Story by Sgt. Todd Boyles
 

AUSTIN, Texas - Members of the Texas Military Forces take part in the annual National Guard Association of Texas conference in Austin during March 23 through 25.

At the NGAT conference, service members share ideas and concerns about combat readiness and family issues.

"We get together to speak as to where we have been in the past year and where we are going in the future," said U.S. Army Maj. Justin Perryman, the president of the National Guard Association of Texas. 

The association assists in communicating the Texas Military Forces interests to the state and federal lawmakers. The NGAT's mission is to illustrate the value of the service members and the Texas Military Forces to Texans and the American people. 

As of Sept. 30, 2010, the National Guard has mobilized more than 650,000 service members in support of Department of Defense overseas contingency operations. 

According to the National Guard Bureau 2012 Posture Statement report, the Guard contributes 35 to 40 percent of all active Army and Air Force manpower at only 7 percent of the budget. 

"The Guard is the most effective way to defend America and the most cost-efficient," said Ray Linder, executive director of the National Guard Association of Texas. "You can keep four Guardsmen for what it will cost you to maintain one regular Army soldier."

In addition to supporting the "Big Army," the Guardsmen also respond to all domestic emergencies. 

Texas is one of few states that have a Homeland Response Force certified unit. The HRF units add capabilities that allow the Guard to rapidly respond to situations such as natural disasters, biomedical emergencies or riots, said Perryman.

To be an effective fighting force, the Guard needs to have stability on the home front. One place this stability comes from is the Texas State Family Programs.

"Family readiness is a crucial element to mission readiness," said Tara Gaspar, a Senior Family Readiness support assistant with the State Family Programs. "We are a force multiplier. If you do not have a ready family at home, that service member is not ready."