Gov. Ron DeSantis named the new director of the Florida State Guard, an emergency-focused civilian volunteer force as retired Marine Corps. Lt. Col. Chris Graham will lead it.
“By bringing back the Florida State Guard, Florida now joins 22 other states and territories with state-level defense forces, and many other states have laws on the books allowing for the activation of these organizations. Florida will add 400 members of the Florida State Guard to respond to a projected active hurricane season, and more than 1,200 individuals have already expressed interest in joining,” the governor’s office noted.
“The U.S. military has been kicking out great service members over the Biden administration’s unacceptable COVID vaccine mandate, and they are even targeting members of the National Guard,” said DeSantis. “The bureaucrats in D.C. who control our National Guard have also refused to increase the number of guardsmen despite our increasing population, leaving Florida with the second worst National Guardsman to resident ratio. By reestablishing the Florida State Guard under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Graham, we have a great opportunity to expand our capability to help people in times of need or disaster.”
“Two months ago I retired from the Marine Corps. as a lieutenant colonel after two decades plus of service, and once I saw the opening to become the director of the State Guard, I decided that two months of retirement was all I needed,” said Graham. “This is an unbelievable privilege to reestablish and build from the ground up a modern state defense force. Florida will be joining 22 other states and territories with state guards, but we have an opportunity to break new ground and deliver a 10-fold investment for Floridians.”
Florida has one of the most understaffed National Guards in the nation. Out of 54 states and territories, the Florida National Guard has the second worst resident to guardsman ratio. The federal government has steadfastly refused to grant Florida the authority to support a larger National Guard, even after the National Guard Bureau completed a “force structure rebalance” last year.
Since 1958, the Florida National Guard has had 12,000 troops. At that time, Florida had fewer than 5 million people and the civilian to guard ratio was 375 residents for every guardsman. Today, Florida’s population is nearly 22 million people and the resident to guardsman ratio has climbed to approximately 1,750 Floridians to every one guardsman. In a natural disaster-prone state such as Florida with a potentially active hurricane season on the horizon, there is a clear and present need for a larger civilian emergency response force.
Graham grew up in Miami and enlisted in the Marine Corps. at age 17. After enlistment, he graduated from Auburn University with a B.A. and was then commissioned in the Marines. Graham was then temporarily assigned to the Coalition and Special Warfare Division, Counter Drug Branch. He then graduated from flight school in Pensacola and served as a pilot for approximately two years, flying CASEVAC missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 1. Graham then served as Joint Terminal Attack Controller in OIF-2 before being selected to serve as a founding member of the Marine Corps.’ full-time Antiterrorism Battalion in which capacity he was deployed as Task Force Commander to OIF-3. He ultimately served as the Commanding Officer of 4th ANGLICO in West Palm Beach. Graham retired from the Marine Corps. Reserves just a few weeks ago as a lieutenant colonel. Over the course of his military service, he received the following awards:
Purple Heart, June 2005
Navy Achievement Medal (V), May 2007
Navy Commendation Medal (V), March 2006
Air Medal (V), April 2005
The Commanding General, Il Marine Expeditionary Force’s (MCA) Leadership Award for 2005
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