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Florida State Guard gets first deployment in 75 years

Damaged homes can be seen after Hurricane Idalia.
Saul Martinez for NPR
Damaged homes can be seen after Hurricane Idalia.

Hurricane Idalia gave Gov. DeSantis his first chance to run out the Florida State Guard, which he revived in 2022.

While in Perry on Monday, DeSantis said the state guard was deployed for the first time in 75 years to help in storm-recovery efforts.

“They've operated with distribution in Live Oak,” DeSantis said. “They've helped unload and distribute donated supplies, as well as delivering meals to impacted Floridians. So, thanks to our Florida State Guard for their inaugural deployment of the 21st century.”

During a press event two days earlier, DeSantis was flanked by members of the state guard, including Rep. Tom Fabricio, R-Miami Lakes.

Fabricio said the state guard augments the Florida National Guard.

“If you look at the numbers per capita, the ratio of (Florida National) guardsmen to Florida residents are the lowest in the nation,” said Fabricio, who went through the state guard’s first boot camp.

The state guard was initially set up during World War II to replace Florida National Guard members who were deployed abroad. It became inactive in 1947.

After being revived in 2022, the state guard was expanded from 400 to 1,500 members this year, and the Legislature increased its funding from $10 million to $107.6 million, which covered the costs of five aircraft and boats.

A June 30 news release from the governor’s office announced the state guard’s first graduating class of more than 100 members.