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Retired General Questions National Guard's Trip To Europe

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The commander of the North Carolina National Guard is defending a training trip he and more than 30 staff members recently took to Europe after a retired general questioned it.

On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. William Ingram and 34 members of his staff returned to Raleigh-Durham after spending six days in England and France where they were on what the National Guard calls a "staff walk."

Ingram said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the guards to trace the history of their unit.

"It's professional development to think about how other people did business in our professions in time's past," Ingram said.

He said the group saw a cemetery where American airmen are buried, visited the D-Day museum and Omaha Beach.

"We went through the planning and through the process the planners for the invasion used," Ingram said.

Staff walks date back to World War I, but Brig. Gen. Ronnie Griffin questions whether they are as valuable as they once were.

Griffin, who retired from the National Guard in May after 38 years of service, said he has been on three staff walks, all of which were in the United States.

"In a time of war, at a time when we need our training dollars to train and equip our troops, I would think the taxpayers would have to take a hard look at whether or not this was justified," Griffin said.

Ingram said the cost of the overseas trip, which was paid with training money provided by the U.S. Army, was $21,000, but that did not include the cost of flying the new C-40 that took them to Europe.

"I thought this was a bargain for taxpayers' money," Ingram said.

Ingram, who is planning another staff walk, said that while technology has changed, leading troops into battle has not -- and that is what made the trip valuable.

"Leadership is something that happens in war and at peacetime," Ingram said. "Our soldiers are going through similar things in Iraq right now."


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