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Adjutant General: Ohio National Guard Better Prepared Since 9-11

The head of the Ohio National Guard says her units are better equipped and better trained as a result of overseas deployments since 9-11. But the preparedness comes with sacrifice too. During a ceremony at Columbus State Community College honoring her service in the Ohio National Guard, Adjutant General, Deborah Ashenhurst turned attention to the troops. "Over a thousand of your neighbors are still off in Afghanistan, Qatar, and many other places in this world in support of the freedoms that we enjoy everyday." Says Ashenhurst. Convoy protection, field communication, in-flight refueling of fighter jets, are among tasks assigned to Ohio National Guard troops and Air Force Reserve members for the past twelve years. "We've had over 21,700 of our Ohio National Guard members deployed in support of this war." Ashenhurst was appointed adjutant general in 2011 by Governor John Kasich. She says National Guard, Reserve, and Naval militia missions have not been confined to Iraq and Afghanistan. "Actually we have served in 36 nations in this war on terror." Ashenhurst says. But, with the United States exit from Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, Ashenhurst says the military, including the National Guard in Ohio and other states, is faced with a flood of returning soldiers and air force reserve troops that must make a transition back to civilian life. The Adjutant General says that transition is made easier if guard troops register with the Veterans Administration. Registration with the VA gives returning guard troops veteran status. That assures a range of lifetime benefits. Robert Sims is a case in point. He served in Desert Storm, what he calls the first Gulf War, in the early 1990s. "I felt strange, I felt like something wasn't right, discipline, or just the comraderie, the togetherness wasn't there, that was about it really." Says Sims. Sims says he now has a family. And 20 years after returning from Desert Storm he's taking advantage of the VA education benefits at Columbus State Community College. But, it took him some time, and he empathizes with other vets who are slow to register with the Veterans Administration. "Sometimes you just don't have the mindset to go out and seek the help. The help is there. Like, when I see a homeless vet holding a sign. Like, this is America. There's no way. All he has to do is go to the VA. Somebody will direct him or help him, or them, so." Sims says. Sims is studying information technology in hopes of landing a job as a network engineer in the future. Columbus State Community College President, David Harrison says Sims is among a large group of returning veterans enrolled at the school. "Nearly 900 students are actively involved in our Veterans Affairs office. And we know that there are many other veterans at the college who have not identified themselves." Harrison says. While thousands of Ohio veterans who served since 9-11 return to civilian life, Major General Ashenhurst says the National Guard is better prepared for future deployments when needed. Ashenhurst says as a direct result of its recent calls to duty, the guard is now better trained and better equipped.