By Governor Dave Heineman
This past week we observed the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Prior to the start of the “Guardians of Freedom” airshow, the names of 14 Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers were read followed by a moment of silence. These were active duty individuals who died of either combat or non-combat related injuries since 9-11.
This past decade has been defining and transformational for our Nebraska National Guard. More than 6,000 Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers and more than 2,600 Nebraska Air National Guard Airmen were mobilized and deployed for duty around the world. More than 70 have been awarded the Purple Heart for wounds they received in battle while 16 have received the Bronze Star with “Valor” for their heroic actions under fire.
In addition to the overseas deployment, our National Guard soldiers and airmen responded here at home to support communities and citizens – most recently is the Guard’s support of the Missouri and Platte River floods. They provide critical capabilities for infrastructure protection and assessment.
The war on terror has been a defining aspect of the past 10 years for the Nebraska National Guard. Today’s Nebraska National Guard is the best equipped, best trained and most capable force in decades. Because of better equipment and improved training sites, they now have the ability to conduct much more of their pre-deployment training here in Nebraska. This is very good news for our state’s employers and our Guard families. These improvements mean our soldiers and airmen are now able to spend much more time at home and at work during the months leading up to deployments.
We are also building new, state-of-the-art training facilities for our soldiers and airmen. We recently dedicated new Armed Forces Reserve Centers at Columbus and McCook, and broke ground on a new readiness center at the Mead Training Site.
We are completing a new Joint Force Headquarters building at the National Guard air base in Lincoln that will house important Nebraska National Guard functional areas, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency’s emergency operations and the Nebraska State Patrol dispatch center.
These are important improvements that enable the members of the Nebraska National Guard to continue to train and prepare for federal overseas missions and when called upon to serve closer to home when disaster strikes.
I am very pleased that recruiting and retention continue to be at all-time highs for both the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard. The majority of our soldiers and airmen are combat veterans who are now passing on the valuable lessons they’ve learned while serving in multiple combat zones.
Nebraskans are very proud of our Nebraska National Guard and they should be. They do an outstanding job for us.