Maj. Gen. Titshaw reflects on first year as Florida’s Adjutant General
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (June 30, 2011) – When his first year as Florida’s Adjutant General drew to a close last week, Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. said he was confident the men and women under his command were the best generation of military professionals he had seen in his 41-year-career.
During an interview on June 24, Titshaw asserted that the nearly 12,000 uniformed service members and civilian employees who make up the Florida National Guard have proven themselves to be the most dedicated leaders, Soldiers and Airmen he has been associated with since he joined the military in 1970. He also took time to discuss other issues affecting the organization, including what Guard members should expect in the future and the importance of family support.
“I’d like every member of this organization to know how very proud I am of their performance,” Titshaw, who took command of the Florida National Guard from Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett on June 26, 2010, said. “They have done remarkable work. I sometimes feel a little guilty because I get to stand at the top of the organization and collect the credit, but it is they who deserve the credit. They are the ones who are sacrificing each and every day.”
A significant first year
During Titshaw’s watch the Florida National Guard and the Florida Department of Military Affairs have already tackled significant and historical events: the return of the largest single-unit deployment of Florida Soldiers since World War II; critical response to the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history; and an increasing partnership with the new gubernatorial administration.
“If I could sum it up in a few words it would be: ‘Thank you,’” the Adjutant General said of his feelings towards the members of the Florida National Guard. “And, I would follow it up with ‘Well done.’ We’ve just come off of our highest number of mobilizations and deployments since World War II. In November we peaked with 3,700 Soldiers and Airmen deployed in the war-fight. That is a significant accomplishment.”
Titshaw cited several examples of Florida National Guard success during the past year, including the deployment of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Kuwait and Iraq which drew accolades from senior Army and National Guard leadership, and the 125th Fighter Wing’s high-profile exercise performing air-to-air training in Saudi Arabia. He also pointed to the recent Operation Enduring Freedom mission of the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, which sparked praise from International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander Gen. David Petraeus.
“Their accomplishments were preformed with a professionalism that got the attention of Gen. Petraeus,” Titshaw said. “(He had) very favorable comments about their performance. In fact he called their work a ‘game changer.’ The work that they did was superb. No one could have asked more of them. One of the most personally gratifying things about the deployment was all of our Soldiers came home from a very risky operation.”
An uncertain future
Despite those accomplishments, Titshaw prompted the force to continue to maintain focus. He said the men and women of the organization need to now consider how current issues like budgetary constraints and U.S. foreign policy will dictate the future of the Florida National Guard.
“A very important question for the future of the National Guard is simply ‘What now?’” Titshaw said. “Since 9-11 tremendous resources have been allocated to the National Guard that changed our role from being a strategic reserve to being an operational force embedded in our national defense strategy. That force has been relied upon to have a significant role in the war-fight, plus maintain safety and security here at home.”
Since 2001 nearly 15,000 Florida National Guard Soldiers have been operationally deployed. Those deployments were often concurrent with mobilizations for hurricanes and other natural disaster actions in Florida. Titshaw questioned what impact a shrinking defense budget or force reductions in Southwest Asia would have on the force.
“What will the role of the National Guard be?” he asked. “Will we be able to maintain it as the ready, reliable force that it is today? Or will we regress to some other shape and form that will no longer be the Guard that we know? A tremendous investment has gone into making us what we are and those of us in senior leadership want to maintain that investment and maintain our capabilities.
“That is really the biggest question looming before the National Guard,” Titshaw added. “Are we going to maintain our big formations – our Brigade Combat Team on the Army side or our Wing on the Air side – at the current level of readiness that we have? The National Guard leadership is saying we must.”
Titshaw echoed the sentiments of Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Craig McKinley in the National Guard’s 2012 Posture Statement, calling for previous investments in the Guard to be “capitalized upon and leveraged for the future.”
While the future evolution of the National Guard is unknown, the Adjutant General is confident that resources like Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, and the professionalism and talent of the force, will keep Florida relevant. He also cautioned the force to exercise fiscal responsibility at all levels as part of that professionalism.
“Individually Soldiers and Airman – almost every day – have to responsibly utilize their funds,” he explained. “If a few individuals don’t exercise this responsibility, it tends to label all National Guard organizations as not trustworthy. We have to execute our budgets appropriately. We have to leverage them to get the maximum amount of training, readiness and capability that we can from every dollar.”
Sustain the Guard family
The Adjutant General also stressed the continued importance of family support in keeping the Florida National Guard strong.
“It is not just the Soldier or Airman who serves this organization, it is also the family,” he said. “The family has to support this organization, and they do. That is what I believe is sustaining this organization through this tremendous operational tempo that we have.”
He said that if Guard members lose the support from their spouses, children, parents, and siblings, it would degrade the effectiveness of ongoing missions.
“It is a remarkable system of support we have built, and now we need to sustain that support,” Titshaw said. “I would ask every Soldier and Airman to focus on that; to make sure they are keeping their families informed of what their role is, of what they’re doing, of what this organization is doing.
“If we’re going to sustain this effort for the long haul, in an era of persistent conflict that we’re told we are going to be in, it will be critical to keep those families on our team,” he added.