Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today hailed 2007 as a banner year for the Tennessee National Guard as he addressed approximately 700 Tennessee guardsmen, their family members, and guests at the National Guard Association of Tennessee Conference in Nashville.
“Last year Congress and the Department of Defense showed how much they value the key role the Tennessee National Guard plays in our nation's defense by defining an important new mission for our 118th Airlift wing and by providing $40 million extra dollars for training and equipping the Tennessee army guard,” Alexander said. “The new airlift mission means that the 118th will keep its aircraft, which are an important asset for state emergencies, and that the community will keep 700 jobs. Tennessee's congressional delegation has worked for the last five years to help get this resolved. This should mean a strong air guard unit in Tennessee for a long time to come.”
“And the $40 million in extra funding for our Army Guard is to help make sure that our troops have the best possible equipment and training for whatever mission they are called upon to perform.”
Alexander, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, helped to secure the $40 million for the Tennessee National Guard in fiscal year 2008 appropriations in addition to its standard funding allocation from the Defense Department. The funding included the following:
• $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, which 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
Alexander said that Tennessee aircraft from the 118th Airlift Wing were some of the first planes on the ground after Hurricane Katrina. “The 118th has a proud history in the Air National Guard, and its news mission is the right way to honor and continue its flying legacy,” he said.
Alexander also highlighted the Tennessee National Guard's service in Iraq, noting the contribution the 278th Army National Guard Brigade Combat Team made to the effort to secure improved lifesaving vehicle armor.
“The almost 14,000 men and women of the Tennessee National Guard have represented our state with distinction both here at home and around the world,” Alexander said. “We not only owe the men and women of the National Guard our thanks; 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.”