You read that right: at 384 years old, your National Guard is older than not only the country, but also most states in the country, with a history as rich as our nation’s.
On December 13th, 1636, the Massachusetts colonial legislature directed that the colony’s existing militia companies be organized into three regiments. These regiments today are 101st Engineer Battalion, the 101st Field Artillery Regiment, the 181st Infantry Regiment, and the 182nd Infantry Regiment, all of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They share the distinction of being the oldest units in the U.S. military. Since their founding, these units have fought in every one of our nation’s wars, from the War for Independence to the present day.
The oldest Air National Guard unit is the 102nd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard. This unit was originally organized in New York as the Aero Company, Signal Corps, U.S. Army Air Corps on November 22nd, 1915, decades before the separation of the U.S. Army Air Forces into the U.S. Air Force in 1947. The oldest Air National Guard unit in continuous existence is the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard, which was organized and federally recognized as the 109th Observation Squadron on January 17th, 1921.
Did you know the National Guard is unique in the military due to their dual mission? That’s right, the National Guard serves both their home state and the nation. The Army and Air National Guards are both components of their respective service within the Department of Defense, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The National Guard has been a critical part of the operational force during the last two decades of conflict. Yet it is their unique status as state militia that enables them to perform duties that no other service can.
The Posse Comitatus Act was passed to prevent the use of federal troops in performing law enforcement functions following abuses during Reconstruction after the Civil War. As a state force, the National Guard is exempt from Posse Comitatus, which is why they are often called upon during state emergencies for things like search and rescue, traffic control, evacuation support, and other law enforcement.
In recent years, the National Guard has been at the forefront of homeland defense as well. Many state governments have been targeted by hackers and ransomware. The National Guard has used its cyber protection and defensive cyber operations teams to assist state agencies in fending off and recovering from these attacks.
The National Guard has also been critical to the COVID-19 response effort, distributing personal protective equipment, converting convention centers into field hospitals, and other logistic support. In the coming days, expect the National Guard again to be front and center, aiding federal, state, and local authorities in distributing and possibly administering a life-saving vaccine to COVID-19.
These are just a few examples of how your National Guard has stayed vibrant, relevant, and since 1636, “Always Ready, Always There” to serve you.