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RI ranked 2nd in Guard deployments to Iraq

From National Journal:

Of all the states and territories in the union, balmy, laid-back Hawaii -- halfway around the world from Iraq and Afghanistan -- has the highest rate of deployments of Army National Guard soldiers since September 11, 2001. For every 1,000 soldiers in its Army Guard, Hawaii has deployed individuals 976 times in support of the Bush administration's global war on terrorism, according to a National Journal analysis of Pentagon data. In fact, Hawaii's rate of deployments is nearly twice the national average and four times as high as the state with the lowest rate of deployments per 1,000 Guard soldiers: Delaware at 228.

After the Aloha State, rounding out the top five contributors of Guard soldiers to the war effort are Rhode Island at 883 deployments per 1,000, South Dakota at 781, Maine at 757, and Washington state at 744.

 

The causes of the striking disparities lie not in any relative levels of patriotism, bravery, or even party politics. National Journal could find no obvious patterns in deployments of National Guard soldiers from red states or blue states, for example. Instead, the explanations lie in the nature of the National Guard -- a federation of 54 state and territorial militias, each one unique -- and deep in the details of the military planning process. But the effects of these disparities are considerable, and they ripple across hundreds of thousands of Guard soldiers, their families, their employers, and their home states' readiness for domestic emergencies, particularly natural disasters.

 

Using official data from the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau for all states and territories, National Journal compared the number of Army National Guard soldiers deployed by each state since 9/11 with the total strength of that state's Army Guard. We counted a soldier who deployed twice as two deployments, not one. Air National Guard troops were not included because they typically deploy for short periods instead of the 12-month or longer deployments normal for the Army Guard. These statistics represent the best available measure of each state Guard's level of participation in the war on terrorism.

 

Every state Guard has stepped up its pace of operations since September 11, but National Journal's analysis found dramatic differences among them. Nationwide, the 350,000-strong Army National Guard has deployed soldiers 190,000 times since 9/11 -- that's a national average of just over 550 deployments per 1,000 troops. Interestingly, the three most populous states fell below the average: California at 522 deployments per 1,000 soldiers, New York at 507, and Texas at 486. By contrast, the states with the highest rates of deployment in the nation were all relatively small and less-populous. (See accompanying graphic.) The states of the Old South and the Rocky Mountain states generally have higher deployment rates than do other regions, although exceptions exist even there.

 

With President Bush's home state of Texas ranking relatively low, and with both high- and low-ranked states showing a mix of Democratic and Republican control, these patterns cannot be attributed to differences in party affiliation. Instead, interviews with officials from the National Guard Bureau and from 11 selected states suggest that the critical factor might be called "military demographics."

 

National Guard forces in different states have different kinds of units. Some states have more infantry brigades or military police; others have more artillery or tank units. This is partly because of state priorities, and partly because the Pentagon over the years has tried to rationalize the overall Guard force to reduce duplication. Historical accident, local tradition, and varying levels of education among a state's population also factor into the mix. Some kinds of units are in high demand for Iraq and Afghanistan; other types are called up much less frequently.

 

 "The National Guard Bureau tries to spread the requirements around as much as they can," said Maj. Gen. William Wofford, a former Army mobilization planner who is now the adjutant-general for the Arkansas National Guard, "but they can't task a state for an infantry brigade that doesn't have an infantry brigade."

 

A large, populous state with a large Army Guard will have some of everything, averaging out these differences in demand. A small state with only a few types of units, however, will either get hit hard, as Hawaii and Rhode Island have, or hardly at all, as Delaware has.

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