One of the important characteristics of the system of military organization in the United States is the relationship between the regular, active military and the National Guard. The regular military is controlled and paid for solely by the federal government and used only on behalf of the entire nation for missions directed by the president. The National Guard has a dual role: it can be used under certain circumstances by the federal government, but it is also the militia of the various states and territories, controlled by the governors.
It is this dual role, acting primarily as the state militia but with an additional federal responsibility as the Combat Reserve of the Army and Air Force that makes the National Guard unique. The National Guard is partly funded and supported with training, equipment and other resources by the federal government, and it is partly supported by the state, mostly with facilities and training sites.
On Nov. 5, the residents of Maine will vote on a statewide bond package, which includes as Question 1 an initiative to provide $14 million for modernization, repairs and improvements to the armories and training facilities of the Maine National Guard — the state’s militia. This money is needed to redress decades of decay and deterioration of our state’s aging military facilities and to purchase training land in Maine for Maine’s soldiers and airmen.
There are state armories and training sites in almost all of Maine’s counties, and Maine soldiers and airmen come from virtually every community and town in the state. These National Guard facilities are used to house and train our soldiers and airmen and to store and maintain equipment and other resources, which our state’s militia uses to assist citizens and civil authorities during times of emergency. The facilities are also community resources for meetings, events and other important purposes.
Most of the Maine National Guard’s state facilities were built between the 1930s and the 1950s and have never been substantially upgraded or modernized since that time. They have outdated and inefficient heating, plumbing and lighting systems, which cost the taxpayers exorbitant amounts of money to run and maintain. They have little to no insulation or modern energy-saving improvements, and many do not meet modern safety or access requirements.
They were built when there were no women in the National Guard, and so many lack adequate bathroom or hygiene facilities for our currently serving women. They have leaking roofs and windows, asbestos tiles and loose pipe insulation, cracked foundations and broken or nonexistent paving. In some cases, it is not a stretch to say that our Guard soldiers and airmen have better, more modern and safe facilities when deployed in Afghanistan than they have back at home in Maine.
If Question 1 is passed by our residents, and the state is therefore enabled to provide its share of funding to repair, upgrade and modernize our state armories, it will trigger an equal share of federal funding to match the state’s contribution. This desperately needed money will allow for projects executed by Maine workers and Maine companies to bring these critical state and community facilities up to a standard where they will be worthy of our Guardsmen and women and will be safe, modern and efficient.
The state will also be able to make up the almost 7000-acre deficit in required training land for the Guard, so our soldiers and airmen will no longer have to waste precious monthly drill time traveling to Canada, Massachusetts or Vermont to conduct critical training and exercises.
The National Guard appreciates the effort by Gov. Paul LePage to make sure $14 million was included in the bond package that will go before voters. It is important that all of Maine’s citizens exercise their right to vote on Nov. 5 and that they understand and appreciate the state’s responsibility to provide adequate, safe and modern facilities for Maine’s historic, proud and justly famous National Guard.
Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell is the 39th adjutant general of Maine and is the commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.