ARLINGTON, Va. – “The National Guard has gone from tackling natural disasters such as floods, to combating the coronavirus across the country, to now dealing with civil unrest in support of law enforcement on the streets of America,” said Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper recently. “All while many of their fellow Guardsmen are deployed abroad, defending against America’s real adversaries.”
Currently, more than 118,300 National Guard members are engaged in homeland and overseas missions, according to Guard officials.
That number includes more than 43,000 Guard members activated in 34 states and the District of Columbia in response to nationwide civil unrest, bringing the total number of Guard members on duty in support of all domestic missions to more than 85,000.
Esper went on to praise the Guard and its continued efforts in supporting civil unrest response missions.
“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations, in support of local law enforcement,” said Esper. “I say this not only as secretary of defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard.”
More than 37,000 Guard members continue to support COVID-19 response efforts, as well as state-specific disasters such as wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters. Overseas, more than 29,000 Guard members continue to support combatant commands.
In the District of Columbia, nearly 4,000 Guard members from 11 states are supporting the District of Columbia National Guard as they work with local and federal authorities to protect life and property, while ensuring that what is expected to be more than 100,000 demonstrators could peacefully march in the district today.
“Our Guardsmen are coming in from all over - to secure the right of the people to peacefully protest,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Kepner, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Our Soldiers and Airmen are well trained and out there to keep the population safe.”
As part of that support, Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team provided security around several monuments at the National Mall.
“I am humbled to be here and support our citizens as well as to ensure the integrity of our monuments,” said Army Sgt. Zachary L. Leadingham, with the 53rd IBCT. “It’s important for [the citizens] to know that we are here to help and want to ensure their safety while getting their voices heard.”
On Thursday, Airmen from the District of Columbia Air National Guard’s 113th Wing performed life-saving measures on a civilian near the Lincoln Memorial.
“It was my first time doing CPR on a real person,” said Tech. Sgt. Emmanuel Morales, an avionics technician with the 113th Wing. “My training kicked in, so we were able to assist the civilian in doing CPR.”
The activation of Guard members in response to civil unrest has unfolded in multiple cities in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.