Two Guardsmen Return to Duty After Being Shot at in Minneapolis; 3K Troops Brace for Unrest

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Police and National Guard troops stand watch outside of the Hennepin County Government Center -- site of the Derek Chauvin trial for the death of George Floyd -- while activists march past on March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The two Minnesota National Guard members who were fired upon in a drive-by shooting Sunday morning have returned to duty, a Guard spokesman said. 

The Guardsmen suffered minor injuries when someone in a light-colored SUV fired several shots, according to a Sunday statement from the Minnesota National Guard. The two service members sustained minor injuries. One was injured by shattered glass and treated at a local hospital; the other "received only superficial injuries." 

"I am relieved to know none of our Guardsmen were seriously injured," Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, the Minnesota National Guard adjutant general, said in a statement. "This event highlights the volatility and tension in our communities right now. I ask for peace as we work through this difficult time."

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Lt. Col. Scott Hawks, a Minnesota Guard spokesman, declined to disclose the injured service members' units.

The Guardsmen are on state active-duty orders, which don't allow them to seek medical care or disability compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs -- meaning soldiers who suffer a life-altering injury while on these orders are blocked from receiving the care to which other veterans are entitled. Troops on state duty are, however, entitled to worker's compensation through the state.  

"State Active Duty is based on state law and does not qualify as "active service" for VA benefits," a VA summary on National Guard benefits says. "Unlike full-time National Guard duty, National Guard members on State Active Duty are paid with state funds as opposed to Federal funds."

When National Guard units are activated under state orders, they are essentially state labor and only loosely tied to the military; troops must even fill out new W-4 forms when reporting to duty. Because of this, Guard troops on state orders are generally paid less than their active-duty counterparts and are not entitled to accrue benefits such as the GI Bill

For the Guard to earn active-duty pay and all benefits, including health care, the president would need to declare a state of emergency and place troops under Title 32 status, meaning the Guard members would stay under the command of the state, but the federal government would foot the bill for their mission. 

Protests erupted in the Minneapolis area after the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man killed by a White police officer during a traffic stop April 11. Racial tensions in the area were already at the boiling point in anticipation of the verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, another Black man, last year. 

Approximately 3,000 Minnesota Guard troops have deployed to the Minneapolis area amid days of protests. Police have used chemical irritants and pepper balls against protesters, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Law enforcement has also been seen assaulting, detaining and photographing journalists, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder reported.  

The military's mission in Minnesota comes after more than a year of virtually non-stop domestic missions for the National Guard, including coronavirus relief, securing Capitol Hill, combating wildfires and responding to hurricanes. This, on top of missions abroad, has marked one of the busiest times in the National Guard's history. 

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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