Last spring, Ohio was the first state to deploy its national guard to help with what became a critical element of the pandemic: getting emergency food to people in need who were locked down at home, including those who’d been unemployed and many suddenly out of work. The people dispatched to help are now off that job.
Applause echoed through the open lobby of the Mid-Ohio Food Bank south of Columbus, as dozens of employees and volunteers “clapped out” Ohio National Guard soldiers in a decommissioning ceremony, ending their mission of supporting foodbanks in Ohio.
ONG personnel were deployed in March 2020, very early in the pandemic, to help foodbanks handle the tsunami of people who needed emergency food assistance at a time when volunteers were told to stay home. Ohio was the first state to utilize National Guard personnel for emergency food distribution.
Statewide, they sorted and gave out 150 million pounds of food. That’s equivalent to 3,571 semi truckloads. Over 2.9 million Ohioans became foodbank clients since March of last year, many of them never having visited a food bank before.
The Guard was expected to end its pandemic-related missions last August with the end of federal funding for them, but that was extended twice - the second time with 25% of the cost paid by the state. That carried the mission through the Thanksgiving and December holidays, which turned out to be busy.
Final pre-Thanksgiving distribution at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank wasn’t supposed to start till 5pm. Volunteers and members of the Ohio National Guard opened early to get a jump on the expected line. Long lines have been seen in Lorain and Cleveland recently too. pic.twitter.com/0h3fBMd042
— Karen Kasler (@karenkasler) November 25, 2020
The Ohio National Guard's pandemic related missions also included COVID testing at nursing homes and vaccines at shot clinics. Over the last year, the Guard has also provided security during the protests after the murder of George Floyd, during the presidential debate in Cleveland, and at the US Capitol in January before and after the insurrection and an "armed march" planned later that month.
Some ONG personnel have a new assignment. DeWine has signed off on the deployment of 185 members of the Ohio Army National Guard for non-law enforcement support to the United States Custom and Border Protection at the southwest US border.
They'll be deployed in late 2021, and will join 3,000 personnel requested from other states. Some 115 members of the 1484th Transportation Company from North Canton are still on active duty at the southwest border.