The oldest military force in the Department of Defense – the National Guard – turns 378 today.
On December 13, 1636, a colonial militia of Minutemen organized in the fledgling Massachusetts Bay Colony to protect the settlement. This group of ordinary Citizen Soldiers became the first state-organized military force in what would become the United States.
Other militias formed in their respective colonies in the coming years, and it was these Minutemen that ultimately laid down their plows and picked up their muskets to secure American independence from the British crown.
It was these Citizen Soldiers that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, here once the embattled farmer’s stood, and fired the shot heard round the world.”
Today we honor the storied heritage of the National Guard and its Citizen Soldiers and Airmen that still, to this day, remain America’s minutemen – trusted at home, and proven abroad.
Since those early days of colonial militias, Lexington and Concord and the struggle for American independence, the National Guard has been Always Ready, Always There.
The National Guard has been uniquely positioned and trained for its unique dual mission unlike any other force in America’s military arsenal. Our nation’s Citizen Soldiers and Airmen stand ready to assist when rising floodwaters or forest fires threaten homes, businesses and infrastructure. They are on the scene when tornados tear through communities or hurricanes swamp cities. They patrol in blizzard conditions rendering aid to stranded motorists. They respond in cases of domestic terrorism or hazardous materials.
But they are simultaneously prepared to go into combat with their active duty and reserve brethren. More than 11,500 of Wisconsin’s Guardsmen have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Just this week, more than 150 Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 829th Engineer Company returned from Afghanistan, as nearly 100 more from the 950th Engineer Company prepared for a deployment of their own.
Just last winter, the same 950th Engineer Company, which is now training to clear Afghan roads of improvised explosive devices, was assisting stranded motorists caught in an intense snowstorm.
Their service represents the dual-mission the National Guard has filled for nearly four centuries – trusted at home, proven abroad.