Happy Birthday, National Guard

| December 13, 2012

Today the National Guard celebrates it’s 376th Birthday. The Guard has changed a lot in the thirty-plus years since I joined when their annual training was was a two week kegger.

The military organization we know today as the National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on December 13, 1636. On this date, the Massachusetts General Court in Salem, for the first time in the history of the North American continent, established that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. The North, South, and East Regiments were established. The decree excluded ministers and judges. Simply stated, Citizen-Soldiers who mustered for military training could be and would be called upon to fight when needed.

The National Guard has grown into a worldwide military force, yet it still retains the core characteristics that came into being on December 13, 1636. It is a community cornerstone rooted in the rule of law across the land. It enabled the early colonial settlers to meet the challenges of an uncertain world then as it does now. The National Guard will continue to be always ready and always there for the citizens that it serves.

Category: National Guard

Comments (25)

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  1. Hondo says:

    For what it’s worth: although most people don’t realize it, the requirement for universal militia membership still exists today. 10 USC 311 defines the United States militia as ” all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.”


    Except for inclusion of females, the definition is very close to the same as it was in the Militia Acts of 1792. It therefore follows the intent of the drafters of the 2nd Amendment regarding what they meant by “militia”.

    10 USC 311 is a handy legal citation to remember if/when you end up discussing the 2nd Amendment with some tool (like Sippy the Pinhead) who claims the “militia” clause in the 2nd Amendment only applies to the Reserve Components of the armed forces.

  2. JAGC says:

    For all those like me with a little too much affinity for low-brow humor, I really appreciate the fact that the modern National Guard was created through legislation known as the “Dick Act.”

    I believe the Dick Act (ha!) was needed because the old militia model was not working and got a bit ugly during the Spanish-American War… Things like only providing some militia members with winter uniforms to go fight in Cuba, etc. The reason the National Guard wears US Army on their uniforms is because of the precedent of the Dick Act.

  3. Hondo says:

    JAGC: so, in other words . . . some Dick was responsible for today’s ARNG and ANG? (smile)

  4. Adirondack Patriot says:

    And when the National Guard goes overseas, they are not sent over. They are Dicked over.

  5. CBSenior says:

    There they go again, those no good liberals in Massachusetts starting trouble again. What Dicks.

  6. SJ says:

    Re: “The Guard has changed a lot in the thirty-plus years since I joined when their annual training was was a two week kegger.”

    Is that ever true! In 76-77 the CSA sent some of us Army Staff MAJ’s out to bond with folks in the field. I drew being an evaluator of a Guard Signal Battalion at Camp Ripley. They were supposed to do a tactical road march on arrival and set up commo immediately. The ice chests and BBQ grills revealed their presence along with the total disregard of even creating the illusion. 12 hours later, they still had not established a single commo link. As I had always done in my Signal assignments, I wandered through the camp at 0200 and sat in the rigs and talked to the operators. Since it was 0200, the operators were the young guys an gals since the older guys were sleeping off the beer. They told me how they wished they could do it the right way if they had to waste 2 weeks out feeding the mosquitoes.

    I failed the BN on about Day 2. Wow did the smoke come in on me from the Guard political machine. I had GO’s threatening my career etc. Since I was already assigned to DCSOPS in the Pentagon, there was nothing they could do to me worse. Plus, my Pentagon GO boss (The MMFIC of the SigC) backed me up. The Guard leadership asked what it would take to change this. I said a total do-over beginning with the tactical road march. They were pissed but did it and then I helped them with how to get the comms working. Many of the younger troops came up to thank me at ENDEX.

    Think of them every time I have seen pictures Guard units in Gulf One to today. Gotta be tough to leave your job/business for undetermined periods of time. There was a sign on a vehicle in Gulf One that said: “Two Weekends a Month, My Ass”

  7. 68W58 says:

    SJ-let me add my thanks. There is little of the attitude that you describe left, but I have seen it in my time. For many years the Guard leadership failed to take our “go to war” mission seriously. The war pushed most of that type out and those few who are left are slowly aging out.

  8. Steadfast&Loyal says:

    Been a while….sorry about that. Just busy.

