27 April 2010

Places, Please

About 300 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers of the 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Des Moines, Iowa, participated in a send-off ceremony last Sunday. I wish them Godspeed on their deployment to Iraq, and look forward to reading their public affairs officer's blog on the Des Moines Register website.

Over the weekend, I criticized news reporters' difficulties in accurately distinguishing between Army Reserve and Army National Guard. I've received a few notes inquiring about the differences. Usually, the easiest way to explain the distinction is to say that the reserve answers to the president as commander-in-chief, while the National Guard usually answers--until federalized--to the governor of a given state or territory. That's why the National Guard can usually respond more readily to a natural or other disaster: It's not a proximity thing--we're neighbors, after all--it's a paperwork thing.

The distinction between guard and reserve can get confusing, I know--even more so when you try to put our respective organizations on the Iowa map.

Locally, you see, the Army Reserve is based at Fort Des Moines, an historic remnant of a former World War I training site for black officer candidates. It was also a World War II training site for Women's Army Corps (WAC) troops, both officer and enlisted.

The Iowa National Guard headquarters is located on the north side of the city of Des Moines, at Camp Dodge. This points to another rule of thumb: A federal Army installation is likely to be called a "fort," while a state installation is more likely to be called a "camp." I'm not certain that's always true, but it's true enough.

Often confusing to visitors is the existence of Fort Dodge, a city of more than 25,000 in northwest Iowa. There have actually been times when visiting military personnel have flown into Des Moines, driven past Camp Dodge, to arrive a couple of hours later in Fort Dodge, only to learn that their destination was actually the camp, not the city.

Remember, in the Army, we don't get "lost." We merely get "mis-oriented."


  1. The other thing that makes the guard different...on my deployments, we were put in the old crappy barracks and fed the crappy food in a seperate crappy mess hall. While the regular army folks down the street stayed in nice modern barracks and ate really good food.
    When we deployed and a bunch of us got attached to a "real" army unit, we had to prove that we could do the job...and ended up proving we actually had more experience with the weapons, MOS and other skills the young kids didn't have. But, each time we got sent out to another unit, we had to prove ourselves each time....
    Now, we have some guard troops who've deployed more than a lot of "real" army troops.
    Not bitchin', just telling how it was.

  2. To me the important things is, the incoming bullets don't know or care about the distinction.

  3. @ CI-Roller Dude: Roger on all that--I'll have to put my memory-hat on to see if I can come up with specific stories about having our guys treated like second-class soldiers. Active-duty soldiers being told not to salute our officers, for example, because we weren't "real Army." Of course, I'd like to think that the Total Force has gotten away from that kind of bigotry, given how quickly and frequently National Guard guys deploy these days. But ... I've been hurt before.

    @ Coffeypot: You're always right on target!

  4. My daughter saw the California National Guard building one time and said, "WHAT'S THAT?" I told her, and she said, "Oh, they're soldiers. They're all over there." Over there meaning Iraq or Afghanistan, she is correct and is due every the same amount of respect.


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