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Missouri National Guard chief elected to head national military-service association

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 19, 2012 - Missouri’s Adjutant General of the National Guard, Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, has been elected the new board chairman of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), which is the nation’s oldest military service group and represents about 45,000 association members.

The members are all current or former National Guard officers. Created in 1878, the association works closely with the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States to “provide united representation in Washington, and with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on militia needs.”

Danner was elected chairman of the board at the association’s 134th General Conference and Exposition last week. A lawyer and businessman, he is a former Missouri state representative and senator, and the son of former U.S. Rep. Pat Danner, a well-known congresswoman from northwest Missouri from 1993-2001. His wife, Katie Steele Danner, heads the state’s Division of Tourism.

Gov. Jay Nixon had appointed Maj. Gen. Danner as Missouri’s Adjutant General, and lauded his election to the national post.

“Major General Danner has ably led the Missouri National Guard during a time when its members have risen time and again to meet the challenges they have faced, both on deployments around the world and on humanitarian missions to help Missourians during and after natural disasters,” Nixon said. “His leadership skills and the genuine concern he has shown for those under his command will enable him to serve well the men and women of the Guard and their families.”

Said Danner in a statement: “It’s an honor and privilege to be chosen to represent this strong organization. We are focused on bringing the issues that are important to the Soldiers and Airmen who are our members to our elected representatives.”

“My goals are simple: Maintain the momentum,” Danner said. “This is critical not only for the readiness and quality of life of Guardsmen across the country, but for the nation as a whole.

“The National Guard is the solution to the problem of maintaining a strong national defense in these difficult fiscal times, but only if our formations continue to be modernized and our family members and employers receive the support they need.”

The association notes that Danner “has recent deployment experience. From May 2005 to January 2007, he was command judge advocate for the 35th Area Support Group in Iraq.” During that period, Danner dealt with some high-profile legal cases involving military personnel in the war zone.

According to his bio released by the governor’s office:

“Danner enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1972 and has served as a traditional Missouri National Guard member since 1981. He was deployed to Iraq with the 35th Area Support Group in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was awarded a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge for his service there. Before becoming Adjutant General in January 2009, Danner was a successful businessman and attorney. He also served as a Missouri state representative and state senator.

“Danner received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and his law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He completed a master of strategic studies through the United States War College in 2004.”

Danner, a Democrat, also made an unsuccessful bid for state auditor in 1994.

The governor’s office noted that “Danner is the second Missourian to achieve a high-ranking national position in connection with the National Guard. Just last week, Gen. Frank Grass, who began his military career with the Missouri National Guard, became the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

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.