NGAGA: The Georgia Guard member’s voice on Capitol Hill Published May 27, 2015 By Tech. Sgt. Julie Parker 116th Air Control Wing Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Service to its members is the number one goal of the National Guard Association of Georgia, according to the NGAGA website. "Unlike other military organizations, NGAGA works purely for the Georgia Army and Air National Guard, its members, and families," said NGAGA president Col. John Verhage, 116th Air Operations Group commander. "The organization advocates and defends local issues, and ensures that Congress is able to make an informed decision on the National Guard to ensure its members have adequate training, equipment, and benefits they need and deserve." Like most organizations, an increase in membership enhances NGAGA's voice on a broader scale. The National Guard Association of the United States, linked to NGAGA, addresses wide-ranging issues. "We rely on our members to provide the backbone and guidance for NGAGA and NGAUS need to ensure the National Guard receives the best and latest equipment, maintains readiness through comprehensive personnel initiatives, receives proper missions, and fights for equitable retirement programs that give Guard men and women the life-long support they've earned," he said. Verhage explained some of the recent successes NGAGA/NGAUS has had: Q: What has NGAGA/NGAUS done recently for its members? A: NGAGA/NGAUS serves the entire Army and Air National Guard force, whether they are actual association members or not. In 2012, the Air Force announced drastic cuts to the Air National guard. NGAUS, together with the Council of Governors, debated the issue with Congress and succeeded in halting most of the proposed personnel and air craft cuts the Air National Guard. In 2008, Congress passed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, with significant improvements to the original GI Bill. Although the new bill was viewed as a success for the armed services, it left out National Guardsmen and their service time. NGAUS worked with our Congressional partners to quickly correct the oversight and recognize Title 32 duty, with benefits starting at 90 aggregate days. NGAGA/NGAUS is also seeking to eliminate the requirement to serve 90 days of qualifying time in one fiscal year to reduce the age to collect reserve retirement pay. The new law, if passed, would allow the qualifying service to span two consecutive fiscal years. Q: What has NGAGA/NGAUS done recently to keep units viable? A: Because of the legislative efforts of NGAUS, the National Guard now has a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Army Gen. Frank J. Grass is the chief of the National Guard Bureau and serves as a military adviser to the President, Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and is the Department of Defense's official channel of communication to the Governors and State Adjutants General on all matters pertaining to the National Guard. Another accomplishment is there is now language to allow pursuit of alternative solutions to comply with the 2020 Federal Aviation Association's regulations for C-130s, which directly affects the 165th Airlift Wing located in Savannah, Georgia. On the Army side, NGAGA/NGAUS is supporting amendments to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would maintain the Army National Guard end strength and would limit the number of assets to be transferred to the active component before Sept. 30, 2016. Additionally, NGAGA/NGAUS has urged Congress to provide direct funding for the National Guard for the purpose of procuring equipment and modernization upgrades. For the 116th Air Control Wing, these upgrades include; new Mission Advanced Communications Capabilities radios for better communication, imagery servers on the aircraft to enhance world-wide capability, the installation of the Automatic Identification System to conduct maritime missions, as well as the Block 40 upgrade for the JSTARS radar, which adds several significant enhancements that improve the resolution and coverage rates for all radar modes on the platform. Q: How does one become a member? A: When joining NGAGA, members are automatically NGAUS embers. Commissioned officers and warrant officers of the Army and Air National Guard are eligible for NGAGA membership, and during their first year in the Guard, membership is free. Individuals can create an account at the organization's Web site www.ngaga.org. There are benefits to being a member. One of these benefits is a graduate degree scholarship program for active NGAGA/NGAUS members and their spouses. Additionally, associate memberships are also available for those who do not qualify for the standard membership types but are interested in supporting NGAGA. Members also have a direct link to a Congressional representative to write about issues and concerns they have. Q: Is there a professional organization for enlisted members? A: NGAUS represents the entire National Guard, but its strength comes from individual and corporate members. Much like NGAGA, The Enlisted Association National Guard of Georgia, or EANGGA, is the only professional organization dedicated to supporting the rights and benefits of the enlisted force for both active and retired National Guard members. The Enlisted Association of the United States, or EANGUS, is the national component of the organization. "Currently there are more than 1,600 members of NGAGA," said retired Brig. Gen. Marshall, NGAGA executive director. "When you become a member of NGAGA/NGAUS, your dues provide essential funding for our lobbying and education initiatives." According to Army Capt. Kevin Black, Georgia Army National Guard task force commander for the recruiting and retention battalion, seeing the positive impact the association has made at the national level in preventing funding cuts has been the most rewarding aspect of being a member. "NGAGA also provides assistance to its Soldiers through scholarships, additional life insurance and the opportunity to join the Georgia Guard Credit Union. The state's annual conference provides members the opportunity for professional development," said Black.