FORT Myer, Va. – The past few years, some 450,000 National Guard members have responded to unprecedented crises both home and abroad, ranging from devastating hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions and historic flooding to the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said Monday.Esper presided as Army Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, director of the Army National Guard, was promoted to general and took over as the 29th National Guard Bureau chief during ceremonies at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Hokanson succeeded Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who had served as NGB chief since August 2016.Despite daunting challenges, Lengyel focused on operational readiness, working seamlessly with governors and adjutants general, and taking care of service members, Esper said. "In doing so," he added, "he laid the foundation for an extraordinary response at a time when our nation needed it most."As the coronavirus spread, Lengyel helped surge personnel, equipment and capabilities to hot spots around the nation, bolstering hospital capacity, conducting tests, delivering food and supporting so many other actions to stem the spread of the virus and save lives, Esper said."And when the support to civil authorities mission expanded, in the wake of George Floyd's tragic murder, he adapted without hesitation, meeting the needs of state and local authorities and demonstrating our military's longstanding commitment to protect life, property and ensuring the sacred right of all Americans to peacefully protest and exercise their rights of freedom of speech," the secretary added.In June, nearly 84,000 members of the Guard were engaged in domestic efforts across all states and territories and the District of Columbia, Esper noted, marking the largest domestic response in many years. The size, scope and speed of the Guard's response is a testament to Lengyel's foresight to streamline relationships with states and employers, enabling the Guard to activate more quickly in the hour of need, he said.Esper said Lengyel passes the torch to a well-qualified leader, noting that Hokanson takes charge during unprecedented and challenging times for the nation."I know he possesses the character, competence and wealth of experience needed to excel in this role," the secretary said.Hokanson said it's an honor to lead America's greatest treasure: its sons and daughters."This is an important and pivotal time in the history of the National Guard," he said. "We have never been busier or more visible, and our missions have never been more complex and more important. What we do now, and what we do next, will ultimately shape our nation's future."Lengyel said the Guard has performed brilliantly over the years, particularly during the pandemic and civil unrest, and that he will rest easy knowing Hokanson is leading the Guard.For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard Twitter