Many Nebraskans might seldom think about the 4,600 men and women who serve in their well-maintained militia, the National Guard, at least until war or disaster strikes.
Or know that the leader of the Nebraska guard has direct responsibility for the state’s emergency management agency, overseeing the civilian employees who respond to fires, floods, storms and other disasters that might not require the deployment of men and women in uniform.
But residents along the Missouri River certainly remember the flood of 2011. Those civilians were there, as were the men and women of the National Guard.
Regardless of whether you know someone in the guard, your life and property are protected by it. So it is news when guard leadership changes hands, as it did this week to Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac of Waverly.
He’s following in some impressive footsteps.
His immediate predecessor, Maj. Gen. Judd Lyons, is headed to a national role as deputy director of the Army National Guard. Lyons is replacing in that role Maj. Gen. Tim Kadavy, also of the Nebraska guard. And Kadavy’s predecessor, Maj. Gen. Roger Lempke, prepared Nebraska units for wartime deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Serious business, even before you throw in the western wildfires that NEMA and other agencies must combat, the flooding that endangered much of the Omaha area and other communities along the Missouri, the flooding along the Platte River and the ice storms that left several communities without power.
The good news is that Maj. Gen. Bohac should be well-prepared. He has 35 years of military service, including 31 years with the Nebraska National Guard. Most recently, he was Lyons’ assistant adjutant general, his second in command. Hopefully, his military and civilian managers can help ease the transition and work with him toward a guard that is migrating from frequent active-duty deployments — some 10,000 Nebraska guard deployments since 2002 — to the group’s more traditional roles of military and disaster readiness.
Bohac himself was deployed to Qatar in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he served as senior air reserve component adviser for Air Force Central Command, along with other deployments.
The importance of this guard leadership post is why Gov. Dave Heineman, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, says he took special interest in the appointment of Bohac as the state’s 33rd adjutant general. The role is held in high regard and, as such, inherits much responsibility.
“I take it very seriously,” Heineman told The World-Herald.
“This is the first time that back-to-back adjutant generals from the same state have gone on to be deputy directors. Maj. Gen. Bohac is a continuation of our state’s tradition of solid, stable, outstanding leadership.”
Unlike some states, where the guard’s top position sometimes takes on political overtones, Nebraska governors of both parties have worked hard to keep politics out of the appointments, Heineman said.
“We’ve always viewed that as a professional or- ganization, one that should be promoted professionally,” he said. “Because of that, we’ve always had an outstanding list of candidates.”
It is a credit to Nebraskans that recent leaders of the Nebraska National Guard were thought of highly enough to warrant national attention and national assignments.
But there are important jobs here at home. Maj. Gen. Bohac walks into a guard where many full-time employees must deal with the harsh realities of budget sequester-related furloughs. The guard has to recruit and retain talented people wearied by or fearful of repeated deployments. Guard leaders must rehabilitate war-stressed equipment and manage facilities across the state.
This is a task to which leaders rise, and Nebraskans expect no less than exceptional leadership for its Air and Army National Guard. They welcome Maj. Gen. Bohac into that role.