Florida State Guard gets $10 million, seeks 400 recruits

The revived Florida State Guard opened with a $10 million budget, a campaign to attract 400 volunteers, and now, a new director to lead them.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that the Marine Corps has retired. Lt. Col. Chris Graham, who grew up in Miami and served as an airman in Iraq, will lead the volunteer civilian force that originated in World War II but was deactivated in 1947.

The State Guard, the governor’s office stressed, would be “an all-volunteer, emergency-focused force” that would help recover from disasters such as hurricanes.

But there would be occasions when members would be armed if necessary, the governor’s office reiterated Wednesday.

“Members of the State Guard will be trained and armed as needed, like the National Guard,” Bryan Griffin, the governor’s press secretary, said in an email.

The State Guard, like 22 others elsewhere in the country, would support the National Guard and be trained and authorized to undertake similar tasks.

“That means troops don’t carry weapons every time they activate, because it’s not always necessary, but they do have the necessary training and clearance, and they can be armed if the situation warrants it,” said Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary. the South Florida Sun Sentinel before the Legislature provided $10 million in funding this spring.

“The Florida State Guard will support emergency response efforts during hurricanes, natural disasters and other state emergencies in Florida,” she said. “Other state emergencies could theoretically include civil unrest, but we do not anticipate civil unrest occurring.”

The possibility of the State Guard being an armed guard drew strong criticism from the governor’s political opponents, who claimed he was seeking to operate a “private army”.

Earlier this year, Congressman and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist went so far as to claim that the State Guard was intended to be the governor’s “hand-picked secret police”.

But in a Wednesday statement, DeSantis pointed out that the formation of the State Guard was rushed by federal government policies of “deporting” military service members who do not comply with COVID-19 vaccination mandates. of the Biden administration.

“The U.S. military has kicked out some great servicemen because of the Biden administration’s unacceptable COVID vaccine mandate, and they’re even targeting members of the National Guard,” DeSantis said.

“The DC bureaucrats who control our National Guard have also refused to increase the number of guards despite our growing population, leaving Florida with the second-worst ratio of national guards to residents,” he added. “By reestablishing the Florida State Guard under the leadership of Lt. Col. Graham, we have a great opportunity to expand our ability to help people in times of need or disaster.”

Graham’s resume dwarfs the basic requirements listed in an online post from the State Guards looking for a manager. He called for “significant leadership and management capacity to not only control FLSG elements, but also to have the ability to build and sustain healthy relationships throughout the State of Florida.”

It also required a bachelor’s degree, a valid driver’s license and five years of management experience.

Graham enlisted in the Marines at age 17, graduating from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree. After being commissioned, it was assigned to the Coalition and Special Warfare Division, Drug Enforcement Directorate. He graduated from Pensacola Flight School and served as a Navy pilot for about two years, flying in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Graham then served as a joint terminal attack controller in Iraq and was selected to serve as a task force commander in a Marine counterterrorism battalion. In 2005 he received a Purple Heart.

He retired from the Marine Corps. Reserves only a few months ago.

“Two months ago I retired from the Marine Corps as a Lt. Col. after more than two decades of service, and once I saw the opening to become Director of Custody ‘State, I’ve decided that two months of retirement is all I need,’ he said in the statement from the governor’s office.

Last Thursday, DeSantis, who came up with the idea of ​​reactivating the State Guard, signed a bill authorizing $10 million in operating funds. The financial allocation and proposed size of the guard, which is now 400, is larger than originally announced by the governor last year. At the time, the cost was $3.5 million and the ranks had to be 200.

Last minute alerts

Last minute alerts

As it happens

Get story development updates as they happen with our free email alerts.

Griffin, the deputy press secretary, attributed the growth in funding and attendees to “a high level of interest from applicants.”

“We recognized the need for a tougher guard,” he said.

The National Guard receives $454 million in funding from the U.S. government and $18 million from the state each year.

DeSantis argued that the State Guard provides the state with more options to respond to emergencies, a responsibility he said strains the 12,000 members of the National Guard, whose personnel are called upon to abroad in addition to his duties in the state. Last year, the National Guard responded to storm relief needs and even helped administer COVID-19 vaccines.

But the National Guard has also answered the call to help Pentagon missions overseas. For example, some 160 Florida guards trained members of the Ukrainian army before the Russian invasion of that country. Some members also perform border duties between the United States and Mexico in Texas and New Mexico.

In contrast, no member of the Florida State Guard would leave the state.

The new State Guard makes Florida the 23rd state to create such a force. The others include New York, Texas and California, as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. State Guardsmen were authorized by Congress decades ago, along with larger National Guardsmen that fall under federal jurisdiction.

Comments are closed.