By Governor Pete Ricketts
December 28, 2021
Governor’s official photo here.
Over the past three years, the Nebraska National Guard has helped Nebraskans through floods, fires, and a global pandemic. Through it all, the Guard has proved time and again how vital they are to the citizens of our state in times of need. As Commander-in-Chief of the Nebraska National Guard, I could not be more proud of these men and women.
While generations of Nebraskans have served in the Guard, its mission changed significantly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Twenty-five years ago, individuals joining the Nebraska National Guard didn’t expect to be deployed. Airmen and Soldiers usually weren’t called on to support overseas missions. Now, they receive a much higher level of training and preparedness than in years past. Today’s young women and men who join the National Guard not only know they will be deployed—they want to be deployed. They’re eager to take the fight to the enemy. They’re looking for opportunities to serve their fellow citizens. They’re trained to do so.
The Guard has shown its versatility and value during the disasters of the past few years. It stepped up in heroic ways when Nebraska endured the 2019 floods—the most widespread natural disaster in our state’s history. Members of the Guard dropped sandbags to protect homes and businesses from rising floodwaters. They delivered hay so that ranchers could feed their livestock.
The Guard also conducted daring rescue missions to save Nebraskans. Helicopter pilots told me the rainy and windy conditions of the flood were every bit as hazardous as flying in combat. During the floods, the National Guard saved 112 Nebraskans—66 by helicopter hoist—and 13 pets. A Nebraska National Guard crew won the DUSTOFF Award for performing the 2019 Rescue of the Year after pulling seven first responders out of the cold, surging waters of the Elkhorn River.
After the floods of 2019, the Nebraska National Guard again swung into action in 2020 to help their neighbors through the coronavirus pandemic. Members of the Guard volunteered to conduct coronavirus testing at Test Nebraska sites in multiple cities, seven days per week. They served as medics, oversaw decontamination procedures, and managed traffic flows at drive-thru sites.
The Guard distributed PPE to first responders and healthcare workers across Nebraska. In total, the State delivered 18.6 million masks, 39 million sets of gloves, 5 million surgical gowns, and over 50,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. The Guard’s logistical support helped Nebraska become the first state in the country to accumulate a 120-day supply of critical PPE.
The Guard also played a key role in supporting coronavirus vaccination. Members of the Guard directly administered nearly 70,000 vaccine doses to the public. Their work greatly boosted capabilities of our local health departments.
Additionally, Airmen and Soldiers supported the Food Bank of Lincoln and Food Bank for the Heartland to distribute food to pantries throughout the state. Over two months in the spring of 2020, Guard members helped package and deliver over 400,000 pounds of produce and packaged food. This work helped families around the state put food on the table during the peak disruption period of the pandemic.
The Guard plays a leading role in the State’s firefighting efforts as well. In November, I called on the National Guard to help contain the Buffalo Creek wildfire in Banner and Scotts Bluff counties. The Guard flew two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to the blaze and dropped more than 100,000 gallons of water on the hottest spots of the fire. Their aerial firefighting capabilities played a big role in our success putting a stop to the fire before it harmed anyone. This wasn’t the only wildfire the Guard helped fight in 2021 either. Helicopter crews provided aerial assistance to combat wildfires in Holt County in June, the Hackberry wildfire near Harrison in August, and September fires south of Crawford and west of Scottsbluff.
The fantastic job done by the Guard in Nebraska is only part of its work. The Nebraska National Guard also deploys around the world to serve our country on missions vital to national security. This spring, the 179th Cyber Protection Team returned to Nebraska after over a year of guarding the U.S. from virtual threats while stationed in Fort Meade, Maryland. About 200 Soldiers based in Columbus and Grand Island are helping to manage the humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. We also have soldiers of the 67th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade serving in Africa, as well as the 1057th Military Police Company and 734th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion serving in Kuwait and Qatar. Members of the 192nd Military Police Detachment returned to Nebraska just in time for Christmas after a 10-month deployment to Jordan. We’re grateful to have them home for the holidays, and we pray for the safe return of all the women and men still on mission out of state.
The Nebraska National Guard is carrying on the tradition of service, sacrifice, and honor that have made this the greatest country in the history of the world. Major General Daryl Bohac, Adjutant General of the Nebraska National Guard, is doing great work to prepare his Soldiers and Airmen for whatever comes their way in 2022. On behalf of all Nebraskans, thank you to members of the Guard for your dedicated service to our state.
The Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward tells the stories of brave Soldiers and Airmen who’ve served Nebraska since before the Civil War. I encourage you to make a visit. For museum hours and information go to nengm.org. If you have any questions about the Nebraska National Guard—or any other matter—please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244.