July 7, 2006
AGAUS ’06: The Stars Shine in Williamsburg
By Maj. Ed Moran
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - As significant events shape our lived history so too did the beautiful setting of Colonial Williamsburg provide the perfect context for the Adjutants General Association of the United States conference June 19-23. The Colonial Fife and Drum Corps, “President George Washington” (played by Thomas Evans) and “Thomas Jefferson” (played by Stephen Wells) were all on hand to greet the 52 state adjutants general, Lt. Gen. H. Stephen Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, corporate sponsors and guests for a week of federal and state business meetings.
A Wednesday visit by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, followed that evening by dinner with Gov. Tim Kaine were, for many, the highpoints of the conference. A fashion show, tour of a nearby winery, an afternoon of golf at Kingsmill and a visit to historic Jamestown entertained spouses and TAGs alike for the “non-business” parts of the week.
Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., Adjutant General of Virginia, said the conference was critical to the mission of the National Guard.
“In terms of funding, force structure and mission, we are here to forge a united front,” he said. “The beauty and history of Virginia, and Williamsburg in particular, provides a perfect setting to bring us together to face the challenges of passing HR 5200, The National Guard Retirement Act, and hold the line on funding diminishment that threatens so much of our performance in our critical federal war fighting mission as well as our state capabilities like homeland security, disaster relief, drug interdiction and border security. This conference is like the active duty four-star event "Corona," where generals gather to set their strategy and unite around essential mission requirements.”
Newman noted with a smile that the real success of the conference was in what was done for the spouses.
“After reviewing what happened last year in Nebraska, I didn’t think that the spouses wanted to know much about force-shaping planning and budgetary analysis,” Newman said. “By getting them out to do some fun things in a really great environment, they will remember Virginia and the hospitality we offered here this week. That will stay with them. They will remember how great the experience with the Virginia Guard truly is.”
Col. Mike Coleman, chief of staff of the the Virginia Army Guard, supervised 162 Soldiers and Airmen in support of the operation. He noted that the conference was two years in planning and that he built it as a joint military operation complete with operations orders, command teams, and mission accountability.
One of the most difficult parts of the operation, Coleman said, was keeping the state and federal components separate. One formula for success was in picking the right people to do the right jobs that integrated well into the volunteer staff and were flexible and adaptive to the emerging needs of planning and execution.
“We accomplished our TAG’s main objectives by conducting a successful joint operation with Army and Air components exercising considerable preparedness after quite a planning phase as well as transformation by allowing guardsmen to do different kinds of jobs they might not normally do,” Coleman said. He was proud of all the work his “red shirts” did on both the Army and Air Guard sides to make things run well and provide the kind of excellent service conference attendees repeatedly reported to him.
Senior Airman Linette Sanchez, a guard from Security Forces, said the conference was “her first experience of so many generals in one place.” She enjoyed meeting Newman and even got to shake hands with Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In the 192d Fighter Wing for her fourth year, Sanchez said that as a guard at the conference, she got to “see how things were done behind the scenes.”
Lt. Col. Colleen Chipper, who was chair of the Corporation Committee, said that she started planning more than a year ago.
“The challenge was to use the space available for all the corporations who wanted to be here,” she said. “I was fortunate to have Maj. David Schlagel working this project. He did a majority of the planning and monitoring of the corporate accounts while I was finishing Joint Forces Staff College.”
A talented artist, Chipper’s sketch of a Colonial Williamsburg scene became the thank-you gift to the corporate sponsors whose presence made the conference possible.
Next year, the AGAUS Conference moves to Alaska, the “Land of the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights,” where the “stars” are set to shine again as they continue to pursue the Guard mission and forge that united front so critical to mission success.
Click HERE to see photos from the 2006 AGAUS Conference.