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Bond touts support for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, praises National Guard

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 14, 2009 - U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond may not be on the same page with President Barack Obama on health care, but Missouri's Republican senior senator seems to share his commitment to keeping troops in Afghanistan.

Bond laid out his thoughts on Afghanistan on Sunday, as he delivered the keynote address in Nashville at the 131st National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) General Conference and Exhibition.

The audience of more than 4,000 Guardsmen and their family and friends received praise from the senator. 

“You have always been there for us, whether fighting for us in foreign wars or helping us respond to domestic disasters,” said Bond in his written text. “We are asking more of you than ever before, so we have a responsibility to support you in your unique dual mission of providing military support abroad and homeland defense stateside.”

According to a statement from Bond's office, he also "emphasized that for sustainable, long-term success in Afghanistan, 80 to 90 percent of America’s strategy must include development and diplomatic efforts or smart power.

"He explained that a smart power strategy in Afghanistan includes a combination of military might with economic, development, educational, and diplomatic strategies,'' the statement said.

"He also explained that no other organization is better positioned to execute smart power initiatives than the National Guard, which includes personnel that have the civilian backgrounds and military.

"The senator noted that the Missouri Guard and many other Guard units have formed Agriculture Development Teams (ADT) that include the farmers, veterinarians, and other professionals, which have helped build irrigation systems and wells, increase crop yields, and provide alternatives to poppy production."

At the same time, Bond acknowledged that the National Guard is short on equipment, and cited his efforts with Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, to "secure $500 million in additional funding for Guard equipment in this year’s supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq and Afghanistan."

In addition, the duo -- who co-chair the Senate National Guard Caucus -- are attempting to allocate another $1.5 billion for the National Guard and military reserves.

Bond said that the Air Guard is short of tactical fighter planes, and cited his efforts to get more F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s. (The F-15s and F/A-18s are Boeing aircraft, while F-16s are built by Lockheed.)

“We are all in your debt,” said Bond in his speech. “It has been an honor for me to share this day with America’s citizen Soldiers and Airmen.  Know that I will continue to fight hard for the National Guard during my remaining time in the U.S. Senate.  God bless you and thank you.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.