Public affairs officer speaks to Rotary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

&uot;I'm going to tell you about our mission, our capabilities and how we're organized.&uot;

With those words, Lt. Col. Robert Horton, the Public Affairs Officer for the Alabama National Guard, began an overview of the Alabama Guard for the Troy Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon.

With about 2,500 members of the Air Guard and approximately 12,500 members of the Army National Guard, the Alabama National Guard is the fifth-largest in the nation, Horton said.

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Using a computer-based presentation of graphics and slides, Horton explained the primary mission of the Alabama National Guard during wartime.

&uot;We have the same mission and the same capability as the active forces,&uot; he said. &uot;During wartime, our primary mission becomes a federal mission, but during peacetime we help state agencies.&uot;

Alabama's National Guard has more than 5,000 personnel from 45 communities activated during the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Horton presented a detailed breakdown of Alabama Guard forces, from the 117th air refueling wing to the new 31st chemical brigade stationed in Northport, which has only been functioning for a year. He also cited the &uot;multiple launch rocket system&uot; unit based in Troy.

The combat units are not all being used for killing overseas, Horton said. Some are being deployed domestically. Combat-ready tanks from Alabama have been activated and used inside the United States, he said. Though the tanks are not patrolling the streets of American cities or ringing the perimeters of various military installations, such as Ft. Rucker and the chemical weapons depot in Anniston, Horton said, they are present and active.

The Alabama Guard, which had a budget of $409 million in 2002, receives most of its funding from the federal government. The funds go to a variety of sources: from the paychecks for special forces troops who returned from Afghanistan Monday to the counter-drug operations used to fight the import of illegal substances into the United States to the upkeep of the state's 125 National Guard armories.

Horton said the Troy National Guard unit, the 1670th, was currently undergoing pre-deployment training at Ft. Benning in Georgia. The Brundidge unit is currently stationed in Montgomery and providing support at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Horton thanked the Rotarians for their support as employers of those employees currently deployed for the wars.