unit activities such as dining ins, balls and family events that he will present before the Executive Council Jan. 18, 2020. The NGAC is supporting Clements with a survey of its nearly 18,000-member base to solicit their answers on several legislative, policy, and membership questions.
“I believe our numbers legitimately indicate that California National Guardsmen, especially today’s young troops, realize the benefits of an association,” Zezotarski said. “But I’m not so sure they realize the political power that Robinson sees in California is at their fingertips. Power that can only be activated by grassroots volunteerism through chapters, volunteering to represent the NGAC on NGAUS working committees through the Capitol Summit program”
Zezotarski said he wants to learn why members are not volunteering through the survey. Whether they are unaware of the potential at their fingertips, if they feel intimidated in volunteering, or if they are so overwhelmed by their military, family, work, and civic responsibilities that have no time to volunteer. And what legislation and policy venues the NGAC, State Military department, and CNG can pursue that will enable them to become more involved.
“Our aging CNG and NGAC Senior leadership are powerless to activate this base,” Zezotarski. “By not working together, we are squandering our 21,000 soldiers’ and airmen’s 53 Congressional voices, rendering them insignificant within NGAUS, and making them vulnerable to legislation to withdraw federal legislation and funding as we witnessed during the last National Defense Apportions Act (NDAA).”
Zezotarski agreed with Robinson on this point, it’s time for the CNG and NGAC senior leadership to work for consensus, find common ground, and pass the torch to the next generation.