With the hurricane season underway, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ State Guard is taking shape.
DeSantis announced Wednesday that recently retired Marine Lt. Col. Chris Graham will be the Director of the Florida State Guard, a civilian force the Legislature resurrected this year at the Republican Governor’s behest. The Director will oversee the recruitment and training of 400 guard members and mobilize the force during states of emergency.
Graham grew up in Miami and moved to the Panhandle after leaving active duty in the Marines. He now lives in Destin.
Speaking to the crowd gathered in Madeira Beach for DeSantis’ announcement, Graham said the State Guard has a particularly important mission. Hurricane season began this month and will continue through November.
“As Floridians, you guys know, the last hurricane is behind us, the next hurricane is on the horizon,” Graham said. “Anything we can do to help, I want to help.”
He also said he wants to build whatever capabilities are constructive to fulfill the Guard’s mission as a state defense force.
Lawmakers allocated $10 million to the force, which will help cover the 400 slots for guardsmen. DeSantis says 1,200 people have already applied, which he credits to media who reported about the Guard as if it were unique, even though two dozen states and territories have active defense forces.
“They were basically saying that, like, ‘Gov. DeSantis is raising an army to raze the countryside,'” DeSantis said in a mocking tone.
“All they did was give free advertising for it, and so people were like, ‘Oh, man! I want to join the Florida State Guard, we’re really excited about it,'” he continued.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Hammer Hartsell, a retired Marine who served together with Graham in Fallujah during the Iraq War, noted he has 11 more months of eligibility to join the State Guard.
“I’ll raise my hand again and give all my weekends, all my vacation time, anything it takes. I’ll be a private in the State Guard, and I’ll love it,” Hartsell said.
Based in St. Augustine, Graham’s position will be part-time and pay a $400 to $500 stipend per day. In addition to working as a team and meeting physical, tactical and scheduling requirements, the Governor’s Office asks that applicants be “ready to be a part of history.”
Florida’s State Guard was founded as a World War II-era volunteer force but has been defunct since the 1940s. After DeSantis announced in December he wanted a dedicated emergency force that doesn’t answer to the federal government, the Legislature reauthorized it in the coming fiscal year’s budget.
Florida residents interested in enlisting into the force must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and satisfy several criteria, including a medical exam with standards similar to the Florida National Guard.
Unlike the Florida National Guard, the State Guard would answer solely to the Governor without federal deployments, federal missions or federal funding.
DeSantis told the crowd he pushed for the re-creation of the State Guard because President Joe Biden’s administration mandates vaccines for military service members, including members of the National Guard. That pushed people who still wanted to serve out of the armed forces.
“There’s opportunities where people still want to serve, but they want to serve based on their conscience on that issue,” DeSantis said. “We saw that. We said, ‘Well, where are they going to go? It’d be nice to have a spot for them.'”
The pandemic, hurricanes and protests have stretched the Florida National Guard’s numbers razor-thin, Florida National Guard Adjutant General Jim Eifert said.
Under the terms of the State Guard, a Governor may mobilize the State Guard when the National Guard is under federal orders during a state of emergency.
Such circumstances are more common than not, according to state data. The National Guard has served more than 2.9 million federal workdays between 2016 and 2021, but only 834,000 on state missions.
The State Guard would assist the National Guard with hurricanes, natural disasters, and other Florida-specific emergencies.
DeSantis’ call to reauthorize the state guard came months after he recalled National Guard forces serving in Washington to protect the nation’s Capitol after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Democrats, like Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, have criticized the State Guard as DeSantis’ “private army.”
Reed de Teeleefs
June 15, 2022 at 1:38 pm
“DeSantis says the military whipped up applicants who are now coming ‘out of the woodwork’ to apply.”
Um m m, no. Here is your own quote: “. . ., which he credits to media who reported about the Guard as if it were a novel force despite the fact that two dozen states and territories have active defense forces.
“They were basically saying that, like, ‘Governor DeSantis is raising an army to raze the countryside,’” DeSantis said in a mocking tone.
“All they did was give free advertising for it, and so people were like, ‘Oh, man! I want to join the Florida State Guard, we’re really excited about it,’” he continued.
The MEDIA not the military “whipped up” interest in the organization by mocking its mission and criticizing DeSantis. Look, “journalists”, do yourselves a favor and read what Joe Kahn, the new editor of the NYT (all “journalists” genuflect) has to say about the obvious bias in the media.
June 15, 2022 at 9:37 pm
I think it is a great idea for a state to form a state guard with no ties to federal government , to be used by that state when and where needed . To assist in natural disasters , in some form as a defense of the state if needed such as crowd control like the riots we witnessed in the past two years .. State guard would have been a great deterrent . God Bless Florida for stepping up and congratulations to Lt Col. Chris Graham .. Bill
Comments are closed.