America's oldest fighting force was founded officially today, in 1636, when the first Militia fighting forces gathered in Massachusetts. 380 years later, here are some of the lesser-known facts about the US National Guard:
1.) The very first National Guard consisted of Militia forces that were divided into three regiments (these units were the first "Minutemen," known for their quick response times).
[caption id="attachment_9310" align="aligncenter" width="630"]
2.) Today, the descendants of those regiments are the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They are the oldest units in the entire US Military.
[caption id="attachment_9314" align="aligncenter" width="256"]
The Coat of Arms for the 181st Infantry[/caption]
3.) Two US Presidents have served in the National Guard - Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush
[caption id="attachment_9311" align="aligncenter" width="263"]
Harry S. Truman in his World War I Army uniform, 1917 Source: trumanlibrary.com[/caption]
4.) President Kennedy once used National Guard troops to enforce integration legislature after Governor George Wallace blocked the doorway of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa to prevent integration.
5.) National Guard soldiers have fought in every single war since their founding.
[caption id="attachment_9315" align="aligncenter" width="695"]
"C" Company of the 104th Engineer Regiment, NJ National Guard, marches into Fort Dix in September, 1940. Called up for "one year of training" the Guardsmen ended up serving through WWII. (njarmyguard.com)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_9317" align="aligncenter" width="640"]
New York Army National Guard Spc. Christian Miller from Company C, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, surveys ground zero devastation Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 terror attacks. (Photo Credit: Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York Army National Guard )[/caption]
7.) There have been 780,000 mobilizations of National Guard units since September 11, 2001. They provided about half of the troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
[caption id="attachment_9316" align="aligncenter" width="600"]
About 40 soldiers from the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team prepare for an upcoming mission to Afghanistan to establish critical communications assets. The Ohio National Guard brigade, nearing the end of a yearlong tour, is sending about 40 signal soldiers into Afghanistan to establish critical communications assets. U.S. Army photo[/caption]
8.) The National Guard is second only to the US Army in terms of members.
9.) As each state has their own National Guard units, members must swear to uphold both Federal and State constitutions.
[caption id="attachment_9318" align="aligncenter" width="400"]
10.) The National Guard name was not official until 1916, but it was first popularized by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Lafayette went on to become the leader of his own National Guard in France.
[caption id="attachment_9319" align="aligncenter" width="270"]
Lafayette as a lieutenant general, in 1791. Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court[/caption]
11.) The National Guard was the first to create an African-American unit, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, during the Civil War. One member of this unit, Sgt. Carney, was the first African-American to earn the Medal of Honor.
[caption id="attachment_9320" align="aligncenter" width="485"]
William Harvey Carney Medal of Honor, 54th Massachusetts
Image credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library[/caption]