2022 NGAUS Conference Report


NGAUS 144th General Conference Report (Columbus, Ohio)

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Tim Kennedy

The National Guard Association Conference was held August 26-29, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. The main speakers this year were Gen. James C. McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army; Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force; and Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. All three are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Also speaking were Gen. Andrew P. Poppas, the new commanding general of Army Forces Command; Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, the director of the Army National Guard; Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, the director of the Air National Guard; and Lt. Gen. Laura A. Potter, the Deputy Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2).

Minnesota was represented by a 36 person delegation.

General Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau was the first to address the conference. He said that America has a “moral imperative” to improve military health care. He called focusing on health care “the biggest initiative of all" because the issue is critical to readiness. NGB reports that 60,000 members of the Guard do not have private health insurance. In addition, Guardsmen covered through their civilian employers can face challenges when changing duty status and moving between civilian health care and TRICARE." NGAUS considers zero-cost TRICARE to ensure reserve-component medical readiness a legislative priority. He also talked about expanding the State Partnership Program because mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships are our enduring strength. NGB hopes to grow the program by 30% in the next 10 years.

General James C. McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army said the service’s new fitness test improves the previous version and will make soldiers stronger. Troops on active-duty and Active Guard and Reserve must conduct a record ACFT by Oct. 1, 2022. Their first record test is due before April 1, 2023, while most Army Guard and Army Reserve soldiers have until April 1, 2024. He also said “Dieting is extremely important to physical and mental health,” McConville continued. “Getting the right amount of sleep and sleeping right is important.”

General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force, addressed the conference, saying that changing the service to meet future challenges will likely be uncomfortable. “If we’re comfortable, we’re probably doing it wrong.” He said modernizing the Air Force would help its components compete against China.

Brown cited agile combat employment as an Air Force modernization opportunity. ACE enables Air Force units to rapidly mobilize and deploy worldwide regardless of threat level. “I really believe in challenging the status quo,” Brown acknowledged. “We’ve got to be willing to take a chance.” Countering near-peer competitors like China and Russia is a major focus of the latest National Defense Strategy. In recent years, both nations have rattled the longstanding global order. China has heavily invested in the Western Hemisphere, showing its influence in regions typically associated with America.

Lt. Gen. LTG Laura Potter, Deputy Army Chief of Staff – Intelligence, addressed the conference and said the National Guard is crucial to the military’s information gathering. The State Partnership Program provides valuable knowledge helping counter U.S. rivals like China and Russia. She expressed concern that potential threats like China might exploit social media to spy on America’s soldiers yet limiting military personnel on social media could be a morale issue. TikTok, an app that has become widely used by younger soldiers, is owned by a Chinese company.

Threats continue with China’s rhetoric about Taiwan has become more heated and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has escalated tensions in Europe to the highest point since World War II. To better understand Putin, she recommended a book on him called First Person. The latest National Defense Strategy describes China as a pacing threat and Russia as an acute risk. China’s Belt Road initiative is building their presence in many developing countries and their Army is increasing in confidence and competence. North Korea needs sanctions relief while dealing with national disasters and food insecurity. Iran remains a consistent threat by providing support to proxies.

The Roll Call of States has been a longstanding popular tradition of the annual NGAUS conference. The ceremony allows the 54 states, territories and District of Columbia to explain, in 60 seconds or less, why their National Guard is the best. It is always entertaining and provides some play before work.

The Army and Air hold separate sessions on the final day.

Army Session

General Jon Jensen led the Army separate session and highlighted the main focuses of strength and readiness, focus on multi-echelon training (XCTC, RCTC and War Fighter) and taking full advantage of training opportunities. Last year, the Army Guard exceeded their strength goal by 1,500 and this year will likely miss their goal.

To improve strength, the states are encourage to put the best people in recruiting command, take advantage of the resources provided by fully executing the recruiting budget (ADOS orders). NGB is focusing on ADOS money, incentives, bonuses and marketing dollars to improve recruiting. Nothing beats positive leadership, officer and NCO, at the company level.

