Active-duty general sworn into Guard to take JTF command slot

By Special from Joint Task Force National Scout Jamboree | July 26, 2010

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard are making historic strides in interoperability during the 2010 National Scout Jamboree (NSJ) at Ft. A.P. Hill, Virginia. Brigadier General Robert "Woody" Nolan, Commander, Joint Task Force-NSJ (JTF-NSJ), has been commissioned in the Virginia National Guard, making him the first active-duty officer to simultaneously hold commissions in both the active Air Force and the National Guard. With this "dual status," Brigadier General Nolan commands a task force comprised of about 2,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilian personnel. About 600 of JTF-NSJ's forces are National Guardsmen from 15 different states. The 2010 NSJ, held from 26 July through 4 August, celebrates 100 years of Scouting in the United States, and JTF-NSJ will provide Department of Defense support along several lines of operation: security, medical, logistics, merit badge instruction and performing unit support, all in order to provide a safe and secure environment for a successful NSJ.

Considering the significant number of National Guardsmen supporting the NSJ, Governor Bob McDonnell offered Brigadier General Nolan a temporary Virginia National Guard commission. With Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's support and President Barack Obama's approval, Brigadier General Nolan accepted. Collaborative federal and state Jamboree planning culminated in a 14 July ceremony, when Major General Daniel Long, Adjutant General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, administered the oath of office to Brigadier General Nolan in Richmond.

Federal law authorizes National Guard and active duty officers to hold dual commissions only with the approval of both a Governor and the President. For several past events, such as the 2009 G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, National Guard officers have held this dual status, enabling them to command active forces. Brigadier General Nolan pointed out that these successful partnerships built trust between federal and state authorities and paved the way for organizing this year's military support to the NSJ.

"I think it says we trust each other and we're willing to work together," he said. "It's required because of these unique situations in the continental United States. We've done eight dual-status commands prior to the National Scout Jamboree, and in each case the President offered a National Guard officer a federal commission so that that officer could control both Guard and federal forces. This is the first case where the Governor of a state has offered a federal officer a state commission so we could do a dual-status command with federal officer in charge, and I think that says a lot about the trust and confidence that the organizations have with each other."

Major General Long, Adjutant General of Virginia, agreed, expressing confidence in Brigadier General Nolan and USNORTHCOM. "They are great leaders and great Americans who are very focused on making sure the National Jamboree is a safe and secure event for everyone involved," Long said. "We have been intimately involved with the entire process, and we can and will provide additional support when and wherever needed."

Developing cooperative efforts was important, but even more important was developing a JTF-NSJ command structure that makes good tactical sense. "The commander now is able to have unity of effort when it comes to the mission," Brigadier General Nolan said. "It allows us to efficiently use the resources that the states and the Secretary of Defense have given us to execute the mission. If we didn't have the dual-status command construct, then all the National Guard members would be reporting to disparate National Guard commanders, and we wouldn’t be able to have the unity of effort that we have now. There would be no straight line of authority on that side of the organization."

In the case of the National Scout Jamboree, Brigadier General Nolan said everyone agreed the appointment of a federal officer made sense due to the mission and force structure. While the JTF includes more than 600 National Guardsmen, the majority of the force is active-duty. "We have a federal mission mandated by Congress to the Secretary of Defense," he explained. "We’re on a federal installation, and the majority of the forces are federal. So, I think after the Governor and the TAG of Virginia looked at those factors, they and the National Guard Bureau agreed with the NORTHCOM commander that this is a win-win for all the folks involved. This unity of effort situation makes it easier and allows us to use less force structure to conduct the mission."

Brigadier General Nolan said he felt honored by the trust that President Obama and Governor McDonnell placed in him: "It was an honor for the Governor of Virginia to extend a commission to me by name," he said. "The President had to approve me by name to accept a commission in the National Guard without prejudice and I was very thankful that both gentlemen gave me the opportunity."