Local Guard switching from artillery to transportation

By Andy Jackson

Plans are in place that would change the duties of Army National Guard units based in Clovis and Portales over the next two years, from air defense artillery units to transportation, according to public affairs officer Lt. Col. Kim Lalley of the New Mexico Army National Guard.

With the restructuring, recruiters hope to double the size of the Clovis and Portales units as well as increase the number of women and younger recruits.

Under the reorganization, area guard units hope to attract workers who drive for dairies, canneries, farms, ranches and even Wal-Mart, according to Staff Sgt. Terry Stevens, a Portales resident and recruiter in the Clovis National Guard unit.

Clovis will serve as headquarters for the transportation unit under the yet to be finalized plan, officials said.

The restructuring of the New Mexico National Guard will occur throughout the state, though it is still in its final planning stages, Lalley said. Eventually, guard units all over the state will likely replace air defense artillery units with military police, transportation and engineering units, she said.

Women aren’t allowed in front-line combat, so right now the 40 soldiers in the Clovis guard are mostly men. That will soon change, as the unit crosses over to a mission of support and transport, he said.

“Women lead soldiers and drive trucks just as well as guys,” Stevens said.

Even though more than half of the guard in Clovis and Portales have previous service experience, recruiters are now looking toward younger residents to enlist.

“The future lies with young people. We want to show young people what the National Guard is all about. It’s exciting as older guardsmen to see the development of younger guardsmen, to see the type of people they become.

“They go away kids, wet behind the ears, then go to basic training, and come back the same person but with a new perspective on what’s important in life,” Stevens said.

The Army National Guard’s monetary incentives are luring some recruits while they’re still in high school — with offers such as 100 percent college tuition assistance and $15,000 signing bonuses.

Recruiter Sgt. Jacob Huegel, 21, of Portales, joined the army at the end of high school, he said. After four years of service, he says he likes the guard more than active duty.

Lalley said the New Mexico Army National Guard’s switch from artillery to transport will decrease deployment rates at least until 2007, while restructuring occurs. The restructuring is designed, in part, to help fight the global war on terror, she said.

And future guard efforts will be more humanitarian, Stevens said.