Alexander One of Two U.S. Senators to Receive National Guard’s Medal of Merit

Nashville Ceremony Cites His Support of Tennessee National Guard

Posted on October 29, 2008

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today accepted the “Charles Dick Medal of Merit” award during a meeting in Nashville with Tennessee National Guard members. Alexander was one of two U.S. Senators nationwide presented with this annual award recognizing elected officials who make significant contributions to the National Guard. “Throughout Senator Alexander’s public service, he has demonstrated a continued support for our men and women in uniform and is clearly deserving of recognition befitting this award,” said Colonel Jeff Holmes, President of the National Guard Association of Tennessee who presented the award to Alexander. “Senator Alexander’s distinguished service reflects his devotion to a continued strong National Defense in the protection of those values which are so important to the American Citizen.” "Major General Charles Dick, U.S. Senator from Ohio, Major General in the Ohio National Guard and author of the Dick Act of 1903 which brought about the first real federal organization of the National Guard, symbolized the strength of the militia tradition and the great partnership between the Guard and the Congress,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret) Stephen M. Koper, President of the National Guard Association of the United States. “Senator Alexander's efforts on behalf of the Tennessee National Guard are a reflection of those same values. NGAUS is extremely pleased to honor him with the Charles Dick Medal." “Thank you for the honor, but I should be honoring the 14,000 men and women of the Tennessee National Guard who have represented our state with distinction at home and around the world,” Alexander said. “We not only owe the men and women of the National Guard our thanks, but we must also recognize the families and communities supporting their sacrifice. Tennesseans know our National Guard units must have the full support they need to carry out their missions, and I will continue making the Guard's needs a priority of mine in Congress.” Established in 1988, the award is named after Major General Charles Dick, an Ohioan who served as a congressman and senator. He is responsible for authoring two laws at the beginning of the 20th Century that laid the foundation for the modern National Guard. In the award’s citation, Alexander is credited with: • Helping secure $40 million in extra funding for the Tennessee National Guard in appropriations for Fiscal Year 2008 • Securing funding for the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program of the Tennessee National Guard which has led to enhanced anti-drug operations in Tennessee • Helping the 118th Airlift Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard secure a new mission to train pilots • Supporting TRICARE, the Defense Department’s health care program Alexander has also worked this year to expand education and retirement benefits for members of Tennessee’s National Guard and Reserve units. This summer, Alexander voted for legislation updating the GI Bill, which became law on June 30, 2008. This new law updates educational benefits for servicemen and women on active duty, those in the National Guard, and reservists who have served since September 11, 2001. The law includes a measure allowing a service member, after serving for 12 years or more, to transfer all of his or her education benefits (36 months) to a spouse, child, or both – this could provide more than $50,000 toward a dependent’s education. In July, Alexander introduced the GI Bill Fairness Act to improve on the new GI Bill by correcting an inequality that gives Tennesseans $5,932 annually in educational benefits while giving veterans and military personnel in other states twice as much. Alexander’s bill provides a uniform amount to all veterans and servicemen and women that attend a private institution of higher education. It bases the tuition reimbursement amount on the highest in-state tuition of any public institution in the country. The Alexander bill also would give a housing allowance to veterans who pursue their degrees though distance learning based on the zip code where the veteran lives. Alexander said the GI Bill Fairness Act is needed because under the current GI Bill, a Pennsylvania veteran would be eligible for almost $13,000 in tuition benefits, which is more than double the $5,932 a Tennessean would receive. “This is simply unfair, and we need to amend the new GI Bill to ensure equal treatment for Tennessee military servicemen and women,” Alexander said. “The new GI Bill is a big improvement, but Congress needs to finish the job and ensure that all servicemen and women are treated fairly.” Alexander also has pushed this year to expand retirement benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve. He is an original cosponsor of the National Guard and Reserve Retired Pay Equity Act that would amend current law to include any duty performed after September 11, 2001 as service qualifying for a reduction in the age that retired pay can be received. Currently, National Guard and Reserve members are the only federal retirees who must wait until age 60 to collect retirement pay. Alexander, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that approves funding for the Defense Department, also said that he has helped secure over $275 million in funding for the National Guard over the past 6 years. These projects include: Fiscal Year 2009 • $8 million to help replace squadron operations and relocate security perimeter for the Tennessee Air National Guard at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville. o Squadron operations serve as the United States Air Force (USAF) command post and base operations center for intelligence briefings/debriefings, standardization and evaluation of missions, flight planning, and unit administration. o Funding will be used to relocate the security perimeter and will allow the base to meet current AT/FP (Antiterrorism/Force Protection) standards. • $10.3 million for a readiness center for the Tennessee National Guard in Tullahoma. o The current facility, constructed in 1954, has significant quality-of-life, health and safety issues, and is one-third the authorized square footage for mission requirements. o The new readiness center will provide National Guard units with a facility that will greatly enhance daily administrative, operational and