by Col. Pierre B. Oury
USAFE-AFAFRICA Air National Guard Advisor
12/10/2015 - RAMSTEIN AB, Germany -- December 13th marks the 379th birthday of the National Guard.
On this date in 1636, the first militia regiments in North America were
organized in Massachusetts. Based upon an order of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony's General Court, the colony's militia was organized into three
permanent regiments to better defend the colony.
So, what exactly is the National Guard? In a nutshell, it's part of the
Army and Air Force reserve component. The guard is composed of military
units in each of the 54 states, 3 territories, and the District of
What makes the Guard truly different from its reserve and active-duty
counterparts is that when not mobilized, the governor in each respective
state or territory is the commander-in-chief of the units. The
governor, in turn appoints a senior joint military commander called The
Adjutant General or TAG. The only exception is in South Carolina where
the TAG is an elected position and not appointed by the governor. This
command structure allows the Guard to react to national disasters
swiftly and precisely.
No other force in the nation is able to rapidly provide military
equipment and capabilities during a domestic emergency like the National
Guard. Called to duty by the governor, the National Guard is typically
already working with first responders before any federal emergency is
declared. National Guard members were called up 286 times by their
governors in Fiscal Year 2015 for 53 natural disasters, 27 structural
fires, 53 explosive ordinance disposal events and 117 search-and-rescue
missions. They also provide support to law enforcement, border security,
counterdrug support and protect America's skies by providing fighter
and tanker alert response.
The Guard is also a global partner with 70 partnerships around the world
through its State Partnership Program that started in 1993. Why?
Because the Department of Defense has recognized that pairing a State
National Guard to a partner nation provides unparalleled enduring
relationships. The US has seen many successes thanks to this program.
For example, as a result of Michigan's 22 year partnership with Latvia,
USAFE and the Air National Guard executed the first MQ-1 Predator
training deployment to the Baltics with great success in September. As a
colleague once said, "You can't surge trust."
But the true key to the Guard's success is its people.
Roughly 70% of Guard members are part-time soldiers and airmen and only
30% are fulltime. We are police officers, airline pilots, plumbers and
teachers in our communities who make a seamless transition to Soldiers
and Airmen when our states, territories or Nation call. It's because of
this makeup that I see examples of where innovative civilian skills
complement military training in operations both overseas and at home
time and time again.
This combination of civilian and military attributes has enabled the
National Guard to do three things extraordinarily well: Fighting
America's Wars, Protecting the Homeland, and Building Global
So, now that you understand the National Guard take a moment to
celebrate the generations of citizen-soldiers who continue to defend
community and country.