(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
At the 33rd annual engineer ball, a yearly gathering open to all the Missouri Guard's engineers, Vaughn spoke about the evolution from the Guard not only having a state mission, but a dual state and federal mission, over the course of his career.
"I think the overall focus on really making the Guard truly an operational force, with the kind of great readiness they have, has been the highlight," Vaughn said. "There are a lot of pieces to that. We had to instill a new spirit and recruiting system and we had to lead the states to a different force structure. We had to make some really hard decisions."
The biggest obstacle Vaughn saw was that the Guard had units that weren't designed to be part of a war effort.
"We faced up to the fact that having hollow and unready force structure was detrimental to the readiness of the Guard and it did not contribute to war fighting," he said. "We made the Guard a full-fledged partner with the active Army in the war-fighting business."
One of the issues Vaughn faced in that area was when Guard units were assigned to fall under active Army units and commanders, those Guard units didn't have the same abilities.
"When you look at an active unit or a Guard unit, across the board, they should have the same capabilities," he said. "It wasn't the Guard unit members fault; it was a systemic failure of not changing to a war fighting structure. So that's what we did over a period of four years from 1996 to 1999."
Vaughn, who is from Dexter, began his career in the Missouri National Guard as an enlisted Soldier who rose to the rank of sergeant before going through the state's officer candidate school and graduating with former Missouri adjutant general, retired Maj. Gen. King Sidwell. He's served in a wide variety of command and staff positions as a traditional Guardsman and on active duty. He also served extensively in Central and South America on several deployed task forces.
Retired in July 2009, Vaughn guided the formulation, development and implementation of all programs and policies affecting the Guard as its director. He helped build an innovative and highly successful recruiting program; undertook the changes necessary to raise Army National Guard readiness levels to all time highs; enabled the Army National Guard to meet all wartime and deployment requirements, deploying more than 300,000 Soldiers; guided the deployment of Army National Guard Soldiers to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Southwest border; and helped develop several innovative programs such as the Afghanistan Agri-Business Development Teams.
Throughout his career, Vaughn said he relied on a simple philosophy - train Soldiers, grow leaders and take care of Families.
"If you train your Soldiers and everybody is trained in a good force structure that isn't going to change every whipstitch, then ultimately everybody in your organization is going to be changed," he said. "We've got the Guard to a point that it can be the most ready of all organizations. Our people stay with us forever."
Col. Randy Alewel, commander of the 35th Engineer Brigade and the ball's host, said the brigade chose Vaughn to speak because it wanted to instill in each of its Soldiers that it doesn't matter if they come from a small town or start off at the lowest possible rank, they all have the potential to one day have a huge impact in the Missouri Guard, National Guard, Army or Department of Defense.
"The young Soldiers didn't know him before hand, but we wanted to make sure that they did" Alewel said. "The private first class that is sitting out here tonight can now say to themselves, 'I can do that.'
Lt. Gen. Vaughn is a great engineer and American Soldier. He has inspired, mentored and provided leadership for the National Guard association and for the Missouri National Guard. He is truly one that has a vision and fortitude to accomplish that vision -- and not just talk about it."
Alewel said it was nice to bring the entire brigade together.
"It's important that we remember our heritage and where we come from," said Alewel, who lives in Warrensburg. "It builds pride and camaraderie, and it sets the team up for success.
"It gives us the opportunity to network with Soldiers in other units who have deployed on similar missions. They can share their stories and lessons learned."
The ball got started a little off script as Sgt. Bill Johnson, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin, proposed marriage to his girlfriend Lori Schnelle in front of the entire gathering. The mood of the celebratory ball was not dampened by Schnelle, who said 'Yes' to Johnson, who was deployed to Afghanistan with the rest of the 203rd at this time last year.
A pair of awards was also handed out as Alewel and brigade command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Will Pierce, presented the brigade's Best Warrior Competition award winners to Staff Sgt. Joshua Keil and Spc. Philip Robbins. Keil is part of Detachment 1, 294th Engineer Company, of Anderson, while Robbins is with the 276th Engineer Company, of Piece City.
The Best Warrior Competition is held annually at all levels and is broken down into two categories -- one for Soldiers, who are specialists and below, and the other for noncommissioned officers, who are sergeants and above - within the enlisted ranks.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.
For more information about this release, please contact Matthew J. Wilson at 573-638-9500 EXT. 4853 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.