Long gone are the days when members of the Massachusetts National Guard and military reserves faced little likelihood of waging war. 

(Editor's note: Embargoed until the week beginning Oct. 2.)


Long gone are the days when members of the Massachusetts National Guard and military reserves faced little likelihood of waging war.


Often fighting alongside the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 11,000 Guard soldiers and airmen from the Bay State have deployed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


“You could spend maybe 20 years in the Guard and never deploy. It’s very uncommon nowadays,” said Lt. Col. James Sahady, a spokesman for the Mass. National Guard. “People know if they join up after 9/11 that you’re going to get deployed.”


The Army has called up 3,385 reservists from Massachusetts in the last 10 years for both the war on terror and other operations, said Major Angel Wallace, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Reserve.


“The impact that it has had is very similar to that of the Guard,” she said.


The notion of the Guard as a backup force largely for responding to natural disasters “has been swept aside,” said Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations and history at Boston University. The result “has to be a very substantial cultural change in the reserve components,” he said.


“The regular force is too small for the wars in which we have become routinely engaged, so the Guard has been transformed into a quasi-regular force that deploys routinely, more or less the way regulars deploy,” Bacevich said. “I think that’s a tremendous change in the military system.”


Sixteen Massachusetts Guard members have been killed on active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, 10 of them while deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere in the war on terror. The other six died while still in the U.S.


While a state count was not available, 200 Army reservists from across the U.S. have been killed on active duty in the last 10 years, Wallace said. 


Altogether, 117 servicemen and women from Massachusetts have been killed in the wars, according to iCasualties.org, an independent website that tracks military deaths and injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The demand on both organizations continues, even as plans are under way to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Massachusetts National Guard had 1,889 soldiers and airmen stationed in those two countries last year, which was the busiest it had since Sept. 11, Sahady said.


As of late September, there are 900 Bay State Guard members in Afghanistan and Iraq, including members of the 182nd Infantry Regiment and the 26th Yankee Brigade headquarters, according to Sahady.


Massachusetts now has about 100 Army Reserve members in Iraq and 230 in Afghanistan, Wallace said.


Even with heavy deployments, the Guard remains at full strength, Sahady said.


“We haven’t had a recruiting problem, that’s for sure,” he said.


Bacevich said two wars also have led the U.S. to rely more heavily on private contractors that he called “very expensive and arguably not that effective.”


Ultimately, the U.S. faces a disparity between its military resources and the requirements those forces have shouldered since Sept. 11, he said.


“There ought to be a serious national debate about how to close the gap between the two,” Bacevich said.


(Reporter David Riley can be reached at 508-626-3919.)