LATHAM, N.Y.- The New York National Guard marked the 378th birthday of the National Guard with a traditional cake-cutting ceremony at New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs headquarters here Monday, Dec. 15.
New York National Guard Command Sgt. Major Louis Wilson, age 59 - the senior enlisted Soldier present, joined 17-year old New York Air National Guard Airman James McPartlin, who enlisted in September, in cutting the birthday cake.
The event also featured an oath of enlistment reaffirmation of ten Army and Air National Guard recruits, by Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the adjutant general of New York, and awards for members of the Division of Military and Naval Affairs Civilian work force.
"We may be 378 years old, but we are made up of people and the people have shaped the Guard," Murphy told the audience of 300. "It's proper that this birthday ceremony also marks the start of a career for those who have chosen to join our ranks," he added.
Mary Kavaney, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's representative at the event, praised the Guard members present for their dedication to duty both overseas and here at home.
Kavaney, who serves as assistant deputy secretary for public safety, said that every civilian should get the chance to attend a National Guard deployment ceremony.
"They would see the face of sacrifice of the National Guard members and their families," she said.
"They should also see the faces of the Soldiers sleeping on the armory floor after a day spent shoveling people out after a snowstorm hits," she added.
The annual recognition of the National Guard's official birthday provides a chance to honor those who are part of the New York National Guard team, as well as remember what being a Citizen Soldiers is all about, Murphy said.
The National Guard, today composed of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, traces its birthday back to Dec. 13, 1636, when the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law establishing formal militia companies in the colony. These companies were made up of all adult males older than 16 and were expected to meet and train in military skills regularly.
The New York Army National Guard musters 10,500 and there are just under 6,000 members of the New York Air National Guard.
New York Army National Guard members responded to New York City Sept. 11, 2001, and have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and served in African and Kuwait since then. During 2004/2005 there were 4,500 New York Army National Guard Soldiers mobilized in Iraq and Afghanistan or preparing to deploy there.
The New York Air National Guard is comprised of five wings and the Eastern Air Defense Sector which is responsible for monitoring the nation's airspace east of the Mississippi. The flying wings operated MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft maintaining combat air patrols in Afghanistan, fly scientists and supplies to Antarctica and Greenland, carrying strategic cargo around the world, and stand ready to conduct land, air or sea rescue missions.
Murphy is also responsible for the 2,500-member New York Naval Militia and the 750 members of the New York Guard, a uniformed force which augments the National Guard.
In New York, the first citizen-soldiers were members of the Burgher Guard, organized by the Dutch East Indian Company in 1640 to help protect New Amsterdam from their English neighbors in Massachusetts and Virginia or from hostile natives. After New Amsterdam became the English colony of New York in 1665 a militia modeled on the system used in Massachusetts and other English colonies was put in place.
Some notes from New York National Guard history include:
• New York gave the country the term National Guard for its militia forces when the 2nd Battalion, 11th Regiment of the New York Militia renamed themselves the National Guard to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War who had commanded a force called the "Guard de National" in the early days of the French Revolution.
• The 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry was portrayed in the 1940 movie "The Fighting 69th" starring Jimmy Cagney, and Pat O'Brien. The movie was based on the unit's service in World War I.
• The New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division was given its nickname "The Rainbow Division" during World War I by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur, then a colonel, was charged with organizing a division of National Guard troops from across the country to deploy to France in 1917. He described the division as reaching across the country "like a rainbow."
• The band of the New York National Guard's 369th Infantry Regiment, an African American unit originally formed as the 15th New York, is credited with introducing jazz music to Europe during World War I. The 369th became known as the Harlem Hellfighters.
• The oldest Air National Guard unit in the nation is part of the New York Air National Guard. The 102nd Rescue Squadron of the 106th Rescue Wing traces its history back to the 1st Aero Company organized in the New York National Guard in 1908 as a balloon unit.
• The Soldiers of the New York National Guard's 105th Infantry Regiment faced the largest Japanese "Banzai" attack of the Second World War on 7 July 1944 on the Island of Saipan. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry had 650 men killed and wounded but killed more than 4,300 Japanese Soldiers. Three regimental Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor posthumously that day.
• The New York National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division served in Iraq in 2005 and was the first National Guard division headquarters to deploy to a combat zone since the Korean War in 1953.
Citizen soldiers of the militia and National Guard have fought in all of America's wars from King Philips War against Native Americans in the New England Colonies in 1675 to the current war in Afghanistan today.