National Guard enlisted association convenes in Arizona

National Guard enlisted association convenes in Arizona

Chief Master Sgt. Shane Clark, Arizona National Guard senior enlisted advisor, welcomes Soldiers and Airmen from around the country to Phoenix at the start of the 43rd Annual National Conference and Expo of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, Aug. 10. Since 2010, members of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of Arizona and the Arizona Auxiliary worked to organize the 2014 conference which hosted over 1,000 EANGUS members from across the country. (National Guard photo by Sgt. Lauren Twigg)

PHOENIX – More than 1,000 National Guard members from around the country assembled at the Phoenix Convention Center here, Aug. 10-13, for the 43rd Annual National Conference and Expo of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, or EANGUS.


The association represents the interests of enlisted National Guard members to the Pentagon and Congress by advocating for legislation to increase or preserve manpower, pay, benefits, entitlements, equipment and facilities.


The national conference, hosted in a different state each year, brought delegates to Arizona from all 50 states as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia to set a course for the next year and beyond.


Conference organizers said the event theme, “We’ve got your back,” affirms the association’s role to enhance National Guard capability and improve quality of life for its 414,000 constituents.


“The national conference brings together our membership to hear about what is going on at the national level,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Karen Craig, a member of the 2014 conference planning committee. “We also receive resolutions from the states and we vote on them to set legislative priorities for the year ahead – what we are going to bring to Congress on behalf of our members.”


Craig said EANGUS’ most critical initiatives are focused on maintaining the National Guard as a cost-effective operational force in light of current defense budget challenges. The association also wants Congress to pass legislation that exempts dual-status military technicians – the bulk of the Guard’s full-time work force – from future furloughs should the federal government face a shutdown as it did in 2013.   


Additionally, EANGUS is working to close other gaps between Guard and active duty service. Members believe Guardsmen who serve 20 years or more should be granted veteran status in the eyes of the government, regardless of their accrued active duty time; and they should be given hiring preference points when applying for federal civil service jobs.


“The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States is a great association for Guardsmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. James Hotaling, the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard. “It represents the two important things in their name – the enlisted, and the National Guard. EANGUS absolutely represents the best of everything in the National Guard.”


In recent years, the enlisted association successfully advocated for better access to healthcare, retirement, and education benefits, as well as unlimited commissary and Base Exchange privileges for Guard members. Most notably, EANGUS was one of several military associations that worked to establish the chief of the National Guard Bureau as a lawful member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – ensuring an equal voice for the National Guard among the other service branches.


Apart from legislative matters, the national conference is a platform for senior National Guard leaders to speak candidly with enlisted members.


“We brought in Soldiers and Airmen from around the 54 [states and territories] to participate in professional development opportunities, and we made sure that this serves as a bridge to the professional education courses they take either in residence or by correspondence,” said Hotaling. “We feel it’s a great added value, and we appreciate everyone who attends.”


In addition to Hotaling, the list of conference guest speakers included Arizona Governor Jan Brewer; Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke, director of the Air National Guard; Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Brush, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau; and Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley, command sergeant major of the Army National Guard.


“Arizona is very proud to host the EANGUS national conference and the Arizona host committee has done a fantastic job to ensure its success,” said Craig. “We expected about 800 participants and more than 1,000 made the trip. We have members here who are signing up right now for the next national conference.”


The 44th Annual EANGUS Conference and Expo is scheduled for Aug. 9-13, 2015, in Indianapolis.