COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In 2020, we saw them in our hospitals, food banks, nursing homes, and protecting cities during times of unrest. 

On Friday, the Ohio National Guard, which supports both the Army and Air Force, gave members of the media an inside look at their operations, and how they organize and prepare for those vastly different situations. 

Ohio has the second-largest Air National Guard and fifth-largest Army National Guard in the U.S., Maj. Gen. John Harris said. While the vast majority of funding for the guard comes from the federal government, their No. 1 priority is to the people of Ohio, he said.

“Ohioans have a high propensity to serve,” Harris said.

Their service roles have evolved swiftly over the most recent decades. Harris said 40 years ago, when he joined the military, it would have been a “dark day” to see the National Guard deployed. 

“If there was a second or third wave of warfare maybe then we would get around to deploying the Guard. But what has changed is … in order for our Departments of Defense, our Department of Air Force, our Department of the Army, to modernize, to maintain their global obligations around the world … they have to rely on the National Guards,” Harris said. “The national security demands for the services are so high that they have to integrate the Guard into deployment cycles.”

Today, guard members from Ohio are deployed every day. 

“We have to not only think about land, sea, and air. We have to think about cyberspace. We have to think about space itself because our adversaries are very sophisticated there,” Harris said. “And those will be very decisive domains of warfare going into the future.”

At Rickenbacker Air National Base, Harris and the Ohio National Guard team gave members of the media a deeper look at the duties and obligations of the 12,000 Ohioans who serve. As well as a look — and a ride —  on some of the equipment they use at various bases around the Buckeye state and abroad.  

“[You’re riding on a] UH-60 Mike-model Blackhawk,” Harris explained. “It’s one of the most state-of-the-art Blackhawks. We picked up this model directly from the factory, which is pretty incredible for the National Guard. There was a day when we got cascaded the old Army equipment.”