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NEWS FROM CNN
National Guard: Now and Then
Aired February 13, 2004 - 12:47 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: That controversy surrounding President Bush's military service during the Vietnam War has thrown the National Guard into the spotlight.
Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, takes a look at the Guard now and then.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the '60s and '70s, the National Guard was barely trained for riot control, much less jungle combat.
RET. COL. SAM GARDINER, U.S. AIR FORCE: They were the third echelon, they were the last to go. They weren't very ready.
MCINTYRE: Their drills looked good on film, but for many, service in the Guard was simply the best legal way to avoid the draft in Vietnam. In his autobiography, former joint chiefs chairman, Colin Powell, complained "I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed and so many professional athletes managed to wrangle slots in the Reserve and National Guard units."
(on camera): For most of the Vietnam War, President Johnson avoided calling up the National Guard, fearful it would only further divide the country over an increasingly unpopular war. But after the 1968 Tet Offensive he relented.
And as this exhibit at the National Guard memorial museum in Washington shows, some 9,000 guard troops served in Vietnam between '68 and '69. One hundred of them died there.
(voice-over): But by 1970, with the war winding down, service in the Guard was a virtual get-out-of-Nam free card. That's a far cry from today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch to the right. Watch to the right.
MCINTYRE: At Fort Polk, Louisiana, these guard troops train for Iraq the same way active duty soldiers do. And many volunteered after September 11 under no illusion it would be a weekend job.
LT. GEN. STEVEN BLUM, CHIEF, NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU: Every one of those young men and women that chose to go in the Army Guard or the Air National Guard knew fully well that they would be deployed and put in harm's way. MCINTYRE: With 59 guard soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, and with the percentage of Guard and Reserve troops rising in Iraq above 40 percent, you would think it would be harder to get volunteers. But the Guard's top general says no.
BLUM: Recruiting is up. Our ability to re-enlist our soldiers is up. Today's national guardsmen join to serve their country, make no mistake about it.
MCINTYRE: Jamie McIntyre, CNN the Pentagon.
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