Why recruits are walking away from Ron DeSantis’ new State Guard

 Why recruits are walking away from Ron DeSantis’ new State Guard


When Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans late last year to re-establish the Florida State Guard, which was disbanded in 1947, it was tough to blame his critics for raising concerns about a “private army” that would act at the Florida governor’s discretion. The far-right Republican has, after all, created a wildly unnecessary elections police force, while simultaneously using taxpayer funds to transport migrants outside of Florida from state to state as part of a legally dubious campaign stunt.

With abuses like these in mind, and DeSantis making little effort to hide his authoritarian predilections, the GOP governor hadn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt when he made the Florida State Guard announcement nearly seven months ago.

For his part, the Republican offered plenty of assurances. DeSantis insisted that he simply wanted a local force to assist in responding to emergencies such as hurricanes, which are hardly unheard of in the Sunshine State. To hear the Floridian tell it, those raising concerns about a private gubernatorial fighting force were hysterical and paranoid.

It was against this backdrop that The New York Times reported over the weekend:

[The deployment this spring of the Florida State Guard] has been mired in internal turmoil, with some recruits complaining that what was supposed to be a civilian disaster response organization had become heavily militarized, requiring volunteers to participate in marching drills and military-style training sessions on weapons and hand-to-hand combat.

According to the Times report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, 150 people were initially accepted into the program, and since then, at least one-fifth of them have either quit or been kicked out — including those who were fired after trying to raise concerns about the direction of the operation.

Among those ousted: Brian Newhouse, a retired Navy officer who helped recruit the first batch of volunteers, who raised objections on the first day of training. He was “abruptly escorted out.”

The Times’ report added:

One of the recruits, who like most of the others did not want to be named because of fear of reprisals, described the training as more like a “military fantasy camp” than the practical instruction expected in topics such as how to respond to hurricanes. The volunteers said the training seemed poorly structured, with an inordinate amount of time spent, as one of them described it, “marching in fields.” … They said they had expected sessions on such things as how to set up distribution of water and other resources during disasters. But that training, a copy of the schedule shows, came only at the very end, after classes on marksmanship and the concealed carry of weapons as well as a “combatives” class on hand-to-hand combat.

related report in The Miami Herald referenced an incident in which a retired Marine Corps captain filed a complaint with local police following an argument with instructors. He and a witness quit soon after.

Donald Trump said over the weekend that DeSantis should consider shifting his focus from the presidential campaign trail back to Florida. It was arguably the first good idea the former president has had in a long time.

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