By Dan Dupont / September 16, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The presidential campaign descends on Baltimore -- and the National Guard -- early next week, with Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joe Biden scheduled to address the NGAUS general conference.

McCain will present Sunday at 3:30 p.m. while Biden will speak Monday at 11:30 a.m. More than 4,000 Guard officers and guests are expected to attend the conference at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The candidates will speak in Baltimore as thousands of Guardsmen handle a wide range of duties worldwide. More than 52,000 Guard soldiers and airmen are currently deployed overseas while another 21,000 are on domestic missions, such as helping Louisiana and Texas recover from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

"The candidates are well aware of the Guard's contributions, and they know the Guard will be critical in the years ahead," said retired Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Koper, NGAUS president.

"But the candidates are coming to Baltimore because they also know that Guardsmen vote, many are opinion leaders in their local communities and the best way to reach them is the NGAUS conference," he said.

This is the fifth consecutive presidential election that a member of the Democratic and Republican tickets will speak to the NGAUS conference.