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National Guard marks 378 years of service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
One of the nation's most enduring institutions will marks its 378th anniversary on Saturday. The National Guard is the oldest of America's military forces, pre-dating the Declaration of Independence by more than 140 years.

While the U.S. National Guard traces its history to a Dec. 13, 1636, order by the governing board of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to form a militia in the colony, it would be more than a century and a half later before the first forerunners of the Michigan National Guard would form.

The National Guard's "First Muster" took place in the spring of 1637, following the December order by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Today, several Massachusetts National Guard units trace their lineage directly back to those original regiments.

Several dates are worthy of mention in relation to the creation of the Michigan National Guard.

The first evidence of an organized, formal militia in Michigan is the mention of the participation of the First Regiment of Wayne County in a parade in Detroit on May 11, 1803. However, neither the occasion for the parade nor the strength of the regiment was recorded. Two years later, on June 30, 1805, the act organizing the Territory of Michigan took effect, with Gen. William Hull as the first territorial governor. The act included a provision for the creation of a state militia, consisting of 18- to 45-year-old males.

In 1870, the state created the Michigan State Troops, a move that created a standardized, state-wide militia organization. Previously, militias had existed in the state as local organizations, with highly varying standards. In 1891, the Michigan Legislature passed a new measure which, among other things, changed the name of the Michigan State Troops to the Michigan National Guard.

Two dates were key in the establishment of the Michigan Air National Guard. The first is May 7, 1926. On that date, the 107th Observation Squadron received federal recognition and officially became the first flying unit of the Michigan National Guard. The pilots and support crews that became the 107th had begun meeting the previous year in a Detroit garage. The Michigan Air National Guard was detached from the Michigan Army National Guard on Sept. 18, 1947, concurrent with the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate military branch.

In conjunction with the U.S. National Guard's observation of the Dec. 13 birthday of the Guard, the Michigan National Guard recently highlighted the three following events, in chronological order, as among the most significant moments in the history of the Michigan National Guard:

1) Michigan/Wisconsin Guard combine to form Red Arrow Division in WWI
After 20 consecutive days of intense combat, on Oct. 14, 1918, the 32nd Division -- known as the Red Arrow Division and as Les Terribles by the French for their combat success -- became the first American division to break through the German Hindenburg Line during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Allied success in this offensive was instrumental in bringing about the end of the war. The unit was again activated for World War II and was active in the Pacific Theater.

2) About 4,000 members of National Guard respond to the Flint Sit-down Strike in 1937
About two weeks after striking workers occupied  a General Motors plant in Flint, the strikers were involved in a bloody confrontation with police. The Michigan National Guard was called to the scene to keep the peace. Repeatedly refusing to take sides in the dispute, the Guard maintained a degree of relative peace -- with no injuries reported by soldiers or strikers as a result of Guard intervention -- that allowed the company and the strikers to negotiate a settlement, mediated by Michigan Gov. Frank Murphy. The strike represented a turning point in the American labor movement, with union membership exploding in the years that followed.

3) Combat Air Patrol launched on 9/11
Two Michigan ANG F-16s, unarmed and low on fuel, were returning from a training mission when news broke about the Terror Attacks on America. The F-16s eventually were directed to land at home station, where they were prepared for combat and re-launched. While thankfully not needed against further attacks, the Sound of Freedom of these American fighter aircraft over the Detroit region brought a sense of comfort and security to a community rocked by the day's events.

About the Michigan National Guard
The Michigan National Guard's 12,000 Soldiers and Airmen stand ready to serve both state and nation. With operations at three air fields, two major training bases and more than 40 armories around the state, Michigan National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are trained to provide a wide-range of disaster response and other support to civil authorities, while maintaining a high degree of combat readiness. The Michigan National Guard operates two State Partnership for Peace programs, with Latvia (since 1993) and Liberia (since 2009). Joint Forces Headquarters is in Lansing.

About the 127th Wing
Comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marks its 97th year of continuous military air operations in 2014.