Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said yesterday that he will make a priority the establishment of a U.S. National Guard in the CNMI. The National Guard is part of the reserve components of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.
Speaking at a radio news briefing, Torres said he realized the importance of having a National Guard in the CNMI during this COVID-19 pandemic as almost all the states and Guam have National Guard units.
He believes only the CNMI and American Samoa don’t have National Guard units and the CNMI was disenfranchised when the directive came out to activate one during pandemic. Nevertheless, Torres said, the CNMI worked through it because it has good community and leadership from the COVID-19 Task Force and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.
He disclosed that he met last Friday with Maj. Gen. Brian Neal, who has been handling the National Guard.
The governor said he wrote a letter a couple of years ago to the National Guard, making a request to create one in the CNMI whether it be Air National Guard or Army National Guard.
“I think it’s time for us to really make that a priority as a government, as a community. We’re seeing the divert airfield project on Tinian. We’re seeing the [U.S.] Department of Defense partnership in strengthening here in the CNMI and understanding that our role in the Pacific plays a national security,” he said.
Torres said he is not asking for a huge National Guard unit, but something to start, whether it be 20 or 30 individuals. “But at this point, I want to emphasize that we do need a National Guard here in the CNMI,” he said.
Torres cited the CNMI’s experience during super typhoons Soudelor and Yutu, and Typhoon Mangkhut, in which the Commonwealth was able to get some help from Guam and Hawaii National Guards.
“So I hope that in the next few months, we’ll have more update on the National Guard. …I would like to make that a priority for the administration,” he said.
Torres said that based on his conversations with Neal, he feels they understand the importance of the National Guard here.
“It’s looking very positive. They support the movement of having a National Guard. And I’ve emphasized this partnership about DOD,” he said.
Torres said it’s not just humanitarian issue, but if any issues on the side of the world arises, the CNMI should able to assist and have its own protection, and as well as to help the defense in any way that the Commonwealth can.