Why Does The National Guard Help In Emergencies Like Pandemics?

Gov. Mike DeWine signed a state active duty proclamation on March 18 activating approximately 300 personnel from the Ohio National Guard to assist with humanitarian efforts during the Coronavirus pandemic. But what exactly does that mean?

The first thing we should clear up right away is that the governor activating the National Guard doesn’t mean we’re under martial law. The soldiers will be supporting the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services as well as the Ohio Association of Foodbanks at locations throughout the state.

They will be transporting, packaging, and distributing food to homes in vulnerable areas, community-based locations, and partner agencies in rural counties.

“The action I’ve taken to activate the Ohio National Guard will provide support to our food pantries that are low on staff and need help getting food to some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Gov. DeWine. “By looking out for our neighbors and following proper health safety guidelines, we will make it through this together.”

Ohio State Command Chief Master Sgt. Heidi Bunker greets deploying Airmen of the 200th RED HORSE Squadron, Detachment 1, Mansfield, Ohio, as they leave for a deployment Mar. 18, 2020, at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. Airmen are not shaking hands as they normally would, instead touching elbows as a form of saying goodbye. Photo by Senior Airman Marc Wilson, 179th Airlift Wing Public Affairs.

The Ohio National Guard has a history of helping out in crisis situations. There are over 16,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen in the Ohio National Guard, which makes it the nation’s fourth-largest National Guard. Back in 2009, the Ohio National Guard distributed vital vaccinations and medical supplies during the H1N1 Pandemic. In 2017, over 400 Ohio National Guard Airmen and Soldiers were deployed to Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico where they assisted in recovery efforts following a devastating hurricane season.

“Our state is tackling the public health issues caused by the outbreak of COVID-19. We have a responsibility to respond when our governor and fellow Ohioans need our assistance,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general. “We have a long history of supporting the state and nation during times of emergency. Our Guard members are coming from counties across the state to serve their own communities, ensuring their neighbors continue to receive food and pantry items.”

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Earlier this week, the Guard’s mission got started. Helping at 12 foodbank warehouses across the state, including assisting the Mid-Ohio Food Collective here in Central Ohio. Their duties so far have included feeding vulnerable populations downtown and packaging food at Mid-Ohio’s Grove City warehouse. The help is greatly appreciated.

“When you figure in how long the economic recovery of this will take, we know we are in this for a very long haul,” Matt Habash, president and CEO of Mid-Ohio Food Collective, told the Dispatch. “Stabilizing families right now, and providing them food so that they can pay their rent, their mortgage and meet critical needs, is most important.”

It’s understandable to be alarmed during a pandemic when you see soldiers out and about in your community. But the order sent out to these men and women of our community was to provide aid, and that’s what they’ll be doing.

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