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Odierno: National Guard contributions since 9/11 ‘critical’ 
By Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill, National Guard Bureau 
Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the chief of staff of the Army, addresses the 134th National Guard Association of the United States General Conference in Reno, Nev., Sept. 10, 2012. (Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)

RENO, Nev. (9/11/12) -- The chief of staff of the Army paid tribute to the role of the National Guard in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in the years since.

Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno also said 9/11 made America stronger.

“That day changed the lives of Americans forever,” Odierno said. “And it will continue to impact generations of Americans. But – as in the past – our enemies underestimated the will, the pride, patriotism of Americans.

“I believe these attacks have made America stronger, creating a spirit of service in the hearts of a new generation of Americans.”

Air National Guard pilots were in the air within minutes of the attacks, and Army National Guard members responded on the ground – including some who simply showed up at readiness centers without waiting to be called.

“Our Citizen-Soldiers were the first to respond,” Odierno told attendees at the 134th National Guard Association of the United States General Conference here Sept. 10. “Within days – within hours – of the terrorist strikes, Operation Noble Eagle mobilized Guardsmen around the country … to provide security on military installations, airports and other key infrastructure, as well as to patrol America’s borders.

“And … our Total Army has been essential to our plans for the last 11 years: We have a true and proven operational Reserve, with experience that comes from more than 675,000 mobilizations.

“Fifty percent of our Guard Soldiers today are combat veterans, many in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“National Guard Soldiers continue to provide support to our civil authorities around the nation in a variety of missions.”

In recent weeks, Guard members from multiple states have responded in the thousands to support civil authorities in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, battle wildfires and provide security for both the Republican and Democratic political conventions, Odierno said.

“These missions, both overseas and in support of our civil authorities, are critical,” he said.