USA — Dual-status Technicians Critical to Guard Missions

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2010 — The Nation­al Guard has many fed­er­al employ­ees who play a cru­cial role in domes­tic and over­seas oper­a­tions, and Guard lead­ers hope to expand their num­bers in the states, ter­ri­to­ries and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia.

“These tech­ni­cians are the ones who do not deploy because they are not sol­diers; they are part of the civil­ian work force. They pro­vide the crit­i­cal sup­port … while the sol­diers are deployed,” Army Maj. Gen. Ray­mond W. Car­pen­ter, act­ing direc­tor of the Army Nation­al Guard, told the House Appro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on Defense here yes­ter­day.

Air Force Col. William Kol­binger, the Nation­al Guard Bureau’s head of tech­ni­cian per­son­nel, not­ed that a state’s finance bat­tal­ion that han­dles Guard mem­bers’ pay could deploy. “If you have a finance bat­tal­ion going out, you may have 10,000 drilling Guard mem­bers that still need to be paid in the state, but you don’t have any­body to do that,” he said. About 52,000 tech­ni­cians are spread across the 52 states and ter­ri­to­ries and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia. About 95 per­cent of them are deploy­able ser­vice­mem­bers. Less than 5 per­cent of the remain­der con­sti­tute a small, but vital core of non-deploy­able or non-dual sta­tus tech­ni­cians. Guard offi­cials said they are a small, but crit­i­cal part of the Guard’s full-time sup­port staffing.

“What they pro­vide for us are con­ti­nu­ity ser­vices that are pri­mar­i­ly gov­ern­men­tal in nature and not mil­i­tary-inher­ent,” Kol­binger said.

Guard Bureau offi­cials say the non-dual sta­tus tech­ni­cians play a vital role in sup­port­ing domes­tic oper­a­tions and the over­seas war fight. They make sure Guard mem­bers are paid, pro­vide human resources sup­port, ensure the smooth func­tion­ing of state joint force head­quar­ters, main­tain infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy sys­tems and per­form numer­ous oth­er essen­tial func­tions.

“Since non-dual sta­tus employ­ees don’t deploy, they are valu­able in fill­ing the gap when ser­vice­mem­bers deploy,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, Colorado’s adju­tant gen­er­al. “Many are pri­or ser­vice and pos­sess a great deal of orga­ni­za­tion­al knowl­edge.”

The Guard is autho­rized 1,950 such tech­ni­cians. The major­i­ty — about 1,600 — are in the Army Nation­al Guard, and the remain­ing 350 work for the Air Nation­al Guard. The president’s bud­get for fis­cal 2011 includes an addi­tion­al 920 posi­tions for the Army Guard, which is about 17 more for each state, ter­ri­to­ry and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia.

“As the Army Nation­al Guard has shift­ed from [a] strate­gic reserve to an oper­a­tional force, with fre­quent mobi­liza­tions, we find that we need these non-deploy­ing civil­ian tech­ni­cians to fill cer­tain crit­i­cal posi­tions in our gen­er­at­ing force, because fill­ing these posi­tions with dual-sta­tus mil­i­tary mem­bers who deploy cre­ates a dis­rup­tion in work­flow,” Car­pen­ter said in com­ments sep­a­rate from his con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny.

Army Col. John Dolan deals with that issue in his posi­tion as the Col­orado Nation­al Guard’s human resources offi­cer.

In one instance, almost all of Colorado’s pay branch – who also serve as mil­i­tary police – were mobi­lized for a domes­tic response, leav­ing less than a hand­ful to process pay for the state’s sol­diers.

“I had three peo­ple,” Dolan said. “I had peo­ple in there 18, 19 hours try­ing to make pay­roll.”

Ryder Cur­ry serves as a non-dual sta­tus tech­ni­cian, man­ag­ing Colorado’s human resources infor­ma­tion sys­tems data­base. He said he stum­bled into the job by fill­ing in for a deployed sol­dier, who then went on active duty. After a lot of turn­around in this essen­tial posi­tion, state offi­cials adver­tised it for civil­ians, and Cur­ry land­ed the full-time job. “I have a skill set for com­put­ers over­all,” Cur­ry said. “The peo­ple I work with real­ly make it the best. I’ve got the best of the civil­ian and mil­i­tary worlds.”

Dolan said he would like more civil­ian tech­ni­cians like Cur­ry. “I could use a dozen tomor­row,” he said. “I see the biggest require­ment for them – and I’m not able to sup­port – is audit­ing, pay com­pe­ten­cies, infor­ma­tion and my fam­i­ly pro­grams.”

Fam­i­ly pro­grams need to be seam­less, flaw­less and staffed by expe­ri­enced peo­ple with insti­tu­tion­al knowl­edge, Dolan said. “Our fam­i­lies deserve that,” he said. More non-dual sta­tus tech­ni­cians would help, he added.

“The Con­sti­tu­tion reserves to the states the author­i­ty of train­ing the mili­tia,” Car­pen­ter said. “Con­se­quent­ly, it is nec­es­sary to pro­vide the states with the type of staffing need­ed to achieve the goal of con­tin­u­ing to pro­duce a ready oper­a­tional force over the long term.”

Dolan said Col­orado val­ues the sta­bil­i­ty, longevi­ty and com­pe­ten­cy non-dual sta­tus tech­ni­cians offer. “The only time they’re gone is for vaca­tion,” he said. The state also gets a bet­ter long-term return on train­ing invest­ment from the civil­ians, who tend to remain in their assign­ments for longer peri­ods. Infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy train­ing for a sin­gle employ­ee can cost more than $20,000.

“There is a high lev­el of sat­is­fac­tion in the type of jobs they have,” Dolan said. “There are oppor­tu­ni­ties for pro­gres­sion. … You don’t get rich, but you have secu­ri­ty. I don’t see peo­ple leav­ing the [non-dual sta­tus] sys­tem once they’re in there.”

Edwards said he val­ues the employ­ees’ sta­bil­i­ty and that the pro­gram some­times is a way for retired ser­vice­mem­bers to con­tin­ue serv­ing their state and coun­try.

“As opposed to ser­vice­mem­bers who often change units for career devel­op­ment, [non-dual sta­tus] employ­ees are able to stay and become sub­ject-mat­ter experts,” he said. “After leav­ing the mil­i­tary, many want to con­tin­ue serv­ing and con­tin­ue putting their knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence to work for our nation.” Car­pen­ter stressed the val­ue of non-dual sta­tus tech­ni­cians in the Nation­al Guard’s new pos­ture.

“As the Army Nation­al Guard has tran­si­tioned from a strict­ly strate­gic reserve to more of a fre­quent­ly and rota­tion­al­ly mobi­lized and deployed oper­a­tional force both at home and abroad,” he said, “it has become clear that more of the sup­port­ing posi­tions at the state lev­el need to tran­si­tion from being held by deploy­able mil­i­tary mem­bers of the Nation­al Guard to being held by non-deploy­able civil­ian tech­ni­cians.”

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Jef­frey Hilton of the Col­orado Nation­al Guard con­tributed to this arti­cle.)

Nation­al Guard Bureau