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Always Ready. Always There.
Defending our Country
The National Guard is the oldest component of the US Armed Forces and
one of the nation’s longest-enduring institutions, celebrating its 370th birthday
in 2006. Responsible for their own defense, the colonists drew on English
military tradition and organized their able-bodied citizens into militias.
California Air National Guard conducts fireline training near Yosemite National Forest (USAF photo by MSgt Dan Kacir)
Throughout the 19th century, the size of the Regular Army was small,
and the militia provided the bulk of the troops during the Mexican War, the
early months of the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. In 1903,
important national defense legislation increased the role of the National
Guard (as the militia was now called) as a Reserve force for the US Army.
In World War I, which the US entered in 1917, the National Guard made up
40% of the US combat divisions in France; and, in World War II, National
Guard units were among the first to deploy overseas and the first to fight.
Following World War II, National Guard aviation units, some of them dating
from World War I, became the Air National Guard, the nation’s newest
The Guard stood on the frontiers of freedom during the Cold War,
sending soldiers and airmen to fight in Korea and to reinforce NATO during
the Berlin crisis of 1961-1962. During the Vietnam war, almost 23,000 Army
and Air Guardsmen were called up for a year of active duty; and, some
8,700 were deployed to Vietnam. Over 75,000 Army and Air Guardsmen
were called upon to help bring a swift end to Desert Storm in 1991.
19th Special Forces search and rescue exercise (USAF photo by MSgt Kevin J. Gruenwald)
Since then, the National Guard has seen the nature of its Federal
mission change, with more frequent call-ups in response to crises in Haiti,
Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Most recently, following the attacks of
September 11, 2001, more than 50,000 Guard members were called up by
123rd Special Tactics Squadron load rescue equipment for deployment to coastal Texas (photo by Dennis Flora)
both their States and the Federal government to provide security at home
and combat terrorism abroad. In the largest and swiftest response to a
he National Guard traces its history back to the
domestic disaster in history, the Guard deployed more than 50,000 troops
earliest English colonies in North America.
in support of the Gulf States following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The colonial militias protected their fellow
Today, tens of thousands of Guard members are serving in harm’s way
citizens from Indian attack, foreign invaders, and
in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the National Guard continues its historic dual
later helped to win the Revolutionary War. Follow-
mission, providing to the states military units trained and equipped to
ing independence, the authors of the Constitution
protect life and property, while providing to the nation units trained,
empowered Congress to “provide for organizing,
equipped and ready to defend the United States and its interests, all over
arming, and disciplining the militia.” However,
recognizing the militia’s state role, the Founding
Fathers reserved the appointment of officers and
training of the militia to the states. Today’s National
Guard still remains a dual state-Federal force.
20 Best of DC Best of DC 2
149th Infantry Regiment, SFC Michael Dobbs on patrol in Baghdad (US Army photo by SSG Jon Soucy)