Chief of the National Guard Bureau: Who Is Frank Grass?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

In September 2012, Frank J. Grass assumed command of the National Guard Bureau. With the appointment, he received his fourth star and a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Grass was born in Arnold, Missouri, outside St. Louis, on May 19, 1951. He graduated from Fox High School and enlisted in the Missouri National Guard on October 31, 1969, as a heavy equipment operator. He earned an associate’s degree in environmental technology from St. Louis Community College in 1975 and worked as a civilian employee of the Army Corps of Engineers.

After 12 years in the guard, Grass attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in 1981. He earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1985 from Metropolitan State University, a master’s in resource planning from Missouri State University in 1997 and another master’s in national security strategy from the National Defense University in 2000.


While coming up through the Guard’s officer ranks, Grass had a variety of assignments, mostly in the continental United States. He continued to serve primarily in engineering units in Missouri, as well as Washington state, South Carolina and Minnesota. Beginning in 1988, Grass was an assistant professor of military science for three years at Missouri State University.


Grass came to Washington in 1994 as chief of the Guard’s exercise section, serving there for three years before returning to Missouri to take over a Guard engineering battalion. He returned to Washington in 1999 to study at the National Defense University and subsequently was named chief of the Guard’s operations division in the National Guard Readiness Center there. While in that role, Grass coordinated the Guard’s efforts in providing security at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.


In 2003, Grass was named G-3, or commander of operations including staff duties and training and in 2004 was named the Guard’s deputy director. Two years later he was moved to one of his few overseas assignments, as director of mobilization and reserve component affairs at the headquarters of the United States European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.


Grass returned to the United States in 2008 as director of operations for the U.S. Northern Command based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Northern Command in responsible for defending continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, French territory off the Canadian coast and three British overseas territories. He was named deputy commander in 2010, serving until being named to his current role. 


As chief of the National Guard Bureau, much of Grass’ time has been spent fighting to keep funding cuts from hurting the Guard’s readiness. Other issues that he has had to deal with are sexual assault prevention and ensuring that same-sex spouses of Guard soldiers and airmen receive the benefits they’re entitled to.


In June 2014 Grass did a star turn with an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Letterman is part owner of an Indy-car team which is sponsored in part by the National Guard. Grass and his wife, Patricia, have five children.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography

10 Questions: General Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau (by John Ingoldsby, Armchair General)


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