RENO, NV - Tuesday, the National Guard Association's national convention continues at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center with an address from Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney, but the focus of the gathering and the organization won't stop there.
Historically the National Guard has had two missions. They've been called on to provide security and manpower in emergencies here at home, but increasingly in the last two decades, they've also often become an integral part of our nation's military.
"In the state of Nevada we've had people deployed constantly.," says Maj. April Conway, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Adjutant General.
"Since 9-11 there hasn't been a single day that a Nevada National Guardsman has not been deployed in support of the global war on terrorism. In addition to that we've been home fighting fires, sand bagging in Vegas, watching out for flooding, helping out during winter storms."
That kind of commitment carries a price. No longer the weekend warrior, today's national guard member often moves back and forth between the civilian and military world, with predictable sacrifice.
That creates issues of funding, benefits and resources. Lobbying Washington on those issues, is the role of this organization.
In many ways the annual gathering of the National Guard Association resembles any large convention. Business sessions with thousands of delegates. An exhibit hall where vendors display their latest products.
Except this is serious stuff. The products are instruments of our national security, a Bradley fighting vehicle anchors one end of the hall, a helicopter another. In between are missiles, firearms and flight simulators.
But this is just the hardware. Even more important are the people who will use this equipment.
Representing them is the mission of the Guard Association.
"To educate our elected leaders," says Maj. Conway, "to let them know what kind of toll that is so, if there is something they can do to help or at least make them ware of the stress it puts on the guard."
The convention is expected to draw nearly 4,000 during its four-day run and should pump something in the neighborhood of $12 million into the Reno-Sparks economy.