FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — On Sunday, Dec. 13, we celebrate the 384th birthday of the oldest military force in the Department of Defense — the National Guard.The Guard traces its lineage to early Massachusetts militias that defended their settlements against attack. In 1636, the National Guard answered the nation’s call to organize into three permanent regiments by region — East, North and South. Over the last four centuries, The National Guard has continued to grow into the fighting force you see today.Now there are nearly 450,000 Soldiers and Airmen serving in the National Guard, accounting for 20 percent of the joint force.The National Guard has transformed from a strategic reserve to an operational force. Since the Global War on Terror began, the National Guard has supported more than 1.1 million overseas deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Balkans, Guantanamo Bay, the Sinai and other locations.The Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard have also been instrumental in the homeland over the past year. Between hurricane responses, assisting federal and state agencies during social unrest and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation has repeatedly called on them to protect our country.The National Guard serves both community and country. Our military is the greatest in the world due in large part to the professionalism, hard work and adaptability of our Guardsmen and women.To all the Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard who make up nearly 50 percent of Military Police, Engineer and CBRN forces, and to all the Guard members who train at Fort Leonard Wood – including the Missouri Army National Guard’s 35th Engineer Brigade – we are proud to serve with you. Happy birthday, National Guard.Victory Starts Here — Victory Through Skill.