July 13, 2020

The Pandemic and the Protests: Necessity and Perception of the National Guard

The coronavirus pandemic and the holistic societal approach that is required to get through this season demonstrates the value of the National Guard and the dual state and federal mission. To date, nearly 44,500 guardsmen have been activated in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in order to manage the COVID-19 crisis. While the sight of uniformed personnel in cities and towns unaccustomed to a military presence has caused fear and fueled rumors, the activation of guardsmen by governors is not unprecedented in times of crisis, nor even during public health emergencies. The Guard is often called upon to assist in hurricane relief, wildfires, and even prior outbreaks.

What Is the Role of the National Guard in the Pandemic?

Due to our nation’s system of federalism, which has been on full display during the coronavirus pandemic, governors play a huge role in determining what types of measures are taken in their states. The National Guard operates under a dual mission to support state needs and, when called upon by the federal government, national crises.

When responding to emergencies, the National Guard has an inherent advantage over active-duty troops performing the same duties.

The tasks the guardsmen are carrying out in the time of coronavirus have ranged between healthcare, logistics, and protection. The Florida National Guard has been testing for coronavirus alongside healthcare professionals in Jacksonville; the New York National Guard has provided transportation support on Long Island, the Guam National Guard have disinfected government offices to slow the spread, and the Massachusetts National Guard has stood security for homeless shelters. National Guard linguists in Washington State have translated public health directives into 12 different languages to make sure important updates reach populations that may be more susceptible to misinformation due to a language barrier.

Read the full article in Policy Perspectives.

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