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Trump OKs Whitmer request to extend use of Michigan National Guard

The Michigan National Guard received the request to support the South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek as part of the community's response to COVID-19. Approximately five Airmen will serve at this site beginning April 17, 2020. Support is expected to continue through mid-May. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Gary Leonard)

President Donald Trump approved a request from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week to extend deployment of the Michigan National Guard, both for COVID-19 response and to serve as backup during demonstrations against police violence in several Michigan cities.

Whitmer first involved the Michigan National Guard in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, and the Trump administration initially authorized the state’s authority to call up members of the Guard and extend them federal pay and benefits through June 24.

Whitmer urged the president to approve an extension in a May 27 letter.

Members of the Michigan National Guard have helped run mobile testing facilities, distribute food and medical supplies, ensure the resiliency of supply lines, disinfect public spaces, and support public safety as needed.

National Guardsmen have assisted food banks in communities across the state. They’ve also helped setup temporary medical stations to support coronavirus patients.

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In a Wednesday news release, Whitmer touted the Michigan National Guard’s role in limiting the spread of COVID-19. She said the Guard will help ensure the state can continue to ramp up testing efforts.

“The Michigan National Guard has been instrumental in our efforts to flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to play a vital role as we slowly and safely reopen our economy,” she said in a statement.

“This approval allows Michigan National Guard members to continue to serve our communities and protect Michigan families,” Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, Adjutant General and Director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said in the statement.

More recently, the Michigan National Guard has also been called into action for a different purpose – backing up local police departments responding to demonstrations against police brutality in Michigan cities.

The Michigan National Guard was present in both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo this week following instances of property destruction and looting. In both cities, Guard members were utilized to help enforce curfews, and Humvees were used to form a barricade on Monday in Grand Rapids.

Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said the Guard “is assisting the state in both areas – COVID and peace/repairs concerning demonstrations.”

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© 2020 MLive.com