MSG Half-Mast recently traveled to Jackson, Mississippi to speak with BG Joe D. Hargett, Director of the Joint Staff of the Mississippi National Guard (MSNG), as well as the Mobilization Deputy Commanding General at Camp Shelby, to discuss his views on MSNG’s readiness to fulfill both state and national missions.
BG Hargett enlisted in the MSNG in 1987 and was later commissioned as a Military Police officer after graduating officer candidate school. In 1994, he branch transferred to Engineers and served in a variety of command and staff positions, culminating as executive officer, deputy commander and then commander of the 168th Engineer Brigade. After brigade command, he served on the MSNG Joint Staff in a number of capacities, including its Chief of Staff before assuming his current duties. He has a BS in Civil Engineering Technology from the University of Southern Mississippi, an MBA from Jackson State University and a Master of Strategic Studies (MSS) degree from the US Army War College.
: Sir, thanks for your time and willingness to speak with PS Magazine
on the topic of readiness. The National Guard obviously was widely mobilized for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is the current status of the Mississippi National Guard's readiness (both equipment and personnel) in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan? Could it handle another prolonged period of mobilizations?
BG Hargett: First, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and for what you all do for our Army.
Not just Mississippi, but the entire Guard Nation has earned great equity both on the frontlines of our operational theaters and at home. We have constantly had Soldiers responding to the call of our state and nation, whether they are responding to natural, man-made and environmental disasters; supplementing state governments where needed; or even serving at our nation's capitol in times of need.
I feel like the counterinsurgency force structure, alignments and readiness models should be analyzed for their relevance in the future, considering the evolving global competition that faces our nation. We always ask ourselves a few hard questions: are we the right size, do we have the right force mix and do we have the right capabilities? We must remain agile and adaptable to our nation's needs.
From an equipment standpoint, I feel that our readiness still is driven by numerous factors, which include funding, full-time manning authorizations, parts production, supply chain health, full-time maintenance shops and Solder-level pride and ownership. Even with the uptempo and the woes of the pandemic, we are very satisfied with our current equipment readiness. The tactical authorized stockage list (ASL), investment in shop stocks, convergence of enterprise systems and consistent modernizations from the Army's Total Package Fielding initiatives have enabled the best possible readiness.
Much like our active duty and Army Reserve service members, MSNG members have earned their stripes (despite a few wrinkles) over the last couple of decades, and I am confident we can continue to answer the call and carry the torch forward. In the ever-changing environment, we are always working hard to improve personnel readiness and creatively and critically thinking of ways to adapt to the current societal and generational norms to recruit and retain the best and brightest the country has to offer.
: In what ways is the MSNG transitioning from the counterinsurgency operations of Iraq and Afghanistan to large-scale combat operations (LSCO), particularly when it comes to mobilization, as well as maintenance and supply readiness?
BG Hargett: Thankfully we possess some seasoned non-commissioned officers (NCOs), warrant officers and senior field grades who remember the days prior to the counterinsurgency (COIN) engagements. By leveraging that experience, we have had a huge advantage in adapting back to LSCO. From aircraft to heavy armor, consistency in our modified tables of organization and equipment (MTOEs), equipment upgrades and modernization efforts have propelled us back to our core mission. As a part-time component, the Guard trains after hours and on weekends. As a result, steering away from the just-in-time logistics model back to the authorized stockage list/shop stock list (ASL/SSL) has been huge for our maintenance readiness. Updated toolsets, special tools and diagnostic equipment enable us to maintain at a much higher level. Embracing and learning to love enterprise systems such as Global Combat Support System–Army (GCSS-A) have been paramount.
: What role does Camp Shelby, in particular, play when it comes to the MSNG's readiness to fulfill LSCO missions of the future?
BG Hargett: I have the privilege to serve as the Mobilization Deputy Commanding General at Camp Shelby, MS. As one of the Mobilization Force Generation Installations (MFGI), it has had a front-row seat in posturing toward Large Scale Mobilization Operations (LSMO), which directly supports LSCO efforts. Working closely with 1st Army and US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), we have completely transitioned to planning, training and anticipating near-peer competition and multi-domain operations. Camp Shelby provides an outstanding garrison, with broad capabilities in all aspects of life support, maintenance facilities, rail operations, material handling equipment (MHE) support and 136,000 acres of maneuver area and state-of-the-art ground, air and synthetic ranges.
: What are the major challenges facing the MSNG going forward when it comes to staying not only combat-ready but also prepared for its more traditional roles of assisting in natural disasters and other humanitarian missions?
BG Hargett: In today's world, you never know what mission you may be asked to execute. Citizen-Soldiers have it in their DNA to always be ready for a call, bring to bear their civilian skills and trades and apply them in both Guard-specific and combat missions. A great example is we recently called up 500 Soldiers and Airmen to help issue over 12 million bottles of water to the residents of Jackson, MS, due to the water crisis caused by a treatment facility failure. Their performance in executing this mission and supporting the citizens of Jackson was exemplary. In some situations regarding emergencies and disasters, the mere presence of our professional military provides a sense of calm, stability and normalcy to the turbulent conditions wherever they may occur.
: Why should a young Mississippian consider service in the MSNG? For those already in the MSNG, what advice do you have that will enhance their readiness and increase their advancement potential, should they desire to continue their service and, possibly, make it a career?
BG Hargett: The MSNG has a large force structure that possesses a huge array of personal and career opportunities. Serving the state and nation reaps honor and purpose. The MSNG specifically has free undergraduate college tuition for our state universities. Federally, Guard members earn pay, healthcare and education benefits and learn specific skills that can be applied in the civilian marketplace. Arguably the relationships, friendships, memories and experiences are what our longtime members say are the best benefits and are priceless.
For our current members, we do our best to create an environment that allows them to advance, seek higher military and civilian education, and support them individually in their unique needs and aspirations.
: What final thoughts would you like to share with PS readers?
BG Hargett: I encourage everyone to be the best they can be, take ownership and pride in their equipment and arms, always strive to improve and know that your readiness is the strength of our Army. It is an honor to serve alongside you. Thank you for your service to our great nation.