During 2022, tens of thousands of National Guardsmen responded to natural disasters nationwide, according to the National Guard Bureau.
The Guard’s domestic operations saved thousands of lives from catastrophes ranging from winter storms to volcanic activity last year.
“The manning, training and equipping that we receive to fight our nation’s wars enables us to do virtually anything in the homeland, which is why you see the National Guard really at the lead, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in hurricanes, wildfires, floods, or any disaster that occurs in the United States,” Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the NGB chief, said in a Dec. 28 statement.
“If our nation needs the National Guard to do anything, we will find a way to do it,” added Hokanson, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
NGB estimates over half of the Guard’s roughly 450,000 personnel participated in lifesaving natural disaster responses last year.
Throughout 2022, 142,000 Guardsmen helped fight wildfires across 19 states.
Another 18,000 addressed floods across eight states, while 12,000 handled winter storms impacting 19 states.
Additionally, 1,700 Guard troops encountered tornadoes, while 1,000 faced severe weather and volcanic activity.
“As Guardsmen, it’s an honor and pleasure to be able to serve in disasters like this,” said Air Force Capt. Jason Davis, a civil engineering officer with the Florida Guard’s 202nd Red Horse Squadron.
“When you see disasters like this, it’s awful and you want to be able to plug in and do your part to serve,” he added.
The emergency response to Hurricane Ian served as the Guard’s largest single-event disaster relief operation for 2022.
Ian struck the U.S. last September, causing massive property damage and loss of life along the East Coast.
More than 63,000 Guardsmen from 11 states were involved with recovery efforts related to the Category 4 storm.
Ultimately, the Guard saved more than 2,000 people and 50 pets from Ian’s devastation.
Elsewhere in September, the Guard conducted simultaneous relief operations for Hurricane Fiona and Typhoon Merbok.
More than 14,000 Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Guardsmen responded to Fiona.
Fiona caused widespread damage, flooding, mudslides and power outages in Puerto Rico, prompting Guard rescuers to evacuate more than 1,000 people.
After Merbok hit Alaska’s west coast Sept. 17, approximately 1,500 members of the state Guard were activated for Joint Task Force Alaska.
The task force cleared more than 125,000 pounds of debris from 16 Alaskan communities.
Alaska Army Guard helicopters also logged 70 flight hours covering more than 7,000 miles.
As last week of 2022 unfolded, 1,000 Guardsmen additionally aided winter storm and wildfire recovery efforts nationwide.
“When our National Guards are called in to help, it’s usually because a disaster has exceeded the capability of the local officials or what we would call our first responders,” Hokanson noted.
“And that’s our promise: Always Ready, Always There for our nation, for our communities and for each other,” he concluded.
— By Mark Hensch