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DeSantis picks retired marine to lead state guard

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Scott Keeler
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Chris Graham was named Wednesday as director of the Florida State Guard, which is being reactivated after 75 years.

Gov. Ron DeSantis introduced Graham, a Destin resident, during an event at the American Legion Post 273 in Madeira Beach.

“He started out as an enlisted Marine, worked his way up the ranks, served as an officer for 20 years, earned a Purple Heart along the way in 2005,” DeSantis said. “He's been a helicopter pilot. He served three tours in Iraq. He's been a special projects officer and created the model for the anti-terrorism battalion companies, including their pre-deployment training, and their standard operating procedures for close-quarters battle and personal security detail operations. Those are very significant high levels of training.”

DeSantis pushed this year to reactivate the volunteer state guard to assist the Florida National Guard during emergencies. The state guard had been inactive since 1947. A new state budget, which will take effect July 1, includes $10 million to reactivate the guard and cover the costs of six positions.

Graham, who enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in Miami, said he wants to “do my part.” In advertising for the director, the state sought a person with “knowledge of military culture and organization” for a position considered part-time.

“I think this unit has a particularly important mission,” Graham said. “As Floridians, you guys know the last hurricane is behind us, the next hurricane is on the horizon. Anything we can do to help, I want to help as this functions as a state defense force. Also, I want to build in whatever capabilities are constructive and helpful in that regard, too.”

DeSantis said more than 1,200 people have applied for the state guard’s 400 positions.

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