Brass plays, taxpayer pays

President Bush took a lot of heat for giving up golf. He said he didn’t want to be seen playing golf when soldiers are dying in a war. Looks are important.

The heads of the National Guard units in states have their own perception problem. They just wrapped up a four-day conference at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort on St. Thomas. Rooms there go for between $300 and $600 a night.

Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, head of the Minnesota National Guard, and his wife attended, according to a report in the Star Tribune newspaper.

The meeting was organized by the Adjutants General Association of the United States.

The Strib played the story pretty low-key. The normally conservative Associated Press let the brass have it:

There’s been no official casualty report from this week’s meeting of National Guard leaders in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but the damage could be high. Sunburns. Hangovers. Lost golf balls.

A grateful nation weeps.

And you haven’t even got the bill yet.

Bunkered in the exclusive Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort on St. Thomas and surrounded by spectacular views of the Caribbean, dozens of generals and several hundred other senior Guard leaders battled with Power Point presentations and fought through sessions on strategic planning and strategic imperatives.

Not for too long, though. The conference agenda left plenty of time for the links and the beach.

Their spouses were along for the ride at taxpayer expense, too. They maintained a rugged schedule of shopping, dining and parties.

The title of the event? “Guarding Paradise with Culture and Spice.”

The Guard generals are to meet in Jackson Hole, Wyoming next year. It’s a conference that should be relocated, said an editorial on Sunday in the Bemidji Pioneer:

We’re sorry, but this sort of effete snobbery should not be tolerated. It is bad enough that we have to pay for their vacation, but what’s even worse is that they convene in “paradise” knowing full well that the troops they oversee are in no “paradise” while under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The National Guard faces many challenges with troops overreaching, duty calls lasting longer than anyone imagined, and virtually no end in sight for deployments. Should we also mention that there’s a $47.5 billion deficit in the National Guard equipment accounts?

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