Ohio National Guard, State Defense Force contribute to multitude of missions in service to community, state and nation
Story by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
COLUMBUS, Ohio (12/16/21)
The National Guard’s motto is “Always Ready, Always There!” That has never been truer than in the past year, as the Ohio National Guard began its second year of supporting the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March 23, 2020, more than 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen, and members of the Ohio State Defense Force — which includes the Ohio Military Reserve and Ohio Naval Militia — have answered the call to help their communities through approximately 70 missions that have included supporting the state’s community vaccination center, distributing food at local food banks and processing pandemic unemployment claims.
While the Ohio National Guard’s COVID-19 response has been scaled back since the pandemic’s peak, there are currently about 80 members assisting with vaccinations, testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) warehouse logistics.
In addition, the Ohio National Guard also fulfilled many other state and federal missions throughout the past 12 months.
“The scope and duration of the missions have been unprecedented,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general. “Our greatest asset is our people. We have a diverse team assembled that has shown, time and again, a dedication to service. I am extremely thankful for their efforts this past year to defend our country by deploying around the world, assisting after natural disasters, providing stability in times of unrest and serving others during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Natural disasters, national emergencies and federal deployments
Ohio National Guard members were also called to support emergency situations after natural disasters occurred during the year. In February, Gov. Mike DeWine activated 100 Soldiers and Airmen to assist with ice storm cleanup and debris removal in Gallia and Lawrence counties.
About 170 Ohio Army National Guard members from several units within the 112th Transportation Battalion, with headquarters in North Canton, Ohio, answered Louisiana’s call for assistance in September, following the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida.
During the 59th Presidential Inauguration in January, approximately 500 Ohio National Guard members assisted local and state authorities in Columbus and at the Ohio Statehouse. There were around 1,000 members providing security and other support services in the Washington D.C. area. After the inauguration, approximately 150 military police Soldiers were deployed for several months to assist federal and District of Columbia authorities at various locations to enforce security, protect lives and preserve critical infrastructure.
The year also saw planned federal mission deployments for multiple Ohio Air and Army National Guard units, while others completed their missions and returned home. Among these units, about 80 Soldiers from Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, based in McConnelsville, Ohio, left in August for a yearlong deployment in support of U.S. Central Command operations. And Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, Ohio returned to their home station in May following an overseas deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
Potential new mission
The Department of the Air Force announced in August that it has identified Ohio’s Mansfield-Lahm Air National Guard Base as the preferred location for the first Air National Guard cyber warfare wing. The transformation, if it receives final approval, would support Air Combat Command’s future requirements and result in operational mission changes, including an increase of about 175 Airmen and associated infrastructure support at the base.
The Ohio Cyber Reserve (OhCR) was deployed in early 2021 for the first time since it was established under the Adjutant General’s Department as part of the State Defense Force. A member of the OhCR was called to state active duty under the authority of the governor to assist in a cybersecurity breach. The member was chosen because of his expertise in the affected network equipment, and he provided assistance remotely for four days.
Celebrating international partnerships
The Ohio National Guard has partnered with the Republic of Serbia since 2006 and Hungary since 1993 as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The SPP links U.S. states with a partner country to promote regional stability and develop military relationships.
During a year celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Ohio-Serbia partnership, Serbian Ambassador to the U.S. Marko Đurić visited Ohio in May and signed a memorandum of understanding between the Ohio Department of Higher Education, Ohio Department of Education and Serbia’s Ministry of Education to cooperate at the primary, secondary and higher education levels.
“This has been an exceptionally busy year and we have accomplished every task placed before us,” Harris said. “The strength of our force — every Soldier, Airman and civilian employee — makes us capable and ready to take on new missions, now and in the future.”