DES MOINES, Iowa -- On Thursday Iowa's top soldier commanded the floor at the State Capitol to update lawmakers on the status of Iowa's citizen soldiers.
"Your Iowa National Guard is truly making a difference every day in Iowa and around the world," Major General Timothy Orr says has he started his speech to update lawmakers on the status of the Guard.
Orr told lawmakers that 2017 was another exemplary year for the Iowa National Guard. Currently more than 800 solders and airmen are deployed around the nation. Orr says more will be called up soon.
2017 was what he called a "quiet year" for disaster response for the Iowa National Guard. There weren't many emergencies in Iowa for soldiers to respond to. However when the president called after Hurricanes hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico Iowa soldiers were ready to respond.
Orr also highlighted some of the lesser known ways the Iowa National Guard is helping that state. That includes the assistance provided by the Guard's Counterdrug Program and the Midwest Counterdrug Training Center. Orr says the program is helping lead the fight against the opioid epidemic in Iowa.
"Through the assistance of counterdrug specialists, more than one pound of fentanyl, which equates to more than 171,000 fatal doses, and more than 12 pounds of heroin, were seized and taken off the street in Iowa," Orr says, "In 2017, more than $43 million in drugs and $3 million in cash and assets were
seized from drug dealers in iowa with the assistance of the Counterdrug Program."
Orr says the biggest challenge for the guard right now is in recruiting a new and diverse class of soldiers and airmen. He wants to see the guard find more recruits that reflect the racial diversity of the state. He also wants to see more recruits from outside of current military families.
He hopes the promise of job training and free and reduced education will inspire those efforts.