    It was still something of a “kegger” in the late 90s when I was in. I did some time while getting my commission in college.

    The NCOs were good; officers were ok. It was more good ole boy since situations like the company commander worked for one of the platoon sergeant’s company. many scenarios like that. Not to mention the first name basis thing.

    So….yeah things were off kilter and they were too button down for me. still when a training op was given and they mounted tanks…they were all business.

    So mixed bag.

  9. Tman says:

    Unfortunately seems many in the conventional side of things still have an intense dislike for the Guard and will never consider them “real.”

  10. O-4E says:

    I spent 13 years in the Regular Army as both enlisted and as an Officer and the last 10 years in the Guard AGR program. So I am intimately familiar with the ups and downs of both.

    Historically the problem has been big Army treating the Guard (and Reserve) like redheaded stepchildren. When you treat a person like a 2nd class citizen (both in fact and with resource allocation) guess what you get? A 2nd class citizen.

    When i first came in the Guard I was in a joint ARNG-ANG unit. My boss was an ANG LtCol and I remember explaining the whole FAD (Force Activity Designator) thing to him. He was amazed that the Army would fund and resource some units at lower levels than others. Like he said…why would you have a plane that is only 50-70% maintained and ready? Then why have it? But that is exactly what the Army had been doing to the Guard and Reserve since the end of WW2. But the Army expects 100% readiness.

    Fortunately the last 10 years have fixed many of these issues. With the shift from a “strategic reserve” posture into an “operational reserve” posture.

    In the end…the Guard has and continues to make up anywhere from 30-40% of the deployed forces the last 10 years. Second only to the Regular Army. And it cost the US taxpayer $0.35 to maintain a Guard or Reserve Soldier for every dollar spent on an active duty Soldier. Pretty good bargain.

  11. fm2176 says:

    Some units still did the “kegger” training as late as 2006. I recall training at Pickett with TOG and watching an ARNG unit trickle in Friday night and Saturday morning, set up grills, and eat/hang out ’til Sunday morning. the uniform seemed to be BDU trousers/t-shirt, PTs, or a combination.

  12. Sean says:

    When I joined the Guard in 84 from the regulars a Typical Home station drill for my infantry company went like this

    Scheduled First Formation 0730
    Actual First Formation 0800
    About 2/3 on the rolls actually Showed up
    then within an Hour most disappeared to sleep in elevator rooms and back of Deuces of the Artillery Bn.
    Scheduled Lunch 1200-1230
    Actual 1130-1300

    Again disappear till final formation My Platoon whos NCO’s were mostly just out of regs were doing rapelling from Balconies on drill floor, or learning to strip down an AK and SKS from a civvie one brought in by a Sgt

  13. Dave Thul says:

    Camp Ripley is a lot more strict on the beer now. I’ve never seen it in the field in 20 years, and even in barracks you are only supposed to drink in the chow hall. I’ve heard a persistent rumor that drinking in the field came to a quick halt after a mortar team fired a training round over the Mississippi River into private land, and that beer was involved.

    Fun fact-President Woodrow Wilson pushed a bill in Congress that came within a couple votes of passing that would have gotten rid of the National Guard and replaced it with a Continental Army.

  14. M. Oleman says:

    I’m an 11B in the IRR right now and have been thinking of giving the Guard a shot. Because you know, those guys get all the chicks.

  15. SJ says:

    #14 M. Oleman: but the Guard had chicks even back in my dark ages (but I know what you meant). A bright spot in my Camp Ripley war story was a female E5. Her radio rig was HERS! She knew everything about it and was damned proud of it. You did not mess with her rig.

    A leadership technique I was taught by MAJ Tinch in VN in the 1/101(ABN)(SEP)(Jan 68)(I hope he is alive and reads this) was to visit the rigs and have the Troopers “teach” me how to operate it. I could gain info on how proficient they were (since I knew how to work it) and in those 0200 quiet hours the Trooper would give me the real skinny on what was going on).

    Back to Ripley, In my 0200 patrol I could never get in the rig to chat with the on-duty operator because she was sleeping in a fart sack under the tailgate/steps and was at attention before I even got close. There, in 1976/7, I became a believer that women could do most tasks. Yeah, it was SigC but still…I’d want my daughter to have that opportunity.

