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Bargersville native prepares for post-Iraq National Guard

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The Bargersville man who has prepared Camp Atterbury to become a permanent training center and helped build a National Guard armory in Johnson County now will tackle how to continue to recruit and train soldiers while reducing expenses.

Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger has been adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard since 2004 and will continue the position for the incoming governor, Mike Pence.

He said one of his biggest concerns will be how future budget cuts will affect the National Guard. As adjutant general, he oversees the recruiting, training and equipping of 13,000 soldiers and 2,000 airmen across the state.

Over the past decade, Indiana National Guard troops have been deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Umbarger said budget cuts could affect the readiness of personnel when preparing to be deployed by forcing the National Guard to reduce money spent on training programs or other areas.

Gen. Martin Umbarger

Title: Adjunct general of the Indiana National Guard

Location: Lives in Bargersville.

Family: Wife, Rowana, and three children, Jackson, Trista and Erica.

Education: Graduated from the University of Evansville with bachelor’s degrees in science and business.

Previous positions: Platoon leader, tactical officer, battalion commander, company commander.

Though he does not know how much the budget will be cut, he said he expects a decrease in the budget during the next 10 years.

“Everybody pretty well knows that after each major conflict of our nation, the military has a reduction in the amount of dollars it receives. It’ll be no different this time,” Umbarger said.

The Indiana National Guard is in a state of rebuilding, he said. Troops have been sent home from Iraq, and troops will soon come home from Afghanistan, which means the National Guard will have to focus on training new recruits and getting ready for anything that arises, such as handling local environmental disasters or being deployed overseas, Umbarger said.

However, the National Guard not only is called upon for wars overseas but also helps residents in times of man-made or natural disasters, such as school shootings or a tornado.

Most recently, the Indiana National Guard helped pull residents’ cars out of the snow and take them to medical appointments during the blizzard. In 2008, National Guard members helped Johnson County residents after a flood damaged scores of homes, he said.

Umbarger said he is in charge of overseeing where the National Guard members are sent and what they are assigned to do when they get there.

He has had experience leading soldiers before as a platoon leader, battalion commander and brigade commander, among other positions. He said he also draws experience from his family’s Bargersville business, which produces feed for show animals, where he worked for most of his life.

“A lot of skills and lessons you learn running a business can be transferred over to the military. And my leadership experience has helped me as a businessman,” he said.

Umbarger said he wants to emphasize that people can learn leadership skills from the military when recruiting new members in the coming years. Besides focusing on budget cuts, he said he wants to spend the next few months recruiting new members by offering them assistance paying for college tuition.

The National Guard is responsible for its own recruiting, and Indiana has been a top state in recruiting members in recent years, Umbarger said. Currently, Indiana has the fourth-largest Army National Guard in the country, he added.

As the organization’s budget is reduced, Umbarger said he wants to continue to bring in new soldiers and airmen to serve their country.

He said he is proud of what he’s learned as adjutant general and of the men and women who serve the state.

“It can sometimes be a challenging assignment,” he said, “but it’s something also that helps you grow and learn as a person.”

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