State guard set up by DeSantis is being trained as personal militia, veterans say

As per former military recruits who have left the program, a non-military emergency response unit, disguised as a Florida state guard and created by the conservative governor, Ron DeSantis, is actually being prepared as an equipped and prepared fighting force under his direct authority.

According to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, instructors at the hands-on training for disabled veterans have become concerned about the “militaristic” approach.

DeSantis was promoted as an emergency defense force when it was established in the state guard, quickly morphing into something quite different that the found report focused on.

Boot camp instructors at the joint training base enforced a lights-out policy by 10pm and roused the recruits before dawn; they sternly instructed the trainees. Khaki polo shirts and pants were swapped with camouflage uniforms, and dedicated individuals underwent rigorous military combat training, which included weapon usage.

The force’s funding, size, and equipment have seen a significant increase this year, which has played a role in the change of direction. The change of direction can also be attributed to the Republican-led state legislature, which has been compliant with Governor DeSantis. Furthermore, the force has seen a substantial increase in its recruitment numbers, with more than triple the maximum size, going from 400 recruits to 1,500. Additionally, the budget has increased significantly from $10 million to $107.5 million.

According to reports, the governor’s shopping list included items such as boats, helicopters, and even technology for cellphone-hacking, making him subject to federal jurisdiction and accountable to an external force.

Brian Newhouse, a seasoned navy veteran with two decades of service, informed the journalists that “a militia,” which was something we were actively avoiding, took over and compromised the program.

After the first day of training, he said he was removed from his position as an instructor at the base near Jacksonville. Originally, Newhouse was chosen to lead one of the three state divisions of the national guard, but he raised concerns among the staff.

The retired disabled Marine captain said he expressed his displeasure after being treated as recruits by the staff of the national guard. He was bundled into a van by the police, which relates to an incident that is the subject of a police inquiry regarding an allegation of abuse.

Newhouse expressed, “He would be horrified that a handicapped veteran would be mistreated by fellow military personnel,” pointing out that DeSantis used to serve as a navy lieutenant. “I believe this issue is not currently on his agenda,” the governor is aware of the situation. “I don’t believe the governor is even aware of the current situation.”

According to Newhouse and two other individuals who resigned and possess extensive military experience, the trainers lacked experience and the camp was haphazardly organized. The volunteers received minimal written training resources and were not assessed on their acquired knowledge.

According to them, there were also no medical or physical evaluations to ascertain the recruits’ level of fitness prior to their participation in a challenging obstacle course and drill.

The Herald/Times reporters, who reviewed records and interviewed recruits, noted that the organization’s leadership appears to be reflecting dysfunction, as it sought to command the third guard state for eight months.

As per the Florida Standard’s report last week, it was stated by DeSantis’s office that Luis Soler, the navy reserve captain who was serving as its director at that time, was not included in the training camp and subsequently resigned “due to personal reasons”.

Instead of being a means for citizens to contribute to their communities, and in line with DeSantis’s initial proposal, Newhouse and Soler perceived the program as an emergency management team.

The Guardian has contacted DeSantis’s office and the leadership of the state guard for a response.

According to Maj Gen John D Haas, Florida’s adjutant general overseeing the state’s national guard, who sent a statement from the state guard, which the governor’s media team referred the Herald/Times to, the veterans were reported to have not voluntarily left the program.

“[It’s] regrettable that some of these individuals turned to grievances with the media,” he penned.

We are aware that some trainees who were removed are dissatisfied. This course demands discipline and rigor, and it is expected with any course.

He stated that the state guard’s brief, which had been altered, would assist law enforcement with riots and unlawful immigration, thereby validating the claims made by the veterans. Additionally, Haas appeared to verify that it was indeed a “military organization”.

Democrats expressed fear in 2021 when Governor DeSantis first proposed reactivating the dormant state guard, suggesting that it could potentially become a paramilitary force beholden only to the authoritarian leader of Florida, reminiscent of the Second World War.