    Sorry for the geezing from an old soldier…you folks bring it out because you can relate and are tolerant. I thank you. Airborne!

  16. When I was in Basic Combat Training at Fort Lewis, Washington in the Winter of 1968, our drill sergeant told us that the initials, “NG”, on a National Guardsman’s dog tags meant, “No Good”.

    That’s because guys joined the National Guard to avoid serving in Viet Nam.

    Still, at least a couple of National guard units did actually get sent to Viet Nam, but most did not.

    Many years later, when I got out of the Army, I joined the National Guard in Utah, and I would hear guys bragging about how they were glad their enlistment in the National Guard was finally completed, because they’d only joined the National Guard to keep from going to Viet Nam.

    Then, when the war started in Iraq, and National Guard and Army Reserve units were being sent, a lot of us Viet Nam veterans were laughing and cheering because we remembered what went on during the war in Viet Nam.

    Later, I joined the Utah State Guard, also known as the Utah Defense Force, which I learned was the TRUE minuteman militia for the state, NOT the National Guard, as the National Guard is actually part of the regular United States Army, subject to the President’s orders.

    Sometime back, I made a video explaining the difference between the United States Army, the Utah National Guard, and the Utah State Guard, as I’d served in all three components.

    Here is the URL for that video:


  17. One of the books in my personal library is, “VIET NAM: ORDER OF BATTLE”, by Shelby L. Stanton, which lists every United States Army unit that was in the Republic of Viet Nam.

    When I was living in Saint Anthony, Idaho, a couple of guys who I went to church with autographed that book’s page about their Idaho National Guard unit, a Combat Engineer battalion, which served in Viet Nam.

    Some years back, when Dan Quayle was campaigning to be elected Vice President of the United States, upon learning he was the same age I was, the question immediately popped into my mind, “Where was he when I was in Viet Nam?”

    It turns out that his Indiana National Guard unit had indeed gone to Viet Nam, but Dan Quayle remained in Indiana.

  18. O-4E says:


    Ok…and your point is?

    The Guard has fought in every war this nation has been involved in. In Vietnam it was limited and that is one of the major mistakes of the Vietnam war. NOT mobilizing and using the Guard.

    It has often been said…when the Guard goes to war…the NATION goes to war.

    The general public really doesn’t care when the regular Army goes…because they have little connection with the regular Army. But when the Guard…including Mr Smith the teacher and Mrs Jones the local banker goes to war…then the public pays attention and supports everyone.

    “Later, I joined the Utah State Guard, also known as the Utah Defense Force, which I learned was the TRUE minuteman militia for the state, NOT the National Guard”

    Uh…you need to learn the difference between the organized and unorganized militia…under federal and state law. Because you have no clue right now.

    I understand the hardon you may have because of Vietnam. But to bash on the Guard today is petty.

    I have 42 months deployed. I could easily bash on you for only serving 12 in Vietnam.

  19. Hondo says:

    O-4E: Don’t know how old you might be, and don’t really care. But I’d guess you are not old enough to remember much about Vietnam.

    I am (I was not old enough to have served during Vietnam, but I indeed remember it stateside – I grew up during same, near a major Army installation – and know personally some who served there). Mallernee is correct in his assertion that “guys joined the National Guard to avoid serving in Viet Nam”. Guard “slots” were highly coveted for precisely that reason once it became apparent that the US was not planning to send large numbers of Guardsmen to Vietnam. (For the same reason USN enlistments and, to a lesser extent, USAF enlistments were also highly coveted – you weren’t that likely to end up “in country” in either the USN or USAF.) And I’ve also personally heard Regular soldiers make the same statement about NG meaning “No Good” – albeit that was many years ago.

    Mallernee is also at least partly correct in making the distinction between the National Guard and a state guard, which some states in fact still maintain. Georgia and South Carolina in particular do so along with Utah, if I recall correctly. These are separate state military organizations, organized and funded under state authority, which are not Federally recognized and which are not subject to recall to Federal duty. Calling them “unorganized militia” is technically correct for the purposes of 10 USC 311, but is hardly correct in reality.

