Florida Governor Ron DeSantis celebrated the graduation of the first 100 troops of the Florida State Guard, the first since the reconstitution of the state’s military force last year.
The soldiers recently completed a rigorous two-week training program, making them the first graduates since the state legislature funded the state guard’s reestablishment in 2022. DeSantis initially proposed the reinstatement of a state military force back in 2021, marking the first time Florida would have such a unit since the 1940s.
“I am proud to welcome the first class of Florida State Guard members since 1947,” said DeSantis. “Even though the federal government has underfunded our National Guard, we are ensuring that we have the manpower needed to respond during emergencies. I’m proud of these men and women who answered the call to take on this important mission. When the need is greatest in their communities, these Guard members will be ready to answer the call.”
Florida has long sought to balance the per capita funding for its National Guard, but as of last year, the state ranked 53 out of 54 states and territories in terms of National Guard personnel per capita. With the state’s population having grown from 5 million to 22 million since 1958, the governor’s office noted that the consistent number of 12,000 National Guard troops stationed over that period has been insufficient.
This push for a state guard has not been without controversy. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Florida branch has voiced concerns over potential abuses of power and the possibility of creeping toward a police state, given that these state troops possess arresting power.
“It is an unprecedented and terrifying abuse of power by the Governor,” said Kara Gross, ACLU Florida legislative director.
Despite those concerns, DeSantis argues that the state guard is a necessary measure to address frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes. He has cited the fact that 22 other states maintain similar state guards.
The newly trained members of the Florida State Guard will assist federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as the Florida National Guard, during emergencies to ensure the welfare and safety of Florida citizens. The state guard operates under the leadership of Luis Soler, who took over as director after the untimely death of the initial appointee, retired Marine Lt. Col. Chris Graham.
The governor’s office continues to encourage individuals to enlist, citing the historic opportunity to be a part of this newly reconstituted force. The requirements for enlistment include possession of a valid Florida driver’s license, passing a physical test, and the ability to work in stressful team environments. Prospective members should also be ready to commit to annual weekend training.