CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – Washington’s landscape forever changed on the morning of May 18, 1980, when Mount St. Helens unleashed the largest volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Washington National Guard aviation crews in Yakima for their annual training saw the devastation and knew help was needed. Those brave Citizen-Soldiers risked their lives to save fellow Washingtonians caught in the path of destruction.In the weeks and months to follow, more members of the Guard were called up to support the state’s recovery, clean-up and reopening.President Jimmy Carter called it perhaps the National Guard’s finest peacetime response. While the economic impact was in the billions, more people would have died if not for the immediate response of National Guard pilots and crews.Since the eruption of Mount St. Helens 40 years ago, the Washington National Guard has actively engaged in many of the state’s most significant disasters.In the summer of 1994, more than 2,700 Guard members were called to support wildland firefighters who were battling what was at the time the worst fire season in state history.In November 1999, the Guard was called to serve in the streets of Seattle with the Seattle Police Department following the World Trade Organization riots.“Our folks brought a sense of calm to the storm,” said Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Bob Sweeney. “The Guard is here to protect our citizens and our state.”The Guard didn’t get a chance to rest for long, as members were staged the next month, Dec. 31, 1999, to help communities nervous about Y2K.“Our Guardsmen had water and food ready to help, and like so many didn’t know what to expect,” said Sweeney. “Then, when nothing happened, we sent them home to enjoy the New Year.”In 2001, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter just east of Olympia shook the Puget Sound, causing nearly $4 billion in damage and breaking infrastructure up and down the I-5 corridor. The Guard conducted flight missions and assisted at the State Emergency Operations Center. This prompted conversations about the resources that would be needed in the event of a large-scale earthquake.In 2016, the Washington Military Department learned a lot of lessons following “Cascadia Rising,” a full-scale exercise. The Guard will participate in another Cascadia exercise in 2022 to update its plan.After the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States, members of the Guard not only deployed to support the federal mission but were also activated to support security at airports across Washington. The Guard helped ensure that passengers were safe and comfortable to travel again. The Guard supported Operation Noble Eagle at airports until May 2002.As Washington National Guard members continued to deploy and return from missions overseas in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Guard members at home helped Washington state during emergencies.In 2005, as more than 3,000 members of the 81st Brigade Combat Team returned home from Iraq, many were called up to support missions in New Orleans following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Guard members provided presence patrols, assisted with air operations and helped in any way they were needed.Guard members continued to support state activations in 2007 and 2008 with flooding in western Washington, while also helping during snowstorms in eastern Washington in January 2009. That year, the 81st Brigade Combat Team was deployed to Iraq again.In 2010, the Washington National Guard would establish the Homeland Response Force, a group of Soldiers and Airmen that would assist during large-scale state emergencies with command and control, security, decontamination and transportation elements. The HRF was certified in 2011 and has been a model for other states.After a couple of years of growing wildland fires, the Guard took a proactive approach in 2013 with Operation Evergreen Ember, testing its ability to respond to major wildland fires.“While no one wants to see a repeat of last summer’s devastation, we can’t control Mother Nature,” said Major General Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general in 2013. “It is the Washington National Guard’s paramount duty to protect lives and property during emergencies.”It didn’t take long for members of the Washington National Guard to use their new firefighting skills. In back-to-back years, 2014 and 2015, Washington experienced the worst wildland fire seasons in state history. More than 2,300 Guard members joined firefighters across the state to protect cities and towns. The Guard was called to serve again in 2016, 2017 and 2018 during smaller wildfire seasons.On the morning of March 22, 2014, a portion of an unstable hill collapsed, sending mud and debris to the south across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, engulfing a rural neighborhood and covering an area of approximately one square mile.Guard members with the Homeland Response Force and aviation teams went to work looking for survivors and, during a 45-day activation, recovered remains of the 43 Washingtonians who died. They helped people in Oso, Darrington and Arlington with transportation, food, donations and logistics support.In 2016, the Guard provided election security support including an extra layer of cybersecurity, ensuring that all votes were counted correctly.In 2018 and 2019, the Guard supported first responders after snowstorms and flooding in Issaquah, Carnation, North Bend and Duvall.Now, 40 years after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the Washington National Guard is continuing to serve the citizens of Washington during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1,500 members of the Guard have been activated since March, helping out at food banks and drive-through testing sites, assembling COVID-19 test kits, providing logistical support, delivering home care and personal protective equipment, and assisting in a voluntary mapping mission to help slow the spread of the virus.For more National Guard news: Guard Facebook: Guard Twitter: