ARLINGTON, Va. – With approximately 450,000 members, the National Guard plays a role in every element of the National Defense Strategy, including defending the homeland. Over half of its members were involved in lifesaving natural disaster responses in 2022.
Throughout the year, 142,000 Guard members responded to wildfires across 19 states, 18,000 to floods across eight states, 12,000 to winter storms across 19 states, 1,700 to tornadoes and 1,000 to severe weather and volcanic activity.
“My motto is: ‘The answer is yes; what’s the question?’ “said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “The manning, training, and equipping that we receive to fight our nation’s wars enables us to do virtually anything in the homeland, which is why you see the National Guard really at the lead, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in hurricanes, wildfires, floods, or any disaster that occurs in the United States. If our nation needs the National Guard to do anything, we will find a way to do it.“
The emergency response to Hurricane Ian marked the year’s largest single-event disaster relief operation. More than 63,000 National Guard members from Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington responded — saving over 2,000 people and 50 pets.
“As Guardsmen, it’s an honor and pleasure to be able to serve in disasters like this. When you see disasters like this, it’s awful and you want to be able to plug in and do your part to serve,” said Air Force Capt. Jason Davis, a civil engineering officer with the Florida Guard’s 202nd Red Horse Squadron.
The Guard conducted relief operations simultaneously in Puerto Rico and Alaska in September following Hurricane Fiona and Typhoon Merbok.
More than 14,000 Puerto Rican and Virgin Islands National Guard members answered Gov. Pedro Pierluisi’s call for help after Fiona’s heavy rains and damaging winds caused widespread damage, flooding, mudslides and power outages in Puerto Rico. Rescue teams evacuated more than 1,000 people.
“I especially want to thank the local first responders,” President Joe Biden said during a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing. “I want to thank them — including the Puerto Rican National Guard, who have been working around the clock.”
The powerful remnants of Typhoon Merbok pounded Alaska’s western coast Sept. 17, prompting the activation of Joint Task Force Alaska - including approximately 1,500 Alaska Guard members.
Members of the task force removed over 125,000 pounds of debris and logged more than 2,000 work hours across 16 communities. Alaska Army National Guard helicopters also flew more than 7,000 miles, logging 70 flight hours.
In the last week of 2022, approximately 1,000 Guard members were activated nationwide for disaster relief operations such as winter storm responses and wildfires.
“We often say the National Guard is the connection to the fabric of America because Guardsmen are really almost in every town,” Hokanson said. “When our National Guards are called in to help, it’s usually because a disaster has exceeded the capability of the local officials or what we would call our first responders. And that’s our promise: Always Ready, Always There for our nation, for our communities and for each other.”