National Guard Celebrates 387 years of Being ‘Always Ready, Always There’

By Corinna BaltosDecember 13, 2023

National Guard Celebrates 387 years of Being ‘Always Ready, Always There’
December 13th commemorates the 387th anniversary of the founding of the National Guard. On December 13th, 1636, the Massachusetts General Court established an official militia for the first time in the American Colonies. The National Guard is a component of the U.S. Army, and Air Force, and is primarily composed of citizen-soldiers who hold down full-time civilian jobs. At the same time, they are available to provide support and protection for the states' civilians or be called for military operations at a national level. (Photo Credit: Corinna Baltos) VIEW ORIGINAL

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – The history of citizen-Soldiers fighting and winning wars for the United States began long before it was even a country. Citizen-Soldiers won the War of Independence, and citizen-Soldiers are responsible for every U.S. military victory in war, both before and since the Revolution.

But who were these first citizen-Soldiers? Why were they formed?

In 1636 the colonists of the newly formed Massachusetts Bay colony were under attack from the neighboring Pequot Tribe. The arrival of more and more settlers from Europe, and the increased need for more land, had put them at odds with the native population.

The colonists needed to defend themselves against the attacks, however there would be no military assistance from England due to the logistical issues of sending troops across the Atlantic Ocean. So, on Dec. 13, 1636, the colonial leaders formed three militia regiments of men between the ages of 16 and 60 to defend the colony. This militia would help win the Pequot War the following year and would become the foundation of today’s National Guard.

The state militia continued to grow throughout Massachusetts during the 17th and 18th centuries, with each town having at least one company. After the War of Independence, the militia system was incorporated into each state. However, it wasn’t until 1824 that the term National Guard was used to refer to these groups, when the New York State militia re-named itself the National Guard. Later, the National Defense Act of 1916 required that all states refer to their state militias as National Guards.

Throughout our nation’s history the National Guard has played an important role in the defense of the country. Until the 20th century, the U.S. maintained a minimal Army and relied on the state National Guards to supply most of its troops.

During the 20th century, as the U.S. began to take a larger role on the world’s stage, the role of the National Guard evolved. The National Defense Act of 1947 created the Air National Guard as one of its reserve components.

Today the citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are part of a military reserve force that represents every state as well as the territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. They maintain trained units that provide protection of life and property in cases of civil unrest, or natural or man-made disasters. They also can be deployed to serve as an essential part of America’s forces abroad.

The members of the National Guard are frequently called citizen-Soldiers (or airmen) because most of the members work at a civilian job in their community while serving part-time in the Army or Air National Guard.

Typically, a National Guardsman trains one weekend a month and two-weeks for annual training. However, there are some members of the Guard who serve in a full-time position. Often, they are found at state headquarters or into active Army units such as U.S. Army Sustainment command.

One of these people is Lt. Col. David Tanner, the senior National Guard advisor at ASC.

Tanner serves as the principal advisor to ASC commanding general and staff for integrating shared understanding, unity of effort, and operational agility on all matters related to organization, maintenance, and operations of Army National Guard units. He also serves as the primary channel of communication between ASC and the National Guard Bureau.

Tanner said the Guard plays an important role on today’s battlefield because of their unique role as citizen-Soldiers.

“It allows them to look at things from a different angle,” said Tanner, whose prior experience as a lawyer helped him figure out solutions to problems while serving as an infantryman in the National Guard. Military personnel are taught to look at things “the military way,” however, with members of the Guard working primarily in the civilian sector they can often see different ways of solving a problem.

“Being able to look at things in different ways helps us achieve our objective of overwhelming the enemy and achieving victory,” said Tanner.

Tanner also noted while most active-duty Soldiers move to a different community every few years, National Guard Soldiers move far less frequently, and can frequently stay in the same unit for their entire career.

By serving with units near or in the community from which they come, National Guard Soldiers and Airmen provide a community-connected presence for our military throughout the United States.

“It’s the two-way community connection that helps all Soldiers, and our military overall,” said Tanner. “G.K Chesterton, the noted English writer, is known for saying, ‘The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.’”

In 2022 there were 435,576 Army and Air National Guard personnel serving all over the U.S. and abroad.