The National Guard is an important part of the US military at home and abroad. It is our main line of defense at all of our borders, and ensures domestic peace in times of unrest or disaster. The National Guard is just as important as the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, yet is often forgotten or overlooked when we honor the members of our armed forces.
One of the biggest ways the National Guard serves our country and its people is in time of need when natural disasters cause havoc, property damage, and loss of life. In 2016, Guard members form various branches and states stepped up to serve in times of need.
- In January, the East Coast endured winter storm Jonas, and governors in 12 states called out over 2,200 Guard members. They worked diligently to clear snow and help motorists, first responders, and emergency workers.
- In Michigan, Guard members passed out water in the face of Flint’s water crisis.
- More than 600 service members in Missouri responded to the historic flooding in that state, filling sandbags, purifying water, and helping evacuate the area.
- In March, more National Guard members fought flooding in Louisiana, rescuing over 4,000 people and 350 pets while others put up emergency levee walls. In August, even more intense flooding brought in 3,800 soldiers and airmen to rescue almost 20,000 people and distribute food and water.
- In July the California National Guard was busy as always fighting wildfires and the Colorado National Guard followed suit later that month in Nederland. South Carolina’s and Tennessee’s service members went into action later in the summer.
- Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho were suffering terrible fires but the Air National Guard responded and flew over 140 sorties to drop water and fire retardant to battle the blazes.
- The Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida had their turn in October, as Hurricane Matthew loomed – although it ultimately didn’t make landfall, the National Guard was there to support in the aftermath of the terrible storm.
The National Guard isn’t always on home soil. 300 Airmen from the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing deployed late in 2016, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, under Air Force Col. David C. Lyons, commander of the 407th Air Expeditionary Group.
Two Army National Guard division headquarters were also deployed to a forward location for the first time since the Korean War. Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division deployed to Afghanistan, and more than 450 Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division deployed to Kuwait, in the largest number of troops the division has led since the Second World War.
Cyber security is also a priority for National Guard Members. The addition of the 185th Cyber Operations Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, expanded this endeavor, which now has 40 cyber units in 29 states.
We support our National Guard. They are an important part of our country’s defense, and deserve to be recognized just as much as any other branch of our nation’s military.