The US National Guard activated more troops for duty this year than any other time since World War II — as the nation coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice protests and wildfires, according to a new report.
Tens of thousands of Guardsmen logged 8.4 million duty days this year — mobilizing in all 50 states, three territories and Washington, according to National Guard data obtained by The Washington Post.
The majority of the efforts were related to the coronavirus pandemic — with Guardsmen distributing protective equipment, conducting tests and, at times, retrieving the dead, according to the report.
During the summer, following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Guard activations spiked significantly.
The busiest day was June 8, with more than 86,400 Guardsmen deployed across the country — with about half on civil disturbance missions, the data shows.
Amid the civil unrest, some Guardsmen told the paper they turned down voluntary call-ups for support because they didn’t want to be associated with potential eruptions of violence, an Army officer in the National Guard told the paper.
“It’s a hard thing to do when you say you’re up for every mission,” the officer, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak with the media, told the outlet.
He said some leaders advised soldiers not to wear their uniforms in travel to avoid confrontations with the public, according to the officer.
But other Guardsmen say they were encouraged by opportunities to connect with the protesters in order to distinguish themselves from the police.
Guardsmen placed their riot shields on the ground at the request of Nashville protesters in June.
“I’ve been proud to be part of the organization that did that,” Thomas Hayden, a warrant officer in the Maine National Guard, told the paper. “You hear cries of ‘defund the police’. But no one is saying that about the Guard.”
In California back in September, National Guard pilots saved more than 200 people from a fire northeast of Fresno, according to the report.
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