Over the past few decades, everyone in the US has heard of the National Guard in one way or another. Largely because many National Guard Units have been called to deployment in the Middle East, some taking heavy casualties. Other National Guard Units have been called to service in various states to help deal with emergencies of many kinds.
On this day, December 13, 1636, the very first Nation Guard Unit was formed in Massachusetts. The order to form the first militia regiment was issued by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In fact, the National Guard is the oldest official military force in America.
Today, the 101st Field Artillery Regiment, 181st Infantry Regiment and 182nd Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard are the descendants of the first militia regiment created on this day in 1696.
According to the official website of the National Guard:
“Established in 1636 when ordinary citizens formed militias to defend against hostile attacks, the National Guard is the country’s oldest military branch. The Guard’s citizen-soldiers have served as the nation’s first line of defense since America’s birth and have fought in every major conflict in America’s history, contributing to the organization’s expansive history and invaluable legacy.”
“With its dual mission, the National Guard is a reserve force with both state and federal responsibilities. Each soldier and airman holds membership in both the National Guard of his or her state and in the U.S. Army or the U.S. Air Force. When National Guard units are not mobilized or under federal control, they report to the governor of their respective state, territory (Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands) or the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard. Each of the 54 National Guard organizations is supervised by the adjutant general of the state or territory. Under state law, the National Guard provides protection of life and property and preserves peace, order and public safety. These missions are accomplished through emergency-relief support during natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and forest fires; search and rescue operations; support to civil defense authorities; maintenance of vital public services and counter-drug operations. The National Guard’s federal mission is to maintain well-trained, well-equipped units available for prompt mobilization during war and provide assistance during national emergencies.”
On July 13, 1916, New York’s 1st Aero Company was mobilized to help in the border crisis with Mexico and is considered by some to be the birth date of the second branch of the National Guard, the Air National Guard. In 1916, Pancho Villa of Mexico had raided north of the border into Columbus, New Mexico (New Mexico was admitted as the 47th state on January 6, 1912).
However, the official birth date for the Air National Guard is September 18, 1947 when Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947. This act created the United States Air Force and officially established the Air National Guard as a reserve unit of the Air Force.
On October 10, 1950, the Air National Guard saw their first official overseas deployment when fifteen flying squadrons were assigned to the Tactical Air Command during the Korean War.
On May 7, 1954, 1st Lieutenant Thomas E. Williams, a Tuskegee Airman, became the first black Air National Guard Pilot when he joined the 141st Fighter Bomber Squadron in the New Jersey Air National Guard.
On August 1, 1956, Captain Norma Parsons became the first female member of the Air National Guard. President Dwight Eisenhower had just signed legislation allowing for female nurses to join the National Guard, and Parsons soon joined the New York Air National Guard.
On January 27, 1978, 2nd Lieutenant Marilyn Koon became the first female pilot in the Air National Guard. She had previously been a member of the North Dakota Air National Guard when she became a pilot she was then assigned as a pilot flying KC-135 tankers in the 161st Air Refueling Group of the Arizona National Guard.
On November 1, 1997, then Lieutenant Colonel Linda K. McTague became the first woman to command an Air National Guard flying squadron. She was given command of the 201st Airlift Squadron of the District of Columbia.
During World War II, approximately 300,000 National Guardsman were mobilized into action.
During the Korean War, approximately 138,000 National Guardsman were mobilized into action.
During the Vietnam War, approximately 23,000 National Guardsman were mobilized.
During the Persian Gulf War, approximately 63,000 National Guardsman were mobilized.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, nearly 1 million National Guardsman have been mobilized into action.
Today, every state and territory of the United States, including Washington DC has National Guard units. Currently, there are approximately 1.4 million men and women serving in the National Guard, ready to protect and serve their respective states and the nation when called.
Sources for the above includes: National Guard Birth Date; The History and Roles of the National Guard; About the Army National Guard; History of the Army National Guard; The Evolving Role of the Citizen-Soldier; National Guard; 32 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions; Air National Guard History; National Guard Fast Facts