    In short: times have changed since Vietnam. You might want to consider that, as well as the fact that Mallernee was providing historical background based on personal knowledge and experience you do not have.

  20. O-4E says:


    Not saying the Guard during the Vietnam era wasn’t an “escape”; I took exception with his tone about the Guard in the current era.

    “Then, when the war started in Iraq, and National Guard and Army Reserve units were being sent, a lot of us Viet Nam veterans were laughing and cheering because we remembered what went on during the war in Viet Nam.”

    Old perceptions die hard. I do my best to stomp out those perceptions when I see them.

    As the son and nephew of Vietnam Vets I also know how your generation was treated by a lot of the WW2 Vets in a dick measuring contest. No need to treat the current generation the same way especially considering that many of them have combat time that exceeds what the WW2 Vets had.

    “which I learned was the TRUE minuteman militia for the state, NOT the National Guard”

    I am in a state that maintains both a Guard (organized militia) and a State Defense Force (unorganized militia) as outlined in Title 10 and 32 USC.

    So both are “TRUE” militias in fact and under law

    Like I stated earlier…I served 13 years in the Regular Army and the last 10 in the Guard AGR program. Sorry if my post sounded “snippy”. Belittling the service of any person or component doesn’t do any of us any good.

  21. The “Unorganized Militia” consists of all able bodied males of military age.

    The “Organized Militia” is the State Guard or State Defense Force, for they constitute the cadre responsible for organizing, training, and leading the Unorganized Militia if the Governor (who is their commander-in-chief) should activate them.

    Whenever the National Guard is activated and sent out of the state, the State Guard, or State Defense Force then assumes responsibility for securing that state’s armories and facilities.

    Formal recognition of, support for, and cooperation with the State Guard or State Defense Force is provided by the United States Army, utilizing National Guard facilities and United States government training courses.

    Because the Unorganized Militia consists of all able bodied males of military age, every male citizen has a civic responsibility to be properly armed and equipped, and any interference with that obligation by any agency violates both the Constitution of the United States of America and the unalienable rights of the individual citizen.

  22. O-4E says:


    “Because the Unorganized Militia consists of all able bodied males of military age, every male citizen has a civic responsibility to be properly armed and equipped, and any interference with that obligation by any agency violates both the Constitution of the United States of America and the unalienable rights of the individual citizen.”

    ok…I see what you were getting at. I apologize for my tone. And I agree with you 110%

  23. Hondo says:

    O-4E: fair enough. And, for what it’s worth: IMO the change has been mostly in the right direction.

    My career was similar in some respects to yours – a fair amount of Regular time, followed by extensive time in the Reserve components. In terms of both RC capabilities and how the RC is treated, things are much better now than they were 30 years ago.

  24. It was due to the defeat of the Confederate States of America, that the definition of “State Militia” became distorted, and its responsibilities usurped by creation of the National Guard, a component of the regular United States Army, resulting in many states eliminating their state militias, or making them utterly impotent, especially as over the years, the federal government grew ever more powerful, and even the concept of state sovereignty fading into history.

    Now, we as a nation, are so far down the road of federal tyranny, that any revival of our lost heritage is probably impossible, for as John Adams said, “Liberty, once lost, can never be restored”.

    Mox nix.

    I’m just a tired old geezer, unable to do anything but sadly watch the daily destruction of everything I ever cherished and believed in.

    Young folks today don’t even know what has been lost.

    I wonder – – – ,

    Who REALLY won the Cold War?

    Who REALLY won the Second World War?

    If we really did defeat the Communists and the Nazis, then WHY have we adopted everything they did, and become just like them?

  25. SJ says:

    Hope TSO will back me up on this. A lot of the faculty at The Citadel are civilians who never served in uniform (and looked it). But, the faculty wears uniforms so these folks are in the South Carolina Unorganized Militia. Yep, there’s an acronym: SCUM. You can imagine how us cadets handled that. I see from a recent document (http://www.citadel.edu/root/images/Academic_Affairs/military_rank_for_faculty_.pdf) that they call it Unorganized Militia of South Carolina to get around that. In ’63, it was SCUM.