Oklahoma, Fort Sill celebrate as National Guard turns 377
December 19, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. (Dec. 19, 2013) -- One-hundred and fifty-one years older than the U.S. Constitution, and predating the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force, the National Guard turned 377 years old Dec. 13.
The Oklahoma National Guard and the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill celebrated the occasion with a cake cutting at Snow Hall here.
Before his invocation, Chaplain (Maj.) James O'Neal, Fort Sill Garrison chaplain, noted that he was a Florida National Guard Soldier for over 20 years.
"Our citizen-Soldiers have always answered the call of our commanding officers, governors and presidents, as we have sought to serve our states, former colonies and nation whenever the need arose," O'Neal said. "Heavenly father, continue to bless us as we continue to answer the call."
During the ceremony Brig. Gen. Glen Moore, Oklahoma Army National Guard assistant adjutant general; Brig. Gen. Christopher Bentley, Field Artillery School commandant and chief of FA; basic combat trainee Pvt. Brooke Bonnville, 18, the post's youngest National Guard Soldier; and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Rackley, 1st Battalion, 158th FA, age 56, the oldest guardsmen here, cut the birthday cake.
"We, as guardsmen, stand proud with the heritage that we have as being the oldest service," Moore said, afterward. "We've come forward, certainly with modern technology and all our mobilizations, being an equal partner with the active component. It's one team."
Bentley, who represented the FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general, listed the many missions Guardsmen perform including augmenting the active-duty force; supporting Oklahomans; responding to natural disasters -- most recently the Moore, Okla., tornadoes; presidential and gubernatorial inaugurations and Boy Scout jamborees.
That's doing missions sometimes with four bosses: the governor, the president, your civilian employer and your family, Bentley said.
"I am honored and proud ... and I look forward to working with each and everyone of you in the future," he said.
Rackley said it was bittersweet cutting the cake.
"It nice to be recognized as the oldest, but then you realize how old you really are," said Rackley, whose total guard time of almost 40 years has been with the state of Oklahoma.
Bonnville learned that she was going to cut the cake a couple days ago. She said she was nervous, but that it was a privilege. After BCT, she will go to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to learn to become a combat medic, and attend Idaho State University next fall.
The audience heard video birthday messages from National Guard leaders.
Gen. Frank Grass, National Guard Bureau chief, said: "While the nature of what we do has transformed dramatically and technically, we have never been more ready or trained, better equipped or more professional than we are today."
Lt. Gen. William Ingram Jr., Army National Guard director, said while many things have changed in the National Guard's almost-400 year history one thing has not. "The National Guard composed of citizen-Soldiers and Airmen remains a community cornerstone our country depends on everyday."
The National Guard and FCoE also used the ceremony to promote two National Guard Soldiers. Majors Paul Holdsworth, Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager Air Defense Artillery Brigade action officer, and Eugene Maxwell, Capability Development Integration Directorate force developer, were promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Holdsworth, an Ohio National Guardsman who is activated for one year here, said he was pleased that he was promoted on the birthday.
Maxwell said he was not anticipating being promoted on the birthday, but it was pretty special.
"In the artillery world we call it a hip shoot," Maxwell said. "It was a target of opportunity and it was really nice."
Master of ceremonies Col. Paul Caviness, FCoE senior guard adviser, said the 377th anniversary of the National Guard is about its heritage.
It started in 1636, when the Massachusetts Bay colony ordered existing militia companies to form into three regiments around Boston, said Caviness, an Arkansas National Guard Soldier.
"Those three regiments still exist in the Massachusetts National Guard and are some of the oldest units in the world," he said.
The Militia Act of 1903 created the modern National Guard, and organized it as the nation's primary reserve combat force, the colonel said. The National Defense Act of 1947 established the Air National Guard as a separate reserve component, as well as establishing the Air Force.
"The National Guard has participated in every U.S. conflict from the Pequot War of 1637 to our current deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom," Caviness said.