Happy Birthday, National Guard

December 13th commemorates the birthday of the National Guard. On that date in 1637, the Massachusetts General Court established an official militia for the first time in the American Colonies. The resolution stated that all able-bodied men from age 16 to 60 were to join. Today, this military organization is the National Guard.

First muster of the East Regiment (present-day Massachusetts Army National Guard) in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, spring 1637. Wikipedia. Public domain image.

Each state established a similar militia after the United States formed and the country grew. However, it wasn’t until 1933 that Congress made the name “National Guard” official.  A component of the U.S. Army, the National Guard is largely made up of citizen-soldiers. Thus, the men and women who serve also hold down full-time civilian jobs, attend school, or both. The role of the National Guard is to provide support and protection for the states’ civilians or be called for military operations at a national level.

All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands maintain both an Army National Guard and an Air National Guard.

The Wyoming Army National Guard was established in 1870 while Wyoming was still a territory. Governor John A. Campbell authorized the division of territory into three military districts. The next year, a law passed by the Wyoming Territorial Assembly giving legal sanction to volunteer militia companies of not less than 40 men.

Organized in 1888, Company A, 1st Wyoming Regiment known as the “Laramie Grays” was the first federally recognized Wyoming unit. The same year Company B: The Cheyenne Guard was established. Once Wyoming became a state in 1890, constitutional provisions allowed for the formation of units in Buffalo, Evanston, Douglas, Green River, Rock Springs, Rawlins, and Sheridan.

The caption for this photo reads: “I believe this was taken of the Albany County National Guards when they were shipped during the Spanish American War.” This would have been 1898. The caption may have been written by Laramie businessman Elmer Lovejoy from whose papers the photograph came.
Box 2, Folder 2, Elmer F. Lovejoy papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Wyoming National Guard was first federally mobilized during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Since then, the Guard has seen active service in many conflicts including World War I, World War II, and the Korean Conflict. Wyoming Guard units have also served in Desert Storm, the Bosnia peacekeeping force, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Hurricane Katrina response.

National Guard, 115th Cavalry, activated shortly after December 7, 1941. Photograph taken by Hugo G. Janssen, who owned a photographic studio in Lovell, Wyoming. Box 1, Folder 13, Hugo G. Janssen Photographs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

Today, about 350,000 men and women serve in the National Guard and the Air National Guard, which forms 39% of the Army’s operational force.

Take time to recognize a National Guard soldier or airman you know. Use #NationalGuardBirthday to post on social media.

Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.


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