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State rep. calls for end to Guard deployments

It's time to halt Oregon National Guard troop deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, says state Rep. Dennis Richardson, a Vietnam War veteran.

In a Feb. 13 newsletter to constituents, the Republican from Central Point concluded the deployments are not authorized under the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution gives Congress the power "to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions," he noted, adding it also calls for the president to serve as the commander in chief.

"But the Constitution does not provide that the state militias are to be at the beck and call of the president to fight any foreign conflict the president may deem appropriate," Richardson stressed in his e-mail newsletter.

"It is time for our Legislature and our governor, a (former) U.S. Marine, to stand with other state legislatures and governors and inform Congress and the president that since the Iraq-Afghanistan foreign emergency is over, further deployments of our state militias is unconstitutional," he wrote.

"It is time for the 'regulars' to take full responsibility for ongoing military operations in foreign arenas," he added.

The Guard's 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry, headquartered in Ashland, is expected to deploy 605 citizen soldiers to Iraq early in June. The 1/186th is part of the Oregon Guard's Tigard-based 41st Infantry Combat Brigade Team, which is sending 2,800 troops from Oregon and more than 650 troops from other states. Roughly 60 percent of those deploying already have done a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the National Guard.

The majority of respondents in Richardson's newsletter survey would appear to concur with him. Of the roughly 450 who have responded so far, 85 percent agree with him, Richardson said in a telephone interview Monday during a break from the legislative session in Salem.

"They feel it is inappropriate under our Constitution to continue to redeploy our National Guard troops once an emergency has ended," he said, adding that 15 people felt it was appropriate.

The survey asked "Should the federal government continue to redeploy the Oregon National Guard to Iraq or Afghanistan?" Of those who responded, about 260 included comments explaining their stance, Richardson said.

"Most people in Oregon believe the Constitution doesn't allow the Guard to be used like an additional branch of our military," he said.

Noting that he has a high regard for the men and women in the military, Richardson said the regular military — Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force — should fight the nation's long-term, foreign wars.

The Guard should be used for domestic emergencies, he said.

"If we have a state emergency, we need to have our resources here," he said.

The issue isn't about supporting or opposing the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, he stressed.

"This has nothing to do with the current conflicts other than whether we should utilize our state militia for military engagements on foreign soil," he said. "The goal is not to cause dissension among the troops. This is about future deployments. It has nothing to do with current deployments."

Nor is it a partisan issue, he said.

"There are a lot of Republicans who may not think this is appropriate, but this involves the blood of our kids," he said, adding he feels the discussion is important.

"If we need to do this to honor our Constitution and protect our Constitution then, by all means, I'll be the first in line," he said of the debate.

Guard deployment to fight long-term wars on foreign soil is becoming a concern in several states, he said.

"There is no invasion or emergency," he said. "We either need to change the Constitution or stop doing it."

He plans to use the results from the survey to broach the subject with fellow legislators.

"I will discuss with members of the Legislature whether we want to send a resolution to our congressional delegation that the president no longer continue to redeploy our national guard units," he said.

The governor can't stop the redeployment by decree, he said.

"But if enough states start leaning on congressional leaders to stop this, then that change will be enacted," he said, adding, "Every change requires a beginning."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

State rep. calls for end to Guard deployments