The Missouri National Guard lacks sufficient manpower to indefinitely carry out the additional duties placed on it by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the state's acting adjutant general said last week.
Acting Adjutant General Dennis Shull said the Guard is fully capable of carrying out the missions it has been asked to perform in recent weeks, but the increasing demands being placed upon it will at some point require an upgrade in troop strength.
(Shull is acting adjutant general because his appointment came this summer following the end of the legislative session, meaning his nomination by the governor hasn't yet been confirmed by the full Senate.)
"If the National Guard is going to become more and more engaged in homeland-defense issues, then we're going to have to be willing to provide some additional force structure," Shull said.
The U.S. Department of Defense determines the size of each state's force. Missouri actually lost some Army Guard units in the mid-1990s, after topping out at 9,681 members in 1991. The state Army Guard's authorized strength is 8,250 members. The Air Guard's authorized strength is 2,502.
About 250 Air Force Guardsmen and a like number of Army Guardsmen from Missouri are on federal duty. Many others are carrying out special duties in the state, such as providing additional security at airports and nuclear power facilities.
Exactly how much manpower the Guard will need in coming years will depend on what role state and federal homeland defense officials want it to play in protecting Missourians from terrorism. These details are continuously evolving. The response of Guardsmen reminds us yet again of how important these Guardsmen are on whom we all rely.