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Army Gen. Frank Grass speaks at 118th Wing town hall meeting

General Frank Grass briefs 118 Wing members at Town Hall meeting (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Robin Olsen/Released).

General Frank Grass briefs 118 Wing members at Town Hall meeting (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Robin Olsen/Released).

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Army Gen. Frank Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, held a town hall meeting for members of the Tennessee Air National Guard's 118th Wing in Nashville on January 10.

"There is nothing better for the Nation than the National Guard," said Grass, adding "I couldn't ask for a better relationship than what we have with the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and active duty Air Force."

A highlight of the town hall meeting was the announcement of the National Guard being honored with the National Defense University Foundation's 2014 Patriot Award.  Gen. Grass accepted the award on behalf of the entire National Guard on November 13, 2014. The American Patriot Award is given to exceptional leaders who dedicate their lives to enhancing human security and global stability, according to the NDUF.

Upon accepting the award, Grass stated "The National Guard does three things extraordinarily well: we fight America's wars, protect the homeland, and build global and domestic partnerships." This was echoed during his town hall meeting. "This is what we do every day," he said.

Previous recipients of the American Patriot Award include Gen. Colin Powell, President George H.W. Bush, Sen. John Glenn, Sen. Daniel Inouye, former Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert Gates and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Coinciding with the Patriot Award announcement, Grass presented a video highlighting the National Guard and its accomplishments both in the United States and in deployed locations around the world.

Grass also talked about his concerns for the direction the military is headed.

"My biggest concern is modernization and recapitalization for the National Guard," he said, adding "our value as a force is unmatched."

General Grass also expressed concern about the psychological health of the National Guard's Soldiers and Airmen.

"We don't know what a 13-year war does to people or their families and it is critical that we monitor this," he exclaimed.

From an overall funding standpoint, the active duty Air Force gave the Guard full-time federal (GS) positions for permanent psychological health positions so the Guard no longer had to rely on contractors for this function. "Having permanent positions helps us take care of our Airmen and their families," said Grass.

The National Guard established Joining Community Forces in 2013 to bring all of the private organizations that want to assist members of the military all into one place.

"The National Guard is the perfect organization to take the lead with a great program like Joining Community Forces," he said, "because that is where we operate every single day - in the community."

"The key here is you design what you need in your community, or at your base," explained Grass.

With nearly 15,000 Guardsmen from across the country deployed right now, Grass reminded the Nashville Airmen that part of our job, always, is to tell our Air Force story, which is taking care of our people - not just our own Airmen, but our communities as well.

"You have the connections in your communities to tell the Army and Air Force stories. People know you and know you are from the Guard. Active duty can't touch that!" said Grass.

The Guard also has community relationships through Youth Challenge Programs. These are funded primarily by the federal government (75 percent), but also by the states (25 percent) and run by the Guard.

"This year we graduated 131,000 at risk youth, who will tell you they would be in jail or dead today if not for this program," he said.

Gen. Grass also touched on Tennessee's State Partnership with Bulgaria and the other 73 state partnerships that exist across the globe today.

"For the nation to have that relationship with 74 countries is phenomenal," stated Grass. The State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for over 20 years that includes 68 unique security partnerships involving 74 nations around the globe. It links a unique component of the Department of Defense - a state's National Guard - with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

"We have a tremendous force, and I am very impressed by the Air National Guard," said Grass before taking questions from Airmen in the audience.

One question posed to the General was about social media. Grass warned Airmen to be very cautious on personal sites because anyone with basic computer knowledge can access it and use your information or even your photos.

He finished by stating "thank you for being a member of the National Guard and please thank your families and employers."
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