Always Ready, Always There
Happy Birthday to the National Guard
December 9, 2015 by Mark Dye
The American military has a long and proud tradition—one that actually started before any of the four “major” branches were ever created. The date was Dec. 13, 1636, and the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the then-separate militias of the colony to be organized into three units (North, South, and East) in order to give the groups a better chance of success and provide some oversight. From these humble beginning began what is now known as the National Guard.
Of course, it wasn’t known as the National Guard until much later. There were some militias who used that name when referencing themselves (particularly in New York state in the early 1800s), but for the most part the American military was small and drew from small state groups. The Spanish-American War changed all that, however, as Congress decided it was time to regulate the training and qualifications of all its troops in order to better guarantee success on the battlefield. And with the passage of the Dick Act in 1903, the name “National Guard” became official.
There were several tweaks in the following years, including the National Defense Act of 1916 that put into place further oversight. But the Guard was still just a collection of state militias with some—but not complete—control by the federal government. It wasn’t until the National Guard Mobilization Act of 1933 that a centrally controlled reserve force came into being. While there would still be state militias, the federal government would also have at its disposal a group of military members ready to serve when called upon. Other laws that affected the Guard included the The National Defense Act of 1947 (which created the Air Force), and the Total Force Policy of 1973 that mandated all active and reserve forces be treated as one cohesive force, rather than a collection of separate ones.
As the oldest of the military branches, the Guard has been instrumental in facing challenges both abroad and at home. Whether it is serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to fight against terrorism, or delivering aid supplies during natural disasters, the Guard has stepped up to serve time and again.
Happy (early) birthday, National Guard! Thank you for your centuries of service to our nation.
National Guard facts:
- Age: 379 years
- Famous members: Dan Quayle (44th Vice President); Tom Selleck (actor); Babe Ruth (hall of fame baseball player); Brock Lesnar (wrestler and MMA fighter)
- State with the most Guardsmen: California, with more than 21,000 (Army and Air)
- State with the least: Delaware, with just a tad more than 2,600.
- Territory with the least: U.S. Virgin Islands, with 841
- Territory with the most: Puerto Rico, with 8,490