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Iowa National Guard Adjutant Gen. Timothy Orr gives the annual condition of the Guard address at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday.

DES MOINES — The Iowa National Guard must expand its recruiting to create more diversity and meet the unique challenges it faces, its leader says.

Adjutant Gen. Timothy Orr stressed those recruiting efforts Thursday during his annual condition of the guard address at the Iowa Capitol.

Orr said the Guard’s operational role has increased, and challenges the Guard faces are more complex and demanding than he has witnessed over more than 40 years of military service.

That makes recruiting a key component of Orr’s mission, he said, and he hopes those efforts produce a more diverse Guard.

“Recruiting and retaining quality individuals is our highest priority. And in doing so, we must broaden the appeal of military service to include people from all across the fabric of our society,” Orr said. “The strength of our republic depends on willing individuals from every corner of the state, every social, economic and demographic group, and every ethnic background, to step forward and serve alongside their fellow citizens.”

Roughly 1 in 10 Iowa National Guard members is a minority, a Guard official said.

In addition to broadening the Guard’s demographic footprint, Orr said he hopes the Guard can grow new branches on the military family tree.

Orr said nearly 4 in 5 military members come from families with multiple generations of service.

“The pride and honor of military service should not be reserved for just those who hail from a tradition of military service,” Orr said. “It is an opportunity that must be available and sought throughout society in order to balance the responsibilities of national defense across all our citizens.”

Orr said the Iowa National Guard has mobilized and deployed more than 19,000 members since Sept. 11, 2001. He highlighted some of deployments over the past year:

• Roughly 400 members from Davenport, Muscatine, Waterloo and Boone returned in September from the Middle East, where they provided aviation maintenance and support.

• More than 200 members from an air refueling wing in Sioux City deployed to the Middle East.

“There is no doubt that Iowa has done and will continue to do its part do defend our state and nation,” Orr said.

Orr said 2018 was a relatively quiet year for the Guard’s emergency response operations, and highlighted some Guard programs, including cyber security measures, and a training program for law enforcement officials responding to opioid overdoses.

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State house reporter for The Courier/Lee Enterprises.

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