WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A top U.S. general's comments that National Guard troops aren't trained as well as regular troops are "simply not true," says the head of a Guard organization.
Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargrett, president of the National Guard Association, reacted to comments by U.S. Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno that Guard skill levels couldn't stand up to those of regular soldiers, Defense News reported Monday.
"The capabilities are not interchangeable," Odierno told reporters last week in Washington. "There's a reason why the active component is more expensive. It brings you a higher level of readiness, because they're full time."
While National Guard troops have "done an incredible job in the last 10 years," Odierno said, they only train 39 days a year.
Odierno's comments were "disrespectful and simply not true," Hargrett said. The remarks conveyed the impression "that, essentially, the Army National Guard just isn't good enough to be relied upon more in the future."
Hargrett added the Pentagon official's statement didn't reflect public comments by commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan who have said "they can't tell the difference between active and Guard soldiers."
He claimed Odierno's comments were part of a plan "to justify keeping Army personnel strength at above pre-9/11 levels."
The Defense Department has announced Army forces will be cut to 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2015 from the wartime high of 570,000, and to 420,000 by 2019. The Guard would also be reduced from the current 354,000 soldiers to 315,000 while the Army Reserve would be cut to 185,000 from the current 205,000.