Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled the Florida State Guard on Wednesday, along with announcing its first leader, a retired U.S. Marine colonel.
DeSantis shared the information at the American Legion outpost in Madeira Beach alongside Major Generals James O. Eifert and James S. “Hammer” Hartsell.
“One of the reasons we’re here today actually goes back to other Biden policies,” DeSantis said during the event.
Gov. Ron DeSantis unveils the Florida State Guard and introduces the FSG’s first director. https://t.co/QCMBytFzRM
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 15, 2022
“When he came into office, he decided to impose a COVID vax mandate on the U.S. military. You had a situation where most people in our military are the lowest of the lowest risk for COVID, to begin with. Many of them had already had COVID and had recovered in 2020 into 2021, and yet imposed these mandates on them. And that has had the impact of actually kicking people out who had served honorably, who just decided this is not what they want to do,” he added.
DeSantis also shared the purpose and actions of the state’s new Florida State Guard.
“The Florida State Guard will be comprised of Floridians, and it’ll be designed to assist and help only Floridians, it will not be subject to be mobilized by the federal government, and the federal government cannot impose policies or penalties on the Florida State Guard,” DeSantis said.
“Florida will join over 20 other states and territories that currently have their own state guard, including states like New York,” he added.
The governor also announced the first director of the state’s guard during the presentation. Retired Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Chris Graham, a Florida native and recipient of a Purple Heart who has served multiple times overseas, including tours in Iraq, will lead the new initiative.
Graham also previously worked in the Defense Intelligence Agency. The new director’s background in counter-drug operations was also noted as an essential need to help stop the smuggling of fentanyl coming across the border.
DeSantis also recently invited Florida residents in his state to join the state guard to assist with upcoming emergency response ahead of hurricane season.
“To be a member of the FLSG, Florida is looking for individuals between the ages of 18 and 60, to volunteer and train to ensure that the Guard is ready to step in when emergency strikes,” the governor’s statement read.
“If you love the state of Florida, have a desire to help your community, and have skills beneficial to protect the state from a disaster, we encourage you to apply to join the FLSG. Skilled Floridians with emergency response, law enforcement or military training are encouraged to apply,” the statement added.
In addition to his announcement regarding the Florida State Guard, DeSantis signed six bills last week to increase work and educational opportunities for service members, veterans, and military families across the state.
One of the six new bills included HB 45, the “Educational Opportunities for Disabled Veterans.” The law will assist disabled veterans at a state university, Florida College System institution, or school district-operated career center, who do not qualify for the 100% eligibility tier to be eligible for a waiver for tuition and fees.
Another bill, SB 562, called the “Military Occupational Licensure,” requires the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to expedite occupational license applications of all active-duty military spouses, streamlining the process to assist military families.