Amid rising civil unrest and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, troop numbers for the National Guard are at historic highs.
“As a uniformed member of America’s military, it breaks my heart to see the country I love in such pain,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel.
As of Monday, 66,722 soldiers and airmen of the National Guard were mobilized in 23 states and the District of Columbia in response to protests, natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Guard Bureau of Public Affairs Master Sergeant Mike Houk said current troop levels surpass that of Hurricane Katrina and are the most troops domestically mobilized in American history.
The most recent surge of troops comes amidst the civil unrest that has unfolded in cities across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“The hardest mission we do is responding in times of civil unrest,” said Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
In a statement, the National Guard Bureau said personnel assigned to deal with the unrest are trained and equipped to support law enforcement and first responders. The Guard also said that they have been mobilized to battle the fires burning as a result of the riots and protests.
“We plan, train and prepare for emergency response missions with our local, state, and federal partners,” Lengyel said. “We’re part of the communities we serve. We know the police, fire departments and hospital workers. We know their capabilities because we live with their capabilities.”
Lengyel added that the mobilized force of 62,000 guardsmen remain in the command and control of each state’s respective Governor.
“Governors have used Guard members many times during response efforts to support local and state law enforcement in a wide range of capacities, to include assisting in upholding the rule of law.” said Lengyel. “While conditions may change, the National Guard’s ability to respond is constant.”
As of Friday, the Florida National Guard has 2,738 soldiers and airmen activated in support of the state’s COVID-19 response.
An additional 28,000 National Guard troops are serving worldwide, Lengyel confirmed.