A New Mexico Air National Guard colonel and former vice commander of Kirtland Air Force Base’s Air Force Safety Center has been named adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard.
Col. Andrew E. Salas, 53, will command nearly 4,000 troops statewide — about 3,000 Army National Guardsmen and 1,000 Air National Guardsmen. Salas was named to the post Tuesday by Gov. Susana Martinez at the Guard headquarters south of Santa Fe.
The former adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Kenny Montoya, resigned April 11, saying the governor should be free to name an adjutant general of her own choosing. Montoya had been appointed to the post by then-Gov. Bill Richardson.
During his nine-year tenure, Montoya oversaw multiple deployments of Guard troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the controversial loss of the Guard’s 150th Fighter Wing, known since its days in Vietnam as the Tacos.
“Sincerely, Gov. Martinez, everyone in here is impressed and appreciates your tireless commitment to keeping New Mexico strong, safe and free,” Salas said after Martinez’s announcement. “We especially thank you for the concern and the heartfelt appreciation you have for our soldiers and airmen in the New Mexico Army and Air National Guard.”
Salas also honored veterans, military families and employers who support the civilian-soldiers in the National Guard.
He also thanked his wife, Martha — who was in the Air Force for 11 years — and their six children for the sacrifices they made to allow him to serve in the military.
He told his Guardsmen, “I’m going to call upon you to dig deep. We’re going to heal the wounds that may exist. We’re going to set a vision for ourselves. We’re going to press forward as a team. We’re going to make wonderful things happen, and we are going to show the world what America is made of.”
The National Guard is unique among U.S. military forces. As a reserve, its members can be federally mobilized for active duty to supplement regular armed forces during times of war or national emergency. It can also be activated for service in its home state upon declaration of a state of emergency by the governor.
Besides commanding the state Guard, Salas will be the governor’s principal adviser on military affairs.
The New Mexico National Guard has about 500 soldiers in a peacekeeping mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal