Army National Guard / By LTG Jon A. Jensen: The Army National Guard’s vast array of missions throughout this past year – and the number of Soldiers that each one of those missions draw from is extraordinary. To say our operational tempo has been high is an understatement.
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter, assigned to the New York Army National Guard’s Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation, approaches a helipad in New York City, April 16, 2020. New York National Guard members are supporting the multi-agency response to COVID-19.
Our ability to accomplish our overseas mission during a time of Guard-wide COVID-19 response and restrictions, provide support to law enforcement during civil disturbances, assist federal agencies on the Southwest Border, and respond to natural disasters, is a testament that the Army National Guard is better today than it has ever been. We accomplish those missions because we have great Soldiers who have amazing families and employers supporting them.
The Army National Guard provides the Army 39 percent of its operational force, with eight divisions, 27 brigade combat teams, 42 multifunctional brigades, 56 functional support brigades, one SFAB and two Special Forces Groups. Our mission and vision is to support the Total Army as a member of the Joint Force. More specifically, our mission is to prepare the Army National Guard to deploy, as the combat reserve of the Army, to fight and win our nation’s wars by providing trained and ready forces across the full spectrum of conflict, while remaining responsive to domestic needs.
SGT Thalia Santos from Yonkers, N.Y., a member of the New York Army National Guard, carries boxed meals to a waiting vehicle at a food distribution site in The Bronx, N.Y., August 5, 2020 as part of the New York National Guard support to the multi-agency response to COVID-19.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, our National Guard members answered the call to assist their neighbors, friends, and local citizens in what became an unprecedented nationwide domestic response. At the peak of this effort in 2020, more than 47,000 National Guardsmen and women were on duty across the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. They provided expertise and support to multiple missions including residential care support at long-term care facilities and veterans’ homes; alternate care facility establishment; manning COVID-19 community testing; food distribution; meal delivery; distribution of personal protective equipment, medical equipment and medical supplies; manning phone banks and so many other important life-saving missions. What we learned from this is that our traditional military skills refined over multiple overseas deployments and training exercises were adaptable to this unprecedented operational environment and quickly applied to these new missions.
Our Soldiers accomplished some incredible tasks. The contributions of the National Guard as a whole have been immense as part of the interagency intergovernmental COVID-19 response, fully integrated at the local and federal levels. Here’s a snapshot of how that looks – our National Guard forces assisted in the distribution of 380 million masks, gloves, gowns and other PPE. They helped serve and deliver 367 million meals and assisted in the screening and testing of 9.3 million American citizens.
Providing the air support to these missions were members of the ARNG Aviation Team. They completed 415.2 flight hours, delivered 7,566 pounds of cargo, and moved 613 passengers in support to COVID-19. The wildfires out west were unimaginable, and our aviators supported the effort by providing 847.1 flight hours, moved 217 passengers and dropped 2,193,098 gallons of water. Natural disasters came in the form of hurricanes and floods and the incredible mission faced by our aviators netted 292 flight hours, 40 persons saved, 87 hoists, 173 passengers moved, and 890 pounds of cargo moved all in support of the unexpected events over the past year.
As the Army National Guard continues its support to the pandemic crisis, and readies itself for significant milestones, our aviation force continues to move forward with modernization efforts. The ARNG will begin fielding the AH-64E to the four Attack Reconnaissance Battalions (ARB) in FY22. The ARB states are taking on the task to man, equip and collectively train the aircrews on the new aircraft. We will also see the expansion of the UH-72A capability across the States, which lays the groundwork for additional new variant Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) aircraft – providing a boost of modernization to the ARNG’s LUH capability.
Today, more than 36,000 Soldiers with the Army National Guard remain on duty across the country, providing support and continuing to answer the call to action. The challenges we faced in 2020, have shown once again, the National Guard possesses the capabilities, capacities and connections to respond en masse domestically, while simultaneously supporting the National Defense Strategy, as a full contributing member of the United States Army.
As we face down the pandemic and provide support to our interagency partners, we will endure the challenges facing us throughout the year with rigor and determination.
Always Ready, Always There!
LTG Jon A. Jensen is the 22nd director of the Army National Guard.