McKinley Becomes First 4-Star National Guard Leader

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The Department of Defense announced the promotion of Air National Guard Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley to the rank of general at a Pentagon ceremony hosted Nov. 17th by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

McKinley also assumed duties as chief of the National Guard Bureau, succeeding Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, whom Gates has selected to become the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command. McKinley, who had previously served as the Director of the Air National Guard, became the first reserve component officer to achieve 4-star rank. Blum will be the first reserve component officer to serve as deputy commander in a combatant command.
“This elevation of the chief of the National Guard bureau to four stars underscores the critical importance of the Guard to America’s overall national defense” Gates said. “It also signifies the vital role the chief has in bridging the state and federal components of our government and the active and Reserve components of our military.”
Congress authorized the elevation of the position of chief, National Guard Bureau, to the rank of general in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. At the same time it significantly increased the duties and responsibilities associated with the position.
McKinley takes over a National Guard Bureau that has been reorganized as a joint activity of the DoD, and he will serve as principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on matters involving the National Guard. Both functions were in keeping with recommendations made by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves and were prescribed in the 2008 authorization act.
“The Guard is deployed not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai, the Horn of Africa, and Guantanamo – some 40 places around the world” Gates noted. “At the same time, the Guard is conducting defense operations on the home front, supporting the security requirements of the states, responding to catastrophes and disasters, securing airports, providing border security, fighting fires, and staging search-and-rescue and counternarcotics missions.”
The Guard Bureau chief is the senior uniformed National Guard officer responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating all policies, programs and plans affecting more than half a million Army and Air National Guard personnel, including civilian employees.

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