National Guard taps AZ units for rapid response to civil unrest

Arizona is one of two states volunteering its National Guard at the election approaches.

About 300 members in both Arizona and Alabama are at the ready, officials say. But they won't link the decision to the potential of election-related violence.

"I think this is an insurance policy in the event that one of the states in the union requires assistance that could be called upon by and through the governor," said General Michael McGuire.

It's already been a hectic year for the Arizona National Guard. They were on duty for the statewide curfew activated back in June when protesters demonstrated nearly all month long, as well as COVID-19 testing, Customs and Border support and full-time guardsman throughout the state.

General McGuire says about 6,000 out of 8,200 members mobilized.

"We have never had a mobilization of that magnitude in Arizona since World War II."

Recently, guard leaders have ordered more than $200,000 in protective equipment. Training for protests has also increased.

Now, 300 troops out of Arizona can be deployed within 24 hours of an out-of-state governor's request.

"So we volunteered to step up when the request was made because we had been successful in Kenosha."

In late August, the Arizona National Guard deployed 150 members to Kenosha, Wisconsin to help with civil unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

"The division we have now in the United States is something I've just never seen," said Paul Bender, a professor of law at ASU.

Bender says we can't predict outbreaks of violence after the election. He believes national military presence could affect voting.

"And I hope the government does not plan as if there were going to be. They should be ready if it happens, but they shouldn't do anything that assumes that it's happening."

General McGuire says if troops are activated, it's an entirely separate operation.

"This stuff doesn't strip away what we would have available to our own county sheriffs and local police."

General McGuire says the first rotation Arizona and Alabama volunteered for will last 60 days.

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The guard's mobilization is part of Governor Doug Ducey's emergency declaration that also instituted a statewide curfew.