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MD Adjutant General: Always Recruiting

Adjutant General Gowen
US Army Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, adjutant general for Maryland, receives a gift from senior leaders from the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard in October 2019, during his initial visit to the base in Middle River, MD. (US Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah M. McClanahan)

While it’s said you’re never a hero in your hometown, RADM Bert Johnston, USN (retired), president of The Patuxent Partnership, turned that phrase on its head at last month’s webinar, when he introduced Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, adjutant general of Maryland, a resident of Leonardtown, MD, and in charge of the Maryland Army National Guard, Maryland Air National Guard, Maryland Emergency Management Agency, and Maryland Defense Force.

The organizations comprise the Maryland Military Department, representing a force of about 6,700.

When he is able, although Maryland National Guard headquarters are in Baltimore, Maj. Gen. Gowen works from the closest of 31 readiness centers “right outside Gate 3” of the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. That’s right next door to his old job. Before his September 2019 appointment as adjutant general for Maryland, Maj. Gen. Gowen was an aerospace engineer for the Naval Air Systems Command at Pax River.

Today, his job is farther ranging and answerable to more than just the Department of Defense. His boss is the governor of Maryland. And also the president of the United States.

“I work for the governor,” said Maj. Gen. Gowen, “unless the president wants us, or we deploy.”

Working for the governor, the National Guard deals with such emergencies as civil unrest and natural disasters. It is authorized to perform in a law enforcement capacity. Recently, it has been involved in the COVID-19 battle.

For a while, Maj. Gen. Gowen, a member of the governor’s cabinet, was on daily phone calls as Gov. Larry Hogan set in motion the actions Maryland would take to combat the virus. For the National Guard that included three sets of medical teams, a review of every nursing home in Maryland, issuance of PPEs, and even involvement with the governor’s receipt of test kits from South Korea.

The troops distributed food, two medical support companies helped other doctors, for example prison doctors, or even filling in as prison guards.

“It was rewarding for us,” he said, but there was also a downside.

About 1,400 were deployed to to help in the health battle; 100 of them have tested positive for COVID. This accelerated the National Guard’s efforts to provide these service members with eligibility they lacked. They were fighting “the health battle,” said Maj. Gen. Gowen, “but with no health benefit.”

Adjutant General Gowen

US Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Jones, left, Maryland’s assistant adjutant general for Air, gives US Army Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, adjutant general for Maryland, a tour of an A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft hangar in 2019. During the visit, Maj. Gen. Gowen heard perspectives from guardsmen about recent deployments, cyber operations and intel ventures, A-10C Thunderbolt II capabilities, and feedback from airmen. (US Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah M. McClanahan)

The immediacy of the COVID deployments helped the National Guard convinced “big Army” to extend health benefit eligibility to the Guard. “If we deploy we’re like active duty,” Maj. Gen. Gowen said of the eligibility now available.

“We have a big medical footprint,” he said of the Maryland Military Department. “But not big enough for COVID.”

The Maryland Defense Force consists of volunteers; about 150 doctors and multiple medical professionals, including dentists. Many have been on orders during COVID, he said. “They’re simply just great Americans.”

In addition to great Americans, as Maryland adjutant general, he has met some great Estonians. The National Guard is involved in 120 different countries, including Estonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the two countries partnered with Maryland.

The closest relationship is with Estonia, and it perhaps didn’t hurt that Maj. Gen. Gowen lives in Leonardtown, said Bonnie Green, executive director of The Patuxent Partnership.

Late last year, Estonian officials visited St. Mary’s County — via a lot of effort by Chris Kaselemis, director of the county’s Department of Economic Development, Ms. Green said.

“It was a huge opportunity to build civilian to civilian relationships,” she said.

The adjutant general thanked The Patuxent Partnership for the “opportunity to brag about the Maryland National Guard,” which he did along with a recruitment call.

The Maryland Air National Guard “is the best A-10 squadron in the Air Force,” he said. “They’re awesome.” This wing squadron just stood-up the Cyber Squadron which consists of one defense squadron and two offense squadrons.

“We fight back,” he said. The new Cyber Squadron cut the ribbon the first weekend in October at its headquarters at Fort Meade, MD.

While Maryland, as a high-tech state, provides no shortage of recruits for this squadron, it’s more difficult in the Army National Guard. It’s hard to fill infantry spots, he explained, plus the Army National Guard is the more frequently deployed.

Del. Brian Crosby (29B-MD), not merely a fellow Guardsman, but at one time an aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Gowen, spoke up to encourage a suggestion by Matt Scassero, director of the UMD UAS Test Site, that some of the UAS activity at the test site liaise with the National Guard.

“There’s a pretty incredible amount of drone technology he’s harnessing that is just incredible,” Del. Crosby said of the work Mr. Scassero’s crew is doing out of the Aviation Technology Park at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport.

Maj. Gen. Gowen said if the Guard — which consists of civilians giving up their weekends and attending two-week camps during the year — can make the timing work, “I’m all in.”

Del. Crosby also asked how companies could help address the recruitment need, which becomes increasingly difficult as National Guards members age. It isn’t their age, but the increased seniority of their civilian jobs that makes deployment more difficult.

“No one is going to put you in a senior position if they know you’re going to deploy,” Maj. Gen. Gowen explained. He suggested, responding to the delegate’s query of how to help, that businesses consider that the “Department of Defense can’t do its mission set without the National Guard. For example, a two-front war relies on the National Guard to do it.

“This is not your father’s, or grandfather’s National Guard. This is active. It’s different now than it used to be,” he said.

About The Patuxent Partnership

The Patuxent Partnership is a nonprofit member organization that fosters collaboration between government, industry, and academia to advance education through STEM-based initiatives; to advance technology through speaker programs, forums, and networking; to advance science and technology transfer through the exchange of ideas, information, and data related to technologies; and to increase workforce development through an array of initiatives.

To learn more about The Patuxent Partnership and its programs, visit its Leader member page.

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