Academics and fitness are big accession issues. Only 23% of target audience qualify for military service. The Army is testing a future soldier preparatory course. Question was whether this could be taken down to the state level and the answer was “no” because there would not be large enough numbers for a class. The active Army also has strength issues and are projected to end the year at about 466,400 against a plan of 485,000 soldiers.

General Poppas, Forces Command and Maj. Gen. Mike Wickman, USAREUR-AF, Deputy Commanding General also addressed the session. General Poppas highlighted that the Guard has provided 150,000 crisis response days so far this year.

Air Session

The first order of business in the Air separate session was awarding unit awards. The highlight was the awarding of the Curtis N. “Rusty” Metcalf trophy (outstanding airlift or refueling unit) to our own 133rd Airlift Wing. The rest of the meeting was an address by the Director of the Air National Guard, Lt. Gen. Mike Loh.


General Loh indicated that, last year, the focus was on Afghanistan, this year it is on Ukraine. The number one priority is to defend the homeland from Guam to Maine. With China, Taiwan is a distraction, the real target is Guam.


The main job is to deter a strategic attack on the USA, its’ allies and partners. We need to build a strong and resilient force by thinking globally and acting locally. We have to tell the Air National Guard story. The ANG has 108,000 members. We are short 2,000 in recruiting, the trend is negative and COVID vaccination policy is not changing.


Current challenges are that flying hours are $50 million short and 23 units are converting. For Military Construction (MILCON), we need to think long term and plan for bigger aircraft. Currently, there is a need for tactical airlift. The focus needs to be on Readiness, Partnerships and People.


Area V Breakout

Minnesota is in Area V and participated in the area breakout. This was not an election year for Area V so the discussion focused on how to increase attendance at the national conference, including changing the meeting structure.


Membership is 63% for Area V. The goal for NGAUS is to grow 1% per year. This equates to 6,000 nationally. Each year we start at 30% to 40%, life memberships drive this. 2,200 have signed up for digital life memberships. This is a four year program. Increase association memberships by utilizing the complimentary one year membership for new officers. This should be 10% to 15% of memberships each year. There was discussion about the $.25 per guard member that is paid to NGAUS by each state. This enables NGAUS to say that they are representing all members of the National Guard.

It was announced that AUSA is granting free memberships to NGAUS members. AUSA is a nonprofit educational and professional development association serving America’s total Army. While AUSA focuses on Army personnel, the group’s relationship with NGAUS provides fresh advantages to all association members regardless of service. Going forward, NGAUS members can access more than $340,000 in AUSA scholarships. AUSA will also provide NGAUS members comprehensive, free SAT and ACT prep materials. NGAUS members can additionally leverage AUSA’s legal document preparation system for individuals and small businesses without cost. Employment assistance through AUSA Jobs Central is another perk opening to NGAUS members. AUSA Jobs Central is a website connecting Army employers and job seekers through career advice and openings. NGAUS members can leverage AUSA’s savings and discounts with partner organizations. AUSA and NGAUS members can find savings on everything from Apple products to Broadway tickets. AUSA’s online offerings range from informative

livestreams and podcasts to ARMY Magazine and the group’s twice-weekly e-newsletter, Soldier Today.


Conference Social Events

There were several conference social events. The largest event was the Governor’s Reception at the Center of Science and Industry. COSI is a 32,000-square-foot, nationally recognized science center featuring interactive experiences, galleries and a planetarium. Another big social event was the Spouses’ Luncheon. All attendees said it was a great event. The concluding social event was the States Dinner. It had a sports theme, with attendees in the uniform of their favorite team. Mascots from Ohio college sports teams were at the dinner. There was also a short performance by the Ohio State University cheerleaders.

The conference includes exhibitors that rank among America’s most diverse military trade shows. The exhibitions includes products and services tailored to the Guard’s domestic response mission, plus its full spectrum of contributions to Army and Air Force operations worldwide.