WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 13, 2006) - The National Guard turned 370 years old, and the National Guard Bureau is celebrating with a Web site dedicated to the organization and its history.
The site, www.ngb.army.mil/features/birthday/index.html, chronicles the Guard's history, starting in 1636 when the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which functioned as the colony's legislature, ordered existing militia companies from the towns surrounding Boston to form into three regiments: North, South and East.
"These first Minutemen answered the call, banding together for the common defense, an effort which grew nationwide to protect towns, states, and ultimately the nation from all enemies, civil, natural and foreign," Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, wrote in a letter on the site.
The American colonies adopted the English militia system, which obligated all males to possess arms and participate in the defense of the community, according to the site. The need for a colonial militia was ratified in the Constitution, and since then, Congress has enacted several militia and defense acts to strengthen the National Guard.
"Today, more than 50,000 citizen-Soldiers and airmen are serving overseas as part of the global war on terror," Blum wrote in his letter. "Over 9,000 are serving here at home in domestic missions such as supporting our nation's efforts to secure our borders, guarding critical infrastructure and providing emergency response to our governors.
"Not unlike those Minutemen 370 years ago, today's Guard members are citizens who believe that an organized militia is essential to the common defense. With centuries of courage, commitment and tradition behind them, the National Guard proudly remains always ready, always there."
In a letter commemorating the birthday, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked the members of the National Guard for serving valiantly in times of war and peace.
"We simply could not sustain current operations without the National Guard," Pace wrote. "The courage and sacrifice of every Guard member are truly inspiring. Your outstanding service as citizen-Soldiers comforts those in need and protects our homeland."
The National Guard has made up a significant portion of the forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. At one point in 2005, half of the combat brigades in Iraq were Army National Guard, according to information on the Web site. The Guard is playing a more active role than ever before, integrating with active forces in combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, information on the site says.
The Web site lists information from each period in the National Guard's history and details on some state-sponsored events commemorating the 370th birthday.