Senate votes to allocate more money to Guard
DES MOINES - As the challenges of the past 10 years - including its largest deployment since World War II, have been met, new challenges are emerging for the Iowa National Guard on the homefront. With the exception of 90 members, for the first time since 2001 the Iowa Guard has no units currently deployed overseas, said Major General Timothy Orr, the commander of the Iowa National Guard, on Wednesday during his annual Condition of the Guard address.
The service of 7,000 Iowa Guard members in support of U.S. military operations in Iraq came with a price - nearly two dozen Guardsmen died and hundreds suffered wounds and injuries, Orr said.
Now that the citizen soldiers have returned, they face an unemployment rate of 10 percent and those returning to college have lost as much as $1,300 a semester in tuition assistance, Orr said.
About 1,200, or 13 percent, of the 9,400 Iowa Guard members are college students, Orr said.
He said he expected many of those returning from deployments to wait a semester before returning to college.
'In fact, which is a good thing, they enrolled in college right away to get on with their lives,' he said.
As a result of a record number of applicants for education assistance combined with flat state funding and rising tuition, the Guard had to reduce award amounts. Orr said they reduced the level of assistance to 'ensure that each and every one of our soldiers and airmen was able to receive something.' Lawmakers were taking swift action Wednesday to remedy the problem. The Senate voted 49-0 to approve Senate File 2007, which makes a $1.3 million supplemental appropriation to the Guard to cover tuition costs.
'We're pretty happy' with the Senate action, Orr said, adding that the 15-year-old tuition assistance program has been vital to recruiting and retaining Guard soldiers and airmen.
University of Iowa senior Dan Tallon, a Guard member who served in Afghanistan, thanked lawmakers for the supplemental appropriation.
The former Davenport resident, who is majoring in political science, said he would not have attended college without the assistance and probably would not have served in the Iowa Guard if it had not been available.
House Speaker House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said he expects the House to also pass the additional appropriation. Due to House rules, that action likely will come next week.