About the National Guard
History of the National Guard
The National Guard, the oldest component of the Armed Forces of the United States and one of the nation's longest enduring institutions, celebrated its 372nd birthday in December of 2008. The National Guard traces its history back to the earliest English colonies in North America. Responsible for their own defense, the colonists drew on English military tradition and organized their able-bodied male citizens into militias.
The Guard doubled the size of the Regular Army when it was mobilized in 1940, more than a year before Pearl Harbor, and contributed 19 divisions to that war, as well as numerous other units including Guard aviation squadrons. More than 138,000 Guardsmen were mobilized for Korea, followed by numerous smaller mobilizations for the Berlin Crisis, Vietnam, and numerous strikes and riots at home. Approximately 63,000 Army Guardsmen were called to serve in Desert Storm, and in the decade since then Guardsmen have seen a greater role than ever before -- conducting peacekeeping in Somalia, Haiti, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Guardsmen were called up by both their States and the Federal government to provide security at home and combat terrorism abroad. Today, in additional to its usual state-side requirements and OCONUS peace-keeping missions, the Army National Guard is heavily engaged in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today's National Guard
Today's National Guard continues its historic dual mission, providing the states with units trained and equipped to protect life and property, while providing the nation with units ready to defend the United States and its interests around the world.
The Army National Guard (ARNG) is one component of The Army (which consists of the Active Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.) The Army National Guard is composed primarily of traditional Guardsmen -- civilians who serve their country, state and community on a part-time basis (usually one weekend each month and two weeks during the summer.) Each state, territory and the District of Columbia has its own National Guard, as provided for by the Constitution of the United States.
The National Guard has a unique dual mission that consists of both Federal and State roles. For state missions, the governor, through the state Adjutant General, commands Guard forces. The governor can call the National Guard into action during local or statewide emergencies, such as storms, fires, earthquakes or civil disturbances.
In addition, the President of the United States can activate the National Guard for participation in federal missions. Examples of federal activations include Guard units deployed to Kosovo and the Sinai for stabilization operations, and units deployed to the Middle East and other locations in the war on terrorism. When federalized, Guard units are commanded by the Combatant Commander of the theatre in which they are operating.
The Guard's Federal Mission
During peacetime each state National Guard answers to the leadership in the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. During national emergencies, however, the President reserves the right to mobilize the National Guard, putting them in federal duty status. While federalized, the units answer to the Combatant Commander of the theatre in which they are operating and, ultimately, to the President.
Even when not federalized, the Army National Guard has a federal obligation (or mission.) That mission is to maintain properly trained and equipped units, available for prompt mobilization for war, national emergency, or as otherwise needed.
The Army National Guard is a partner with the Active Army and the Army Reserves in fulfilling the country's military needs.
The Guard's State Mission
The Army National Guard exists in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. The state, territory or district leadership are the Commanders in Chief for each Guard. Their Adjutants General are answerable to them for the training and readiness of the units. At the state level, the governors reserve the ability, under the Constitution of the United States, to call up members of the National Guard in time of domestic emergencies or need.
The Army National Guard's state mission is perhaps the most visible and well known. Nearly everyone has seen or heard of Guard units responding to battle fires or helping communities deal with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms or other emergency situations. In times of civil unrest, the citizens of a state can rest assured that the Guard will be ready to respond, if needed.
Return to top