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The City Journals

Military general from West Jordan joins Gov. Herbert’s cabinet

Feb 17, 2020 02:52PM ● By Erin Dixon

Gen. Michael Turley speaks to the crowd gathered for his change in command last December. (photo/Utah National Guard public affairs)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Why should we pay attention to Brigadier Gen. Michael J. Turley? 

First, he’s the man behind the 7,300 soldiers that are prepared to help you in a natural disaster, like the massive earthquake that is predicted. 

Turley is the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard and Utah Air National Guard. He commands the soldiers that will be the first to help Utahns in an emergency. 

“We have, in West Jordan actually, a huge helicopter capability so we can do medical evacuations, move people in and out of areas,” Turley said. “Using our high-clearance vehicles, we can get in and out of areas that other people cannot get into; we can do ground evacuations. We have engineer assets that come in and clear roads; we can help and assist in urban search and rescue. We have the ability to provide food and water; we can create water.” 

Turley thinks that the citizen soldiers in our national guard make them uniquely qualified to serve their own people. 

“We have soldiers and airmen that are highly professional but also serve in the civilian world,” he said. “They’re police officers and businessmen and teachers. I think that’s a healthy thing for us because it connects our military with our people.” 

Second, he’s your neighbor. Turley has called West Jordan home since 1995. 

“I like West Jordan for the simple reason it tends to be what I consider the strength of Utah: a close-knit community, lots of people helping others, people within neighborhoods know who each other are,” he said. “It’s a small town in a big city.” 

The Utah National Guard can also be called up by the U.S. president if more soldiers are needed in an international conflict. 

 “We see a resurgence of a global power competition with two competitors who sometimes work in consort and sometimes do not,” Turley said during the change of command last December. “Russia and China both field large, modern and lethal military forces. They have upgraded their arsenals in the past few years in dramatically daunting ways. Therefore, we must be prepared to deter our enemies and, if required, to defend our homeland and defeat our enemies at a moment’s notice.”

There is a National Guard for each of the 54 U.S. states and territories. “National Guard” may be a name used for military forces in other countries, but the United States Guard is unique. 

“They will call them the national guard, but they tend to be a paramilitary police force,” he said. “They’re not citizen soldiers. The Swiss, you go through two years [of mandatory] training, and then you’re in the reserves until you’re 60. The only thing they give you is a rifle and a bicycle, and you store it in your garage.”

Turley often mentioned the tension between U.S. governing bodies, military and citizens when it comes to his decision making.

“There is a pressure to meet both needs, the needs of the governor and the state and the needs of the federal government and president,” he said. “Those do have some conflicting interests; there’s tension. It’s a healthy tension. It’s like the tension between say the three branches of the government, and I’m the one that sits between that.”

He said the hardest decisions are when the choices are between regulations versus taking care of individuals. 

“I like to use the phrase ‘we’re an organization of standards, but we’re also an organization of humans,’” he said.

Turley has an extensive military and management background. Out of high school, he joined the Marines to pay for his education. After he left the Marines, he owned his own business. He then returned to military service through the National Guard and completed war college training. 

His decision to join the National Guard was simply a career move. He didn’t anticipate rising as high as he did. 

“I think I looked at it as everybody does in their career: You’re hoping for the best, and you’re planning for normal,” he said. “I came into the Guard thinking, ‘Oh, maybe someday I’ll be a general or a colonel.’ I just kept getting really neat opportunities.”