FORT SILL, Okla. -- The Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard celebrated its service's 375th birthday Dec. 12 at the Fort Sill Armed Forces Reserve Center.

Keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma National Guard adjutant general, spoke of the National Guard's heritage and future.

The National Guard was formed Dec. 13, 1636, when the general court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the organization of the colony's militia, according to the ceremony program. Congress enacted the Militia Defense Act of 1792 that directed militias to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

"The National Guard has played a role in the defense ever since," said Deering, who commands 10,000 Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers and airmen. "The citizen-Soldiers firmly believed that military service was required to make the nation and their communities a safer place."

The National Guard predates the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps by 139 years, Deering said. It predates the U.S. Air Force by 311 years.

Breaking down the National Guard's history into 20 year generations, Deering said Generation 7 battled the British at Lexington and Concord, Mass. While Generation 12 saw brother against brother in the Civil War.

Oklahoma remembers Generation 15, which sent its 180th Infantry Regiment with the Texas 36th Infantry Division into battle in World War I, he said. "Today, they still wear the arrowhead patch with the 'T' in the middle," Deering said. "I don't ever forget to remind my Texas brethren that the 'T' does stand for Texas, but that arrowhead stands for Oklahoma."

Generation 16, the greatest generation, had the Oklahoma 45th Infantry Division "Thunderbirds" fighting its way through Europe "spending an unprecedented 511 days in combat," Deering said. A short five years later they fought in Korea.

In today's fight, there are more than 3,000 Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers in Afghanistan, said Deering, who has 40 years of service. "Out of that there are 76 out of 77 counties represented."

Those are the young men and women, who come out of schools, businesses and universities, who go to war, he said. "The support of the community goes with those young men and women."

"The Oklahoma National Guard has activated over 13,000 Army members since 9/11," Deering said. "We lead the nation in the number of mobilizations that the Army has had since 9/11."

One can put a National Guard Soldier next to an active-duty Soldier and you cannot tell the difference between the two, he said.

Even after the last shot is fired and the last Soldier leaves Iraq and Afghanistan, the National Guard will continue its missions, he said. Those include combating domestic terrorism, the U.S. Southwest border patrol mission, multiple force operations worldwide, and urban and agricultural development teams in third world countries.