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Service in the Global War on Terror has had a positive and negative effect on the individuals and institutions involved. For individual soldiers, these include a new or reinvigorated sense of values and purpose, but also difficulties in interacting with families and friends, coping with disrupted lives and livelihoods, and coming to terms with the violence witnessed and, in some instances, committed. Women in the ranks faced special challenges. The impacts on the National Guard as an institution and on its relationships with the active-duty military have also been wide-ranging. Some soldiers question whether the Guard as currently constituted can play the role envisioned by Defense Department officials as “the nation’s greatest counterterrorism asset.”
Having enlisted in the regular Army just as the Vietnam War was coming to an end, Mark Warnecke would not see his first combat until Operation Iraqi Freedom. As the commander of a New York National Guard Infantry Battalion, Warnecke is able to compare and contrast the role of the National Guard to that of the active duty Army. Some experiences, such as seeing boys become men in the face of combat, are universal. Warnecke saw the greatest difference in the skill sets which those in his battalion brought to their National Guard duty from their civilian life. He could draw on their diverse occupations, from prison guards to mechanics and electricians, to get the job done. Warnecke finds great satisfaction in knowing that the current conflict has demonstrated the ability of the National Guard to perform just as well, if not better, than their active duty counterparts.
“As a reserve component soldier, as a National Guard soldier…it was very satisfying to me to prove to the active duty that we could do our job as well as any active duty.”
– Mark Robert Warnecke
“...I ain't gonna be the one...that one kid back home still running around...not having a life.”
“This time there was no drill sergeant there...scaring you to do the right thing...”
“As the battalion commander of the unit, I was the first woman and first nurse to ever hold that position.”