CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Dec. 14, 2011) -- Third Army hosted an Army National Guard Birthday 5K run/walk here Dec. 13.

During the event, hundreds of service members and civilians came together to run/walk in celebration of the U.S. Army National Guard's 375th birthday.

"Today marks the beginning when civilians gathered and formed the first U.S. Armed Force to protect their homes and families," said Sgt. Cassaundra Jolly, a Minnesota Army National Guardsman with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. "This run commemorates the National Guard's beginning, and the successful accomplishments it's had since."

Founded in 1636, The Army National Guard is the oldest component of the U.S. Armed Forces. From its beginnings, the National Guard has participated in every U.S. conflict from the Pequot War of 1637 to current deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Currently, the National Guard is continuing its dual mission of providing its state with units trained and equipped to protect life and property, while providing the nation with units ready to defend the U.S. and its interests across the globe.

The run was kicked off by a cake-cutting ceremony featuring Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Dowd, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) commander, Master Sgt. Hylasue Howington, 230th Sustainment Brigade, the oldest Army Guardsman here, and Spc. Jackson Leach, 230th Engineer Battalion, 194th Engineer Brigade, the youngest Army Guardsman here.

After the cake cutting, service members were treated to a surprise visit from the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders. After the horn sounded and service members took off from the starting line, the cheerleaders ran alongside the troops as they cheered them on.

Pennsylvania Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Douglas Coakley, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 728th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 213th Regional Support Group said Third Army rightfully honored the Army National Guard's birthday.

"Today is a big deal. It's when we were created," said Coakley. "We Guardsmen provide service to our hometown, state and country. It's great to see Third Army host an event like this."

Third Army's commitment to the well-being of its service members remains a priority, officials said. Through events like the Army National Guard Birthday 5K run/walk, Third Army is honoring the U.S. Army National Guard's 375 years of achievements while keeping troops physically fit to sustain the fight and shape the future.