End of federal deployment order could force turnover in active guard force

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – As it stands now, the deadline for federal deployment orders is June 24, leaving troops with 89 days of service. That would be one day short of qualifying for federal benefits, including G.I. Bill, retirement credits and health benefits.

As for emergency response, West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General James Hoyer says it won’t suffer if the order does end.

“We don’t have large cities, we don’t have large counties with large health response apparatus,” Hoyer said,”In most large events, we the state of West Virginia rely on the National Guard.”

But, Hoyer says the combination of businesses reopening and needing guard members to return and benefits will force turnover.

Hoyer uses the example of two guard members in a truck delivering PPE hit by another driver at an intersection. Those soldiers would be covered by federal benefits- medical bills, rehab, treatment or disability if applicable.

“June 25 if this doesn’t change and they get hit at that intersection and they’ve got medical bills, rehab and all that, they are covered by state workers comp,” Hoyer said.

National guard advocates and guard members are pushing a plan to extend the deployment to July 31, a plan supported by Hoyer.

But, Hoyer as a 39-year member of the guard his interest is solely the health and welfare of the troops carrying out missions overseas and right here in West Virginia.

“My job on behalf of the governor is to do what’s best for the men and woman of the National Guard,” Hoyer said,”And what’s best for the men and women of the national guard is to get them over that 90-day mark.”

If lawmakers don’t extend the deployment date, those two factors will likely create tough decisions for individual soldiers.

“If the broader apparatus is not going to give me those overarching benefits,” Hoyer said,”I need to look at what’s in the best interests of my family, and that might be to return to my civilian job.”

The current fiscal year will end on September 30, 2020, Hoyer says the Army and Air national Guard will be at 100 percent strength and recruiting numbers are strong.

“In my opinion, it’s a testament to the people of West Virginia and Appalachia,” Hoyer said,”That they’re still stepping up at significant pace to be part of our organization.”