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Typically, members of the North Dakota National Guard are activated in the state for specific types of events, usually related to Mother Nature, such as floods, blizzards, and wildfires.
“These are some of the most common problems we end up responding to” said ND Army National Guard Captain Chad Worrel, based in Minot with the 164th Guard Engineer Battalion.
“Of course, this past year our COVID response has been a very heavy response,” Worrel told members of the Minot region chamber’s EDC military affairs committee at a recent meeting. The meeting was hosted by the Guard at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in northeast Minot.
Ahead of the COVID-19 response, Worrel said the flooding of the Souris River in 2011 required the most personnel days the ND National Guard – Air Guard and Army Guard – had committed to as a force. . He said the Air Guard and Army Guard devoted 67,000 person-days to the flooding.
“COVID has unfortunately been going on for some time”, said Worrel. “Originally we started with 250 to 300 soldiers responding to this COVID activation, this COVID mission, where we were going to do testing all over the state of North Dakota and over time we were also working with the transport of vaccines. “
At the June 3 meeting, Worrel said the COVID-19 response had reached 110,000 (staff days). “So this is our biggest state activation in North Dakota history,” he said.
As of that June date, he said about 150 members of the Guard were supporting the COVID-19 mission. Of the 150 members of the Guard, he said about 125 were from the Army Guard and about 25 from the Air Guard.
“We will continue to support this for about two months”, Worrel said at the June 3 meeting. “After that two-month delay, that’s when they drastically downsized things and also worked diligently to hand things over to the local public health forces so that they could take on all the burden. responsibility”, he said.
Worrel has been in the Guard for 21 years and has worked for the Guard full time for six years. For about 15 years, he was a teacher, then a school principal before becoming a full-time guard at Bismarck and now at Minot.
He said the Minot Battalion has 538 soldiers and 29 people working full time to support it.
His presentation on June 3 was made on behalf of Major-General Alan Dohrmann, Adjutant General of the ND. As a two-staff commander, Worrel said that within the state, Dohrmann oversees both the National Guard and the Department of Emergency Services (i.e. Homeland Security, state radio, etc.).
Worrel said the ND National Guard was technically state-owned. “We are a federal entity but we are also a state entity”, he added.
Within the ND National Guard, Worrel said there were around 4,000 soldiers and airmen. He said it was broken down into about 3,000 on the army side and about 1,000 on the air guard side. Within these entities, he said, there are many federal employees and a handful of state employees. He said many people are working full time full time to support the entire National Guard as a whole.
Worrel also said the Guard’s Military Police reported various incidents, including one in Fargo and a substantial number in Washington, DC.
Due to the extreme drought, he said the Guard was also involved in efforts to fight the forest fires this year. “In a typical year, about 15,000 acres in the state of North Dakota end up burning due to wildfires,” said Worrel. Already since January, he said, 100,000 acres have burned.
The Guard has a small response cell operating out of Bismarck. “It’s just an element of command right now and then we have a standby force,” he said. He said the Guard’s Black Hawk helicopters were used in the Medora area where they dumped “gallons and gallons of water” to help save the amphitheater there.
Due to COVID-19, many states have not hosted the Vigilant Guard training exercise. “We were the only state to move forward with Vigilant Guard. We had to cut it back due to COVID ”, said Worrel. He said Vigilant Guard takes place in every state and incorporates many entities into the exercise.
Members of the National Guard also participated in a number of events, most notably during Memorial Day weekend.
National Guard construction projects underway in the state include a Reaper operations facility under construction north of Hector Fargo International Airport, Worrel said. He said another construction project in Fargo is a second arsenal which is nearing completion. On the agenda for the future, he said, is the construction of a new armory in Dickinson.
Worrel said there was a project underway to establish a military museum. “We are trying to find a location to build a military museum in North Dakota”, he said. He said there is a great deal of military history in North Dakota, but no facility where people can see and read it.
He added that North Dakota is second behind New York for the most Medal of Honor recipients. “It’s absolutely incredible for a state of this size. These facts and figures should be exposed ”, he added.
He also said they were slowly adding to Camp Grafton South. “We slowly acquired land – buy land”, said Worrel. “This is another big and ongoing project over the past two years. “
Camp Grafton South, consisting of training areas and shooting ranges, is approximately 40 miles southeast of Camp Grafton North. Camp Grafton North is located along the shores of Devils Lake.