WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2009 – “Adding Value to America” was the theme for more than 2,000 of the National Guard’s senior Army and Air Force leaders from across the nation who gathered at the National Harbor outside the nation’s capital this morning to kick off their first Joint Senior Leadership Conference.

“We are here to celebrate a year’s worth of activity that your Army and Air National Guard have accomplished,” said Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, in his opening remarks. “I could not be more proud than to be here today and say ‘thanks,’ … not only to you, but to your families for sacrificing so much, and for your employers, who make all of this happen.”

McKinley noted on the conference’s theme, and said “there has never been a more appropriate time in the Guard’s history in looking at its relevance, effectiveness and efficiencies.”

He told the conferees they would discuss issues collectively that they may never before have addressed, and that the strong relationships to be formed here this week are necessary to carry the Guard through its future challenges in war and in a time of fiscal constraints for the nation.

“I am convinced that we have the right leadership in this room for this time [and] for this nation,” he said.

McKinley noted the mix of units, commands and states represented in the audience, and he described their gathering and networking throughout the week as “one of the primary reasons for the conference.”

“As I visit the states, … I see in every state command meeting an integrated group of soldiers and airmen,” said McKinley. “I see the adjutants general developing joint force headquarters that are capable, that are strong, [and] that will meet the needs of the 21st century in both our domestic operations and operations overseas.”

The conference runs through Nov. 21.

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