logistical support. • $2.4 million for AB-FIST Gunnery Trainers for the Tennessee National Guard. o These funds will support procurement and complete funding for these trainers that are necessary to maintain combat readiness. • $4 million for the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program of the Tennessee National Guard. o Tennessee ranks among the top marijuana and methamphetamine producing states in the nation, and the Tennessee Army National Guard has successfully stopped production in many areas of rural Appalachia. o These funds will expand eradication efforts and sustain ongoing enforcement activities. • $500,000 for the Deployable, Mobile Digital Target System for Armor and Infantry for the Tennessee National Guard. o This funding will increase the training capability of armor unit crews so they will be able to perform critical skills required in combat. • $1 million for the Engagement Skill Trainer 2000 for the Tennessee National Guard. o This funding will support procurement of 2 additional units and supports marksmanship and judgmental use of force training. • $8 million for HH-60A to HH-60L Helicopter Upgrades for the Tennessee National Guard. o This funding will increase the armor floor plating and provide the needed upgrades that are required for actual deployment missions. • $1.2 million for Instrumentation for Urban Assault Course for the Tennessee National Guard in Tullahoma. o The Guard operates an urban assault course to familiarize war fighters with multiple tactical situations and urban warfare scenarios. o This funding will provide instrumentation that will allow for training that is consistent with actual urban battlefield combat prior to redeployment. • $3 million for M1 Abrams Mobile Conduct of Fire Trainers Upgrades for the Tennessee National Guard. o These tank trainer upgrades will be used to train the gunnery proficiency of crews so they will be able to perform critical skills required in combat. • $8 million to help replace squadron operations and relocate security perimeter for the Tennessee Air National Guard at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville. o Squadron operations serve as the United States Air Force (USAF) command post and base operations center for intelligence briefings/debriefings, standardization and evaluation of missions, flight planning, and unit administration. o Funding will be used to relocate the security perimeter and will allow the base to meet current AT/FP (Antiterrorism/Force Protection) standards. Fiscal Year 2008 • $21 million to purchase equipment to train soldiers to use weapons systems and uparmored Humvees. • $9.6 million to purchase helicopter upgrades and helicopter training equipment. • $4 million for the Tennessee National Guard Counter Drug Initiative o The Initiative contributed to over 1,600 drug-related arrests statewide in 2007 alone and was named the outstanding National Guard Counter Drug Program by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. Fiscal Year 2006 • $37.5 million for the Army National Guard to provide necessary technical and system enhancements to Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Prophet Ground Vehicles and Up-Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) trainers. o This equipment will help to maintain personnel training and combat readiness. • $2 million for the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area for the Tennessee Army National Guard. o Tennessee ranks among the top marijuana and methamphetamine producing states in the nation, and the Tennessee Army National Guard has successfully stopped production in many areas of rural Appalachia. o These funds will expand eradication efforts and sustain ongoing enforcement activities. • $23.2 million for the Tennessee Army National Guard Headquarters to continue construction of a readiness center. o This project will provide much needed additional administrative, storage, and training space, and to complete a total renovation of selected areas of the current facility. • $62 million for the Tennessee Air National Guard to complete two projects at the Memphis International Airport. o Of the funding, $23 million will go to expand the C-5 aircraft parking apron and update the hydrant refueling system and continue upgrades to accommodate the C-5 aircraft. o The remaining $39 million will be used to expand hanger and maintenance facilities required for C-5 aircraft. Fiscal Year 2005 • $1.2 million for the Tennessee Army National Guard counter drug activities. Tennessee ranks among the top five marijuana-producing states in the nation. o The Tennessee Army National Guard was successful in eradicating in excess of $600 million worth of this drug in recent years. o These funds will expand eradication efforts and sustain maintenance capabilities. • $22 million for the Tennessee National Guard and the US Army Reserve, including $9.1 million for the Nashville Army National Guard Readiness Center (phase I), and $13.5 million for the Smyrna Joint Armed Forces Reserve Center. o The renovation of the Readiness Center will provide over 75,000 square feet for administrative offices and logistical and training space. o The Smyrna Reserve Center will serve the peacetime missions of the assigned unit. • $41.5 million for the Tennessee Air National Guard at the Memphis International Airport to finance a C-5 Aircraft Parking Apron and Hydrant Refueling System as well as a Corrosion Control Hangar. o Both projects are vital to accommodate the first of the C-5 aircraft arriving in 2004. Fiscal Year 2004 • $5 million for APN-241 Radar Upgrade – the only radar capable of meeting U.S. Air Force safety, navigation and aerial delivery requirements. o This additional funding will be used to procure eight APN-241 units into the Tennessee Air National Guard, including the 118th Military Airlift Wing. • $1 million for the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area for the Tennessee Army National Guard. o Tennessee ranks among the top five marijuana-producing states in the nation. The Tennessee Army National Guard was successful in eradicating in excess of $600 million worth of this drug last year. o These funds will expand eradication efforts and sustain maintenance capabilities. • $1.1 million toward the Communicator-Automated Emergency/Notification System which provides instantaneous real-time emergency mobilization notification in the event of war or any other emergency. o The Tennessee National Guard would benefit greatly from this system. ###