Chief of Public Affairs, NMNG
SANTA FE, N.M. - The New Mexico State Defense Force (NMSDF) commissioned 13 new officers into their ranks at a ceremony March 6, 2016 at the New Mexico National Guard Museum.
Col. Douglas Knowlton, Lt. Col. Stacey Leffler, Lt. Col. Ira Salom, Maj. Anthony Delay, Maj. Thomas Griego, Maj. Dwight Thompson, Capt. Vardis Gaus, Capt. William Hatch, Capt. Joseph Hogan, Capt. Harold May, Capt. Cynthia Mortensen, Capt. Russel Stowers, and 1st Lt. Michael Macey took the oath to become commissioned officers while preparing to selflessly give their time and talent for the benefit of our neightobrs, communities and state.
The NMSDF supports and augments the New Mexico National Guard’s operational capabilities by providing an organized, regulated, professional, trained and disciplined state militia force. Major capabilities include civil operations, emergency response and military protocol.
In his keynote address, Brig. Gen. Andrew Salas, the Adjutant General of New Mexico, said it was an incredible day for New Mexico. “We have a wonderful state - a place of great historical significance, great culture and where those before us have set the mark for things that are important for the defense of our nation; but there are many challenges,” Salas said. “We have opportunities, but we don’t always have enough resources or enough capacity in local, state, federal government and other non-government agencies to tackle all the issues and challenges. This why we need the National Guard and the State Defense Force.”
In order to describe the role and mission of the NMSDF, Salas described the three missions of the NMNG: As an operational reserve, the NMNG is here to defend America and defeat America’s enemies. Second, the NMNG protects the lives and property of our fellow citizens here at home which includes helping first responders to help citizens in distress. Third, we build strong, vibrant communities so that we have safe places for our families, good schools for our children, good jobs, a clean environment, and preservation of our culture. We do all the things to make this a place worth living and a place that’s worth handing over to our children and our children’s children, Salas said.
In the past, the National Guard mobilized for long periods of time during war. According to Salas, the NMSDF was orginally put into state statute to man the local armories and be there for first responders to help with local emergencies when the Guard deployed. Salas described it as a proper mission for that time and place.
“That still sort of exists, but times have changed because the National Guard is an operational reserve force and not just a deep bench to be called out in mass when there is a big world war,” Salas said. “We now go in packets where we send units and individuals in an ongoing contribution to our federal mission. So the new way of thinking about the NMSDF is as the NMNG’s domestic operational reserve force, having an active role in the Guard’s second and third missions - to protect lives and property and build strong and resilient communities.”
Salas said the NMNG has a very important training mission in order for Soldiers and Airmen to do what they need to do. From time to time, certain shortfalls may exist and the NMSDF helps bolster the NMNG’s capabilities. Second, with respect to when that emergency or natural disaster comes, we sometimes find ourselves with shortfalls in either numbers to respond to the emergency or capabilities required of us. Salas sees the NMSDF having Red Cross certified shelter management teams, credentialed, trained and ready like the Minuteman of old to answer the call of duty in support of the NMNG while supporting emergency response. Third, Salas sees the NMSDF being available to assist our veterans with color guards, parades and military protocol. The NMNG is asked to do a lot of things because we represent the military aspect of our society, Salas said, and sometimes, sadly, we have to say no and it breaks our heart. Support for other like-minded entities , especially the Department of Veteran Services is important. With over 171,000 veterans across New Mexico, DVS is working hard to make sure veterans know about their benefits an entitlements as a way of saying thank you for your service, but DVS has a small staff. NMSDF can help with that important mission, Salas said.
“You are our domestic operational reserve force,” Salas told the NMSDF members. “We as the higher headquarters have a responsibility to make sure you have the guidance, policy and oversight to do your work successfully. We want you to have a framework and structure that fits you and allows you to render the professional service you offer. Our job as your higher headquarters is to be your functional area managers with subject matter experts to assist you so we can work in sync for New Mexico.”
Salas said his comittment to NMSDF members is to make sure the Brig. Gen. David Torres, the assistant adjutant general of the NMSDF, is supported to build a better future for the NMSDF.
Salas told Torres how grateful he was for taking on this tough assignment and for his dedicated leadership. He also recognized Lt. Col Mark Gonzales, NMSDF commander for sparing no effort in the service of others and for doing what is necessary for the NMSDF to do their job.
Salas also thanked Grig. Gen. Juan Griego, deputy adjutant general, and the rest of his NMNG senior staff for leading the effort to establish a good foundation that allows NMSDF patriots to come render service in our communities.
As Torres prepared the group for the oath of the commissioned officer, he reminded them of why today’s swearing in event is important - helping set the pace and the expectation. He reminded them that oaths convey allegiance and loyalty for our leaders and the public we serve.
Torres asked the group a series of questions to affirm their selfless commitment. Do you have the conviction to put self interests aside? Are you honest, true and courageous in all aspects of life? Will you be the officer that our state can depend on to do the right thing in moments of uncertainty and crisis? Will you uphold the standards of honor, integrity and compassion in the face of opposition? Will you display the behavior befitting the uniform you wear today and the dignity and discipline that it represents? Today, you answer these questions for yourself, said Torres, and if you can answer yes, I am proud to link arms and serve with you.