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Thousands of National Guard members will spend three days in Salt Lake City looking back to the gulf war and laying plans for the future.

President Bush and top Army and Air Force officials will participate in the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States, a privately funded lobbying organization that looks after the interests of the National Guard within the workings of the American military es-tab-lish-ment.Unlike active-duty military officers, most of the 4,500 to 5,000 delegates in Salt Lake City for the con-vention make their livelihood in civilian occupations. Their dual civilian/military role gives the Guard a unique place within the military. "The National Guard tends to be intertwined in the fabric of America," said Maj. Gen. John L. Matthews, Utah's adjutant general. "This is a conference of grass-roots Americans."

The conference is being hosted by the Utah National Guard but is not just a Utah event. Guard officers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories began arriving in Salt Lake City for the conference Friday. Perhaps that makeup of delegates is what is attracting Bush back to Utah so soon after making a campaign stop here in July.

Bush's schedule, as originally outlined, calls for him to arrive in Salt Lake Monday evening and speak at the conference Tuesday.

One function of the convention is for delegates to pass resolutions that will be passed on to Congress, Matthews said.

Congressional representatives will join top military brass at the conference. "We have a lot of guests who we hope will absorb the message that's delivered," said Maj. Gen. Robert F. Ensslin Jr., president of the National Guard Association and Florida's adjutant general until his retirement in February.

Commanders of Guard units deployed to the Persian Gulf in connection with the gulf war will present panel discussions Monday. The war tested the National Guard's wartime mission as it had been planned and practiced during previous years.

A number of lessons were learned during the war, but Desert Storm experiences have yet to become the benchmark for making policy and operations decisions regarding the National Guard, Ensslin said. "We think it should have. We think the Army's plans have not adequately appreciated the tremendous job that was done by the Guard and Reserve in the operation.

"We like to point out that every Guard unit that deployed and was called out was able to do its job," he said.

Ensslin's two-year term as the organization's president spanned "significant years," he said. "Our successors are going to look back at these as being pivotal years - hopefully in a positive direction."

Manpower cuts have been formidable and are projected to continue, making the association particularly interested in remarks scheduled for Monday afternoon by Robert S. Silberman, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve affairs.

The conference will also include discussions about the Guard's involvement in the Los Angeles riots and in the cleanup after Hurricane Andrew. The Guard also plays a role in the nation's drug interdiction program.

Matthews said the evolution of the Guard's role in civil affairs is likely to continue and officers will be discussing what the Guard can do to respond better to these kinds of missions.

A specially arranged concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Utah's 23rd Army Band will serve as the conference opener this morning in the Tabernacle on Temple Square following the choir's weekly CBS radio broadcast.

The group will be welcomed by the First Presidency of the LDS Church and by Gov. Norm Ban-ger-ter.

This afternoon, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, will address the convention before being awarded the organization's Harry S. Truman Award.

Other top military officials addressing the conference include Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, Air Force Chief of Staff; Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, Army Chief of Staff; Gen. Edwin H. Burba Jr., commander in chief of U.S. Forces Command; Gen. George Joulwan, commander in chief of U.S. Southern Command; Lt. Gen. John B. Conaway, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Army National Guard director; and Maj. Gen. Phillip G. Killey, Air National Guard director.


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Generally speaking

Pack a room full of military general officers and the best way to determine the rank structure, generally speaking, is to count the stars. But stars aren't mentioned in the official titles that accompany the standard ranks. One star denotes a brigadier general. Two stars denotes a major general. Three stars denotes a lieutenant general. Count four stars and you have - a general. Count five stars on a general's epaulets and you're probably looking at a portrait of Eisenhower or MacArthur.

No generals were given a fifth star during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and the last of the World War II five-star generals, Omar Bradley, died in 1981. There was a proposal to promote generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell at the end of the gulf war in 1991, which, according to protocol, would also have required the promotion of Schwarzkopf's boss, Gen. Carl Vuono, then-Army Chief of Staff. The five generals given a fifth star during World War II were Bradley, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George C. Marshal, Douglas MacArthur and Henry "Hap" Arnold. John J. Pershing was named "General of the Armies" by Congress when he earned his fifth star in 1919 during World War I.