By Eric Durr, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs December 13, 2012
LATHAM, N.Y. (Dec. 13, 2012) -- The New York National Guard's newest general officer teamed up with its oldest Soldier and one of its youngest, to salute the National Guard's 376th birthday at New York National Guard headquarters here, today.
Brig. Gen. Raymond Shields, the New York National Guard's director of joint staff, was joined by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Brian Smith, a Latham resident who enlisted in 1973, and Pvt. Shelbi Vanderbogart, of Averill Park, N.Y., who enlisted during the 2011 National Guard Birthday Ceremony, as they cut a birthday cake with ceremonial sabers.
Shields, a 30-year member of the New York Army National Guard from West Sand Lake, N.Y., was promoted to brigadier general in a ceremony just before the cake cutting.
The ceremony, which commemorates the date the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law establishing formal militia companies, has become an annual event at New York National Guard headquarters.
The annual Guard Birthday Ceremony was started under the previous Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto, and Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the current adjutant general of New York, has continued the tradition.
"It's my opportunity to see everybody at once," Murphy explained. "It's a chance to say thanks for everything people have done and when we get together like this it is a happy occasion. We recognize those who have gone above and beyond for the agency as a whole."
The cake-cutting ceremony traditionally involves the oldest Soldier present as well as the youngest. In past years cake cutters have included a World War II veteran who fought in the Pacific with the New York National Guard's 27th Division, and groups of Soldiers and Airmen who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Murphy thanked the National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, along with the state and federal civilian employees of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, for their daily service and dedication, as well as the extra effort they make during emergencies, like the New York National Guard response to Hurricane Sandy.
Everybody, whether they wear a uniform or not, is part of the same team, Murphy said.
"Our future is bright, whether it is doing our nation's business overseas or helping our neighbors right here at home," he said. "The National Guard stands ready when our state and nation call."
As part of the ceremony Murphy recognized two civilian employees for outstanding contributions: Robert Eckels, the deputy director of administrative services for the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, and Folena Schumaker, who plays a key role in processing State Active Duty payrolls.
Murphy also administered enlistment oaths to six new members of the New York Army National Guard and one new member of the New York Air National Guard.
Mary Kavaney, assistant to New York's Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, who was representing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, thanked the Guard Soldiers and Airmen for their service in responding to Hurricane Sandy earlier this year.
Shields, who joined the New York Army National Guard in 1983, served in a variety of command positions, to include battalion commander, executive officer of the 27th Infantry Brigade in Afghanistan and chief-of-staff of the New York Army National Guard before assuming his current position.
While the National Guard as a whole traces its birth back to the decision of the General Court of Massachusetts to establish set militia regiments, in New York the Citizen Soldier tradition began in 1640 when the Dutch East Indian Company organized the Burgher Guard (Citizens Guard) to help protect their New Amsterdam Colony on Manhattan Island.
The Dutch settlers were instructed to keep a musket in their homes and assemble at the fort when a cannon shot was fired. They were also fined for speaking ill of other members of the Burgher Guard.
When New Amsterdam and New Netherlands became New York in the 1660s, the English continued the militia tradition.
In fact, the country owes the term National Guard to New York's Citizen-Soldiers.
In 1824, the 7th Regiment of the New York Militia renamed themselves the National Guard to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War, who was visiting the city. He had commanded a force called the "Guard de National" in the early days of the French Revolution and the 7th Regiment decided that changing their name would be a way to honor him.
The New Yorkers liked the term National Guard so much that, in 1862, the New York State Militia was renamed the New York National Guard. Other states began using the term and it was enshrined in law by the Dick Act in 1903 which provided for federal funding and regulation of the state militias and made the term National Guard universal across the United States.
Citizen-Soldiers of the militia and National Guard have fought in all of America's wars from King Philips War against Native Americans in the New England Colonies in 1675 to the struggle in Afghanistan today.