FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Dec. 20, 2018) -- One of the unique missions of the National Guard was its Agri-Business Development Team that worked in Afghanistan in 2009-2010, said Brig. Gen. Frank Rice, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill deputy to the commanding general Army National Guard Air Defense Artillery.

These teams were made up of National Guard Soldiers with backgrounds in agriculture, who then worked with local Afghan farmers; and provided advice to local universities and connected them to American agricultural schools.

"We taught 360 folks there how to bee-keep. It worked out good," said Rice, who was mobilized to be on the team. "From what I hear it's still working."

The nation celebrated the 382nd birthday of the National Guard Dec. 13, and at Fort Sill a cake cutting ceremony by the post's youngest and oldest National Guard Soldiers highlighted the event.
Commanders, service members, Department of Army civilians, families and friends joined in the celebration at Snow Hall. Rice was the guest speaker.

In his invocation, Fort Sill Installation Chaplain (Col.) Jimmy Nichols said, God, from the formation of the militia in 1636 to the fighting in the longest war in U.S. history, the National Guard has stood the test.

During the ceremony, Rice along with Pvt. Dustin Ellis, age 17, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Earnest Metcalf, 54, cut the cake. Ellis is a basic combat trainee in D Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery; and Metcalf, is the FCoE senior warrant officer adviser for field artillery.
Guests were first treated to a short video about the National Guard's many state and federal missions.

In his remarks, Rice gave a chronological history of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

He detailed the range of their missions from disaster response to border security to fighting alongside active-duty forces.

The National Guard traces its origins to the militias of the 13 orginal colonies, Rice said. The oldest units were organized Dec. 13, 1636, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony Militia.

The founding fathers recognized the importance of the militia by writing it into the Constitution, he said. In the militia's case, power was divided between individual states and the federal government.

"Throughout its history, the National Guard has often been an invisible, but vital force," the general said. "Most days, we are among you in the community.

When a domestic crisis hits, or the call to arms is declared, the National Guard transforms to serve as citizen Soldiers and Airmen.
When called upon, the National Guard stands up to its motto, "Always Ready, Always There," said Rice.
Today
, the National Guard has over 22,000 mobilized Soldiers and Airmen, with nearly 15,000 of those deployed overseas, Rice said. In addition, there are over 5,300 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen on duty supporting domestic operations.

The ceremony ended with a playing of "The Army Song." Most guests stayed and enjoyed refreshments including the cake.