Honor Our Veterans: Army National Guard Birthday

  • Michael Hicks

This year, on Dec. 13, the United States Army National Guard will celebrate its 385th birthday. 

More than 150 years before the Constitution, the Guard traces its origins to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

Some militias already existed, composed of armed men that were organized to protect their homes and farms from bandits and Indian raids, but they were informal arrangements dictated by circumstances and necessity. 

That all changed with an order of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s General Court. Tensions were mounting with the Pequot Indians, and so the court ordered the state’s militia to be organized into three regiments.

The 181st Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts National Guard are all descended from those first colonial militia regiments, making them the oldest units in the U.S. military. 

These units are older than the United States Army itself by almost 140 years! 

In a 1665 report to London, the colony wrote, “Our militia is ordered into three regiments of foote, besides some supernumary companies, under three majors & one major generall, together with our troopes, consisting of about fower thousand ffoote & ffower hundred horse, tho possibly more may be in the lists, our orders requiring all men to be armed & listed.”

The Militia Act of 1792 allowed militia units that had formed in the time before the law to retain their “customary privileges.” That was echoed by the Militia Act of 1903 and the National Defense Act of 1916. 

(Image source: WikiCommons)

Today’s Guard is very different, and the changes run deeper than muskets and M16s. 

National Guard units are not only controlled by the federal government, but also the state governments to which they belong. They are deployed to war zones during times of strife, and also come to the rescue of communities stricken with natural disasters.

This December, take a moment to remember the “citizen soldiers” of the U.S. Army National Guard, and be grateful to live in a country so well protected.

New York National Guard soldiers from Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, clear a M777 Howitzer, on Fort Drum, Watertown, N.Y., May 22, 2018. N.Y. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza
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