Regarding the letter online May 14, "National Guard's offer to Mormons creates hostility," the Utah National Guard recruits across multiple audiences to fill ranks. Our ads target college students, speakers of foreign languages, those who wish to acquire specific job skills, or those who wish to serve their community in a unique and rewarding way.
The radio ad referred to by the letter writer explains that a person who wishes to join the Utah National Guard may temporarily interrupt their military service to serve an LDS church mission. Given the demographics of the Wasatch Front, it is entirely appropriate for our ads to focus on a large segment of that population. However, the ad should have been more clear that this deferment of military service may also apply to any guard member of any faith who wishes to perform religious or humanitarian service while serving as a member of the National Guard.
The writer also claims that soldiers and airmen "lose their skills" or "can abuse the system to avoid deployments" when they are temporarily----and legally----excused from military service. Leaving one's military job for humanitarian or religious service is similar to soldiers' rotating to a new assignment and then returning years later to their old job.
Refresher training would be planned for in these cases, and the time needed to bring one's skills back up to previous levels does not detract from the overall mission. Utah Guard leaders ensure that each soldier or airman takes their turn for deployment, including those who have returned from church missions.
The writer's claim that the ad violates the "Pentagon policy against evangelism" is not correct. Targeting members of a specific faith to educate them on opportunities available to them in the National Guard does not endorse that faith nor does it attempt to convert listeners to it.
The Utah National Guard is an ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse organization; however, its members share the common goal to ensure the security and safety of our citizens. We take it seriously that we are accountable to them for the success of our mission and the rightness of our policies.
Lt. Col. Hank McIntire
Utah National Guard