8 May Los Angeles Times - Guard Faces Phase-Out of Combat Role.

National Guard troops in Iraq, which once constituted half the Army's fighting force, have been dramatically reduced and could be largely phased out of major combat responsibilities next year as military officials debate their performance and what role they should play in future conflicts.

Iraq was an important test of whether the Army could use the Guard more aggressively and not just as a last resort. During the Cold War, the Guard was recast as the "strategic reserve" that would be used in the big fight against the Soviet Union that never came.

After the initial invasion of Iraq, the Army began the largest reserve mobilization since World War II. Guard units were assigned front-line responsibilities, roughly equivalent to active-duty units. Leaders of the Guard say their Iraq service has made their force the most capable and experienced it has ever been.

But the experience also has exposed weaknesses. Some active-duty soldiers argue the Guard was less prepared for the complexities of Iraq, while guardsmen complain they were subjected to longer separations from their families than active duty counterparts and had to train on out-of-date equipment.

The debate over the Guard is occurring partly inside a larger process as the Army pursues a plan to reorganize how it trains and deploys active duty and reserve forces overseas. Some officers are suggesting the Guard's combat role be reassessed...