Citizen-Soldiers on Guard for 374 Years
The United States’ oldest military, the National Guard, turns 374 today. The National Guard traces its roots to the colonial militias formed before the birth of the country. It has always been comprised of Citizen-Soldiers, from the days of the Minutemen, who come from their communities to serve their nation and fellow citizens. How can a military force be older than the country it serves? In the case of the National Guard, the Massachusetts General Court established a militia in 1636
Colonial militias became the organized militias referenced in the US Constitution’s Second Amendment. Unique among US military forces, the National Guard has both state and federal roles. In peacetime, state and territorial governors are the Commanders-in-Chief of their National Guard personnel. As reserves of the US Army and US Air Force, Guardsmen are also subject to call-up for federal service. To that end, Guardsmen and Reservists must meet active component training requirements and standards. They receive equipment and training funding from the Department of Defense (DoD).
It is presidential mobilization authority that has seen the National Guard—both Army and Air—in active defense of the country since 9/11. In fact, over 225,000 Guardsmen have been called up in support of the Global War on Terror. According to DoD statistics, in 2005 National Guardsmen and Reservists made up about half the forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fulfilling their federal mission, Guardsmen from each of the 54 states and territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands) have deployed overseas. Many units have deployed more than once and some Guardsmen are on or preparing for their third or fourth deployment. While consuming only 11% of the Army’s budget, Guardsmen make up almost 40% of its operational force.
The National Guard, and its predecessor militias, have always been a good value for the country. Citizen-Soldiers have always answered the call. They have always fulfilled the mission with excellence and professionalism. And they have always remembered their roots in their communities.
It might sound like a bank’s motto, but the National Guard represents local values and skills with global reach. Happy 374th birthday, National Guard.