Chief, National Guard Bureau visits Ohio: Trip includes meeting with personnel supporting food banks during COVID-19 pandemic
Story by Tech. Sgt. Shane Hughes, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
GROVE CITY, Ohio (05/06/20)
Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, came to Ohio May 6 to see firsthand the impact being made by Ohio National Guard personnel supporting regional and local food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lengyel spoke with many of the more than 100 Ohio National Guard and Ohio Military Reserve members who, since the end of March, have been assisting with food distribution efforts during a tour of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
“If you were going to design a military component for the United States that can respond to these kinds of emergencies, you would invent the National Guard,” Lengyel said. “These men and women serve in their hometowns and in their communities when a crisis is upon us. Whether it’s man-made or a pandemic, regardless of the cause, the National Guard continues to prove that we are always ready and always there.”
While he was in Ohio, Lengyel also visited with Airmen at the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus and toured the aerospace control alert facilities at the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, near Toledo.
“It was an honor to host General Lengyel,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general. “It’s not every day that our Soldiers and Airmen get to interact with a four-star general and the chief of the National Guard Bureau. This was a special opportunity to showcase what makes Ohio’s National Guard one of the best in the nation.”
On March 18, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a proclamation activating approximately 400 members of the Ohio National Guard to support 12 regional food banks, which combined serve Ohioans in all 88 counties. Because of the significant increase in demand on food banks in the past few weeks, the number of Guard personnel on duty is now closer to 500, working at 14 regional and local food banks all over the state. In just the first two weeks alone, the Ohio National Guard delivered more than 30,000 meals, distributing more than 2.5 million pounds of food and driving more than 10,000 miles to help make sure their fellow Ohioans had food on their tables in an extraordinary time of need. As of early May, more than 13 million pounds of food had been distributed and over 70,000 miles logged.
“Our citizens are scared,” said Matt Habash, president and CEO of the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, which in addition to the food bank includes a farm, kitchen, pharmacy and market. “When you can calm them down, say, ‘We’re going to bring food out to you and here’s when it’s coming,’ it makes a huge difference. These (Guard and Ohio Military Reserve members) are Ohioans helping Ohioans. For us, it’s about what we call managing America’s generosity, and the Guard has absolutely helped us do that.”
During his visit, Lengyel recognized the outstanding achievements of the personnel supporting Operation Steady Resolve by presenting them with his personal challenge coin, a military tradition believed to date back to World War I.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve seen here from the Ohio National Guard,” Lengyel said. “They’re motivated, they’re disciplined, they’re happy, they’re contributing to their communities, they feel the satisfaction of knowing they’re helping their fellow Ohioans from their neighborhoods and their communities.”
Lengyel serves as the 28th chief of the National Guard Bureau and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he serves as a military adviser to the president, secretary of defense and National Security Council, and is the Department of Defense’s official channel of communication to the governors and state adjutants general on all National Guard matters. He is responsible for ensuring that the more than 453,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel are accessible, capable and ready to protect the homeland and provide combat ready resources to the Army and Air Force.