The United States National Guard has a long and prestigious history. The tradition began in 1636 when colonial militias were called to arms to protect their colonies under an organized command. The title “National Guard” was coined in 1825 when such militia units continued serving alongside the regular US Army in conflicts such as the Mexican-American War, Civil War, and Spanish-American War.
The early 20th century was the defining period in the history of the National Guard. In 1903, the National Guard was officially recognized by the federal government and designated a reserve component of the US Army.
World War I was the first war that the National Guard participated in as an official component of the United States military. Guardsmen made up approximately two-fifths of the US servicemen serving in Europe. The National Guard’s wartime role further increased during World War II, in which a total of 19 Guard divisions were deployed to the front lines.
In 1947, the Army Air Corps was deactivated and reorganized into the United States Air Force. After this restructuring, the Air National Guard was formed from the aviation units previously serving as components of the Army National Guard.
Since the modern structure of the Army and Air National Guards were formed, units from both branches have served valiantly in every major US military conflict. Hundreds of thousands of Guardsmen served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and over 60,000 Guardsmen were called to duty for Operation Desert Storm. The National Guard has also participated in operations including Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, and the Middle East.
Just as they have throughout history, National Guardsmen stand strong today and are ready to serve wherever they may be needed. They live by their motto: “Always ready, Always there.”
The United States National Guard is a military force unlike any other. Since the first guardsmen took up arms to protect the colonies in 1636, National Guardsmen have always been standing by in case they needed to be called to the nation’s defense.
The National Guard’s mission is far more flexible than other branches of the military. During times of war, guardsmen serve on the front lines alongside servicemen and women of the army, navy, air force, and marines; during times of peace, however, the Guard is tasked with directly assisting citizens during emergencies such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
In order to more effectively respond to crises, the National Guard is organized on the state level. Each state is responsible for maintaining its own Guard units, which is why you hear units referred to as the Georgia National Guard and so on. In addition to being called upon by the federal government during national crises, state governors can activate national guard units during states of emergency.
The National Guard consists of two main divisions: the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard. The Air Guard consists of a variety of aircraft units that conduct a variety of air operations. When called into federal service, the Air Guard becomes a reserve component of the US Air Force. The Army National Guard, on the other hand, is called into service as a component of the US Army and is composed of various ground units such as infantry, armor, and reconnaissance units.