Esper: 84,000 Guardsmen Activated to Support Local Authorities in Pandemic

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper presides as Army Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, director of the Army National Guard, is promoted to general and takes over as 29th National Guard Bureau chief during ceremonies at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Aug. 3, 2020. Hokanson succeeds Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who has served as NGB chief since August 2016. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

In June, nearly 84,000 National Guardsmen were engaged in domestic efforts across all states and territories and the District of Columbia, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said, marking the largest domestic response in many years.

The size, scope and speed of the Guard’s response is a testament to the foresight of Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who had served as National Guard Bureau chief since August 2016, for streamlining relationships with states and employers, enabling the Guard to activate more quickly in the hour of need, Esper said, according to a Pentagon statement.

Despite daunting challenges, Lengyel focused on operational readiness, working seamlessly with governors and adjutants general, and taking care of service members, Esper said. “In doing so,” he added, “he laid the foundation for an extraordinary response at a time when our nation needed it most.”

As the coronavirus spread, Lengyel helped surge personnel, equipment and capabilities into hot spots around the nation, bolstering hospital capacity, conducting tests, delivering food and supporting so many other actions to stem the spread of the virus and save lives, Esper said.

Esper was speaking as Army Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, director of the Army National Guard, was promoted to general and took over as the 29th National Guard Bureau chief during ceremonies on Monday at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.

Hokanson said it’s an honor to lead America’s greatest treasure: its sons and daughters.

“This is an important and pivotal time in the history of the National Guard,” he said. “We have never been busier or more visible, and our missions have never been more complex and more important. What we do now, and what we do next, will ultimately shape our nation’s future.”

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