National Guard Convention Comes To Biloxi

From a distance, Col. Brad MacNealy kind of resembles President George W. Bush. When that was mentioned to him, the colonel laughed and said, "My mother even tells me I look like him sometimes."

MacNealy has a full time job with the Mississippi National Guard. For the last 18 months, the colonel has pulled double duty. He's chairman of the National Guard's annual conference. "The pressure isn't from my boss," Col. MacNealy said. "The pressure would come from the image we want to portray to the rest of the nation."

MacNealy's boss is the Adjutant General of Mississippi's National Guard, Gen. James Lipscomb. "We've had a little help from Washington," the general said during a pre-convention news conference. "But we know in Mississippi that when you have to take on a difficult task, we here in Mississippi can be the best of the best and we'll do it the best."

Starting Sunday afternoon, 3,500 National Guardsmen and 1,000 vendors will be at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, admiring the latest innovations in military firepower.

Gen. Dick Alexander is the president of NGAUS, the National Guard Association of the United States . "The people that are coming here are decision makers from Washington, the defense industry, and yes our soldiers and airmen who have been performing around the world," he said.

This will be the third time Mississippi has hosted the NGAUS convention. The last meeting was in 1993. "It's a very, very significant event," Gen. Alexander said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's being held at the right place."

Col. MacNealy and 180 volunteers from Mississippi's National Guard are making sure of that.

The National Guard's expo hall opens Sunday. The conference runs through Wednesday. It's expected to pump five million dollars into South Mississippi's economy.

The National Guard has a significant role in the area. Its Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center trains 20,000 troops a year. And since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, it's been the spot where 5,000 Seabees headed off to war, and five million pounds of military cargo got shipped to the Middle East.