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Michigan National Guard always ready, always there amid unprecedented year at home and overseas

Aug. 10, 2020 | By Webmaster
Engineering specialists from the Michigan National Guard assisted the City of Grand Rapids on June 1, 2020, by ensuring peace and repairing property damage. Michigan National Guard members will provide support to local civil authorities for as long as requested as a peaceful presence for the safety of Michigan communities. (Michigan National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Ashley Goodwin)
Engineering specialists from the Michigan National Guard assisted the City of Grand Rapids on June 1, 2020, by ensuring peace and repairing property damage. Michigan National Guard members will provide support to local civil authorities for as long as requested as a peaceful presence for the safety of Michigan communities. (Michigan National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Ashley Goodwin)
Photo By: 2nd Lt. Ashley Goodwin
VIRIN: 200810-N-ZZ300-3582

Story by Capt. Andrew Layton

Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich. – When the Edenville and Sanford Dams breached on the evening of May 19, residents of Midland, Michigan were ordered to evacuate their homes as the rising waters threatened safety and property.

The Michigan National Guard was there, shuttling residents stranded by the flooding to local shelters, delivering more than 150 cots and water to these facilities, and preserving more then $2 million worth of books and art at the flooded Dow Memorial Library. More than 263 guard members supported this mission.

When a peaceful presence was required in late May and early June to ensure public safety as citizens expressed their First Amendment rights, local law enforcement called in reliable partners to assist with protecting people and property during a trying time for Michigan communities.

The Michigan National Guard was there, offering support and augmentation for community servants in the cities of Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. An additional 475 personnel supported this mission.

As COVID-19 continues to impact Michigan’s population six months into a global pandemic, the Michigan National Guard was there for the citizens of Michigan – and still is. Guard members have distributed more than seven million pounds of food at local food banks, completed COVID-19 testing at 85 Michigan Department of Corrections Facilities and 236 Michigan long-term care facilities, and continue to distribute more than 109,000 COVID-19 tests at dozens of community drive-through testing sites across the state. Since March 18, a peak of 1,100 Michigan National Guard members have supported these missions.

"It’s easy to look at the Michigan National Guard through the lens of COVID only, like this is all that we’re doing, when in reality, these domestic support operations are merely a small piece of our total scope of operations,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, Adjutant General and Director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Meanwhile, none of our operational commitments to combatant commanders around the world have been reduced.”

In 2020, Michigan National Guard members have continued to support a high operations tempo supporting deployments abroad as well, including in the Middle East. On January 8, Sgt. 1st Class Leonard Adams, a flight medic with Detachment 1, Company C, 3-238th General Support Aviation Battalion in Grand Ledge, Michigan, was injured in an Iranian missile attack on Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Adams was evacuated to receive treatment and was presented with a Purple Heart medal on May 5.

Seven other Michigan National Guard units (totaling nearly 650 personnel) have actively mobilized for deployment while the Guard’s COVID-19 response simultaneously carried on. These include members of the 3-126 Infantry Regiment, Dowagiac; 745th Ordnance Company, Grayling; Detachment 1, Company B, 3-238th General Support Aviation Battalion, Selfridge ANG Base, Company D, 3-238th GSAB, Grand Ledge, 2/B/351 CS Det (all serving in the Middle East) as well as the 46th Military Police Command and the 3-126th Infantry Regiment, supporting missions stateside. The Michigan Air National Guard has also maintained a high expeditionary tempo with Airman deploying from both the 127th Wing in Macomb County and the 110th Wing in Battle Creek. A total of more than 960 Airmen from the Michigan Air National Guard have served overseas since January 1.

The Michigan National Guard has even undertaken additional missions this spring and summer to partner with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources for the improvement of infrastructure at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula. The 177th Military Police Brigade of the Michigan National Guard, as well as the MING Joint Staff, is also working with counterparts in the Virgin Islands to help prepare for their territorial emergency response for hurricane relief.

Add to this list of projects the Michigan National Guard’s continuing initiative to strengthen ties with the greater Detroit area, which includes a plan to build two readiness centers and a field maintenance shop along public transit lines in Detroit. The MING’s “Detroit Initiative” also includes an expansion of partnerships to enhance opportunities for STEM, license/certification, and mentorship opportunities that provide a gateway to skills and service opportunities for the Detroit community.

The guard also maintains a link for at-risk youth through the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy, which offers education, training, and mentoring in a quasi-military environment at no cost to participants, giving young people the skills to become productive and responsible citizens. Applying the military model to alternative education, the academy promotes competency development through academic opportunities, life skills, and vocational preparation. In May, the MYCA graduated 113 cadets in its largest class ever, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

While some of these missions are unique to Michigan, the Michigan National Guard’s frenetic operations tempo during the first half of 2020 is situated within the larger context of National Guard forces serving as a go-to solution to protect the homeland during times of domestic crises, as well as a supporting component to fight our nation’s wars.

On July 5th, then-Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, spoke during a Brookings Institution webcast titled "The Force America Needs: Lessons of 2020 and the Future of the National Guard."

Lengyel emphasized that the National Guard "can do any task that our nation needs them to do,” highlighting COVID-19 response operations across the country. He also underscored the fact that the National Guard is an important component of the operational force, trained and equipped with modern weapons and ready to support combatant commanders globally.

For Rogers, these facts are all evidence that the Michigan National Guard’s pace shows no signs of slowing.

“The Michigan National Guard is not just a part of Michigan’s statewide response to COVID,” said Rogers. “We are an integral component of America’s National Defense Strategy and we’re actively engaged in global operations that protect our National Security.”

Most recently, from July 19-31, Michigan hosted exercise Northern Strike, the Guard’s premier readiness event for practicing the art of joint fires in a combined all-domain environment. With approximately 900 participants attending from multiple states as well as the NATO partner country of Latvia, the exercise was capped by the rebranding of Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center’s combined 148,000 acres of training space as the National All-Domain Warfighting Center. Also featuring the largest military airspace complex east of the Mississippi River, the NADWC adds another layer to Michigan’s relevance as a provider of exceptional service for training needs throughout the Department of Defense.

“When we say we’re always ready and always there, we mean it,” said Rogers, “and the last six months have readily proven that.”