Major General Hugh T. Broomall is retiring from his position as Air National Guard Special Assistant to Director of the Air Guard on August 31, 2012. He was recently honored at his retirement ceremony with the presentation of the USAF Distinguished Service Medal. TSD caught up with the Delaware native and Salesianum School graduate to talk about his extraordinary 45-year career in the Guard and what he has planned next.
Town Square Delaware: Over the course of your career you have served in a range of increasingly important assignments both here in Delaware and in Washington, DC – which ones if any stand out as having been particularly challenging or rewarding?
Hugh Broomall: While each assignment had its memorable and learning moments it was the unique combination of experience that stands out. My service working for Senator Roth and the Senate NATO Observer Group was rewarding and educational. Senator Roth’s work as an international statesman sometimes gets overlooked here in Delaware. Of course service as the Commander of the Delaware Air Guard was a great honor. During my career the challenges were many, from budgets, to war to natural disasters and base closures etc. The most amazing thing was the resilience of our community: our airmen and women. Employers, families and elected officials were always there so we could serve.
TSD: Did you ever anticipate serving 45 years when you enlisted in 1967?
HB: I recently learned that I am the longest serving Delaware Air Guard member. Fact is, when I joined I had no intention of being a career Airman. I was fortunate to have great mentors and opportunities that were challenging and very satisfying. My family support was the key enabler. My wife Christy was always making sacrifices so I could serve.
TSD: What kept you in the service all these years?
HB: There is something very special about the men and women who serve in the armed forces and in the Delaware Air and Army guard in particular. You are part of a motivated and talented team. All volunteers truly enjoy service before self. It is very hard work but the rewards are long lasting.
TSD: In recent years – particularly the last decade – the National Guard has played an absolutely essential role in our overseas engagements, with troops serving for extended periods under the most intense circumstances. How has the Guard evolved to deal effectively with the new demands the nation is placing on it?
HB: The Guard has evolved under the Total Force Policy first announced by Defense Secretary Mel Laird in 1971. Over the years when the Air Guard has been properly equipped they performed on same level as the active duty force but at less cost. Bill Roth recognized this and ensured we got new aircraft. Joe Biden, Mike Castle and Tom Carper continued the momentum by ensuring that DOD provided us the money we needed to sustain ready units. The Air Guard has been an operational reserve since the mid-80s. Beginning with the Gulf War in 90/91 we have been engaged in operations continuously. What has been amazing is the period since 2001. The demands for our services have been relentless. The critical element to our success is the men and women in Air Guard who volunteer to serve. The families, employers, and our community have been totally supportive. This is the first time in our history that we have sustained combat operations for years without conscription. It has been very difficult time for all – but I am proud to say that Delaware answered the call. You can say it is the Delaware way!
TSD: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the Guard since your enlistment?
HB: First I think it was the US Congress and the citizens who demanded an all-volunteer force. The value of a community based national guard had been disputed in the aftermath of Vietnam. The Total Force policy resulted in each community having a stake in military operations. When the Guard goes to war so does the community. The Congress and state played a big role by providing educational benefits, morale-boosting benefits like the special Delaware license plate. Employers have been awesome in making it possible for us to serve and progress in civilian careers.
TSD: Do you think most Americans – and Delawareans – have a good understanding of the role the Guard plays and its operations here in The First State, and if not, what can be done to change that?
HB: Delaware National Guard “IQ” has improved due to press coverage of the long wars and state emergencies. Corporate leadership in the state could personally get more involved in the effort. While our human resource officers do a good job, more effort from senior private-sector leaders would make a difference.
TSD: So what’s next for General Broomall? Perhaps a run for public office?
HB: What’s next for me? …Continue to promote the value of the Air National Guard and public service as a worthwhile goal for all to strive for.
TSD: Tell us about some of your favorite Delaware haunts…
HB: We enjoy Bethany Beach, Main Street in Newark, the Phillies and all things to do with Delaware, especially family and friends.