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Local experiences prepare Guard leader

Thursday, June 23, 2005

(Photo)
Amry National Guard Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, formerly of Dexter, receives his third star.
ARLINGTON, Va. - As director of the U.S. Army National Guard, Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn will draw upon experiences from his time with Sikeston's (Mo.) Charley Company in leading the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the Guard.

Vaughn, a native of Dexter, Mo., and former company commander for Charley Company in Sikeston, was sworn in to the director's post and promoted to the three-star rank of lieutenant general Wednesday.

While he described the director's office as "a constantly-turning, hectic environment," Vaughn is already settled in and prepared to take on his new responsibilities.

"Previously I was a deputy director so I had a pretty good idea of what the job was," he said. "It's a great assignment - it's really a privilege to serve."

Vaughn said roughly half of deputy directors for the Guard end up serving as directors, but the promotion is by no means a sure thing and is based on the type of assignments candidates have had.

"It's very competitive with all the general officers in the Guard," he said. "It's not necessarily the next step having the director's position, but it certainly is helpful."

Vaughn's main office is the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., but the director's office also has offices at the Pentagon due to its close working relationships with the Army.

"We're the direct interface with the chief of staff of the Army," he said. "I am responsible for all federal policies, programs, resources and equipment for the 350,000 men and women of the National Guard." Vaughn said the National Guard is authorized to have 350,000 total soldiers in the 54 states and territories but presently has about 331,000.

Rising to the top post in the National Guard was not something Vaughn aspired to earlier in his career.

"There are lots of people just doing the very best they can every day," Vaughn said. "When most of us start out what we aspire to be is a company commander - everything after that is gravy."

When Vaughn did make company commander in Sikeston, "I thought that would probably be the greatest thing that every happened to me," he said.

As for promotions beyond that level, "if it happens, fine, and if it doesn't- you served and that's fine, too," Vaughn said. "There's always another assignment around the corner."

Assignments that lead to Vaughn assuming the director's post included some great experiences as company commander of Charley Company, Vaughn said, such as the years spent in Latin America which he described as "life changing.

"It was exposure to an environment that was really quite exciting," he recalled. "I ended up like a lot of other people being exposed to a lot of extraordinary, very interesting and challenging things."

Leaders, like other people, "are all the product of the experiences and people around you," Vaughn said. "Most leaders are constantly trying to be a better leader all the time. You try to emulate the successful traits of those around you."

And for Vaughn, many of those influential people can be found right here: "Southeast Missouri is a stronghold of the Guard," he said.

Vaughn recalled serving with Sikeston's Dan Armour 20 years ago and others from the area such as Vernon Mathis, Dayton Laseter and Barney Caldwell, an administrative assistant who "raised a lot of officers in Sikeston."

Vaughn said he went through officer candidate school with the Missouri National Guard's chief, Sikeston native King Sidwell. "We were commissioned at the same time," he said.

Visiting the 1140th Engineer Battalion at Fort Riley in January of 2004 just before their deployment was "a very emotional thing," according to Vaughn. "I am extremely proud of them."

One of the greatest influences on Vaughn, however, was Clyde Vaughn Sr. of Dexter. "My father was a career Guardsman, mobilized in World War II," Vaughn said.

Vaughn said he enjoyed his time as a coach in Southeast Missouri but has no regrets about pursuing his career in the military.

"I think it's all the same kind of thing - it's all about service," he said. The Guard is full of service-minded individuals as it attracts the same kind of people, Vaughn said: "We have an awful lot of those in the Army and the Army National Guard especially."

"Its all about personal relationships," he continued. "It was a good preparation for what we do here. Taking care of soldiers, taking care of people is what we're about. Helping people is what we're about."

When asked about the role of the National Guard in Iraq, Vaughn said: "Historically this is what they've always done - answer the call of the nation and of our president for service. There are many people that remember the defining moments that put us there."

He said the Guard is a volunteer force made up of campaign-quality soldiers and there are many, many units from around the nation "defending the freedoms that many take for granted."

Over 100,000 National Guardsmen have been mobilized for most of the last year, according to Vaughn.

"We have about 75,000 mobilized and on active duty at this time. Seven of the combat brigades in Iraq are National Guard and it will soon be eight," Vaughn said, referring to a brigade from Pennsylvania that is holding its farewell ceremony at Camp Shelby, Miss., today.

"This is the historical role of the National Guard that dates back longer than the United States has been a country," he said.

Vaughn said while any comments on the future of the Guard would be conjecture, "our job here is to be to be able to sustain the effort as required by our nation. The points of emphasis, things we have to concentrate on, are really taking care of our soldiers and families and employees over the long haul.

"It's really a call to service," he continued. "You have to continue to recruit patriotic men, women, families and employers, and in order to do that at this level, many, many people are working very hard to ensure that we take care of those same individuals."

Regarding the length of Guard deployments and how often they deploy, Vaughn said: "We are going to do what's right for the families and employers."

As for the length of his own assignment, Vaughn said by statute the director of the Army National Guard serves a four-year term although some directors are reappointed for additional partial or full terms, depending on the situation.

"In my case it will be four years," Vaughn said. "I'll retire out of this job - this will be the last assignment."