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For the National Guard of a State and other countries' National Guard, see National Guard.
For the American Civil War regiment, see 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of state National Guard militia members or units under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United Statesmarker. The National Guard of the United States is a joint reserve component of the United States Army and the United States Air Force and maintains two subcomponents: the Army National Guard of the United States for the Army and the Air Force's Air National Guard of the United States.

Established under Title 10 and Title 32 of the U.S. Code, state National Guard serves as part of the first-line defense for the United States. The state National Guard is divided up into units stationed in each of the 50 states and U.S. territories and operates under their respective state governor or territorial adjutant general. The National Guard may be called up for active duty by state governors or territorial adjutant general to help respond to domestic emergencies and disasters, such as those caused by hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.

With the consent of state governors, members or units of state National Guard may be appointed or deployed as federally recognized armed force members in active or inactive service. If so recognized, they become part of the National Guard of the United States. The National Guard of the United States units or members may be called up for federal active duty in times of Congressionally-sanctioned war or national emergency. State National Guard may also be called up for federal service, with the consent of state governors, to repel invasion or suppress rebellion. It can enforce federal laws if the United States or any of its states or territories are invaded or are in danger of invasion by a foreign nation, or if there is a rebellion or danger of a rebellion against the authority of the federal government. However unlike the United States Army and other armed forces, the National Guard (under state status) cannot leave American soil. The National Guard can be mobilized if the President is unable with the regular armed forces to execute the laws of the United States. Because both state National Guard and the National Guard of the United States relatively go hand-in-hand, they are both usually referred to as just National Guard.

The National Guard of the United States is administered by the National Guard Bureau, which is a joint activity under the Department of Defensemarker. The National Guard Bureau provides a communication channel for state National Guard to the Department of Defense. The National Guard Bureau also provides policies and requirements for training and funds for training for state Army National Guard and state Air National Guard units, the allocation of federal funds to the Army National Guard of the United States and the Air National Guard of the United States, as well as other administrative responsibilities prescribed under . The National Guard Bureau is headed by the Chief of the National Guard Bureau (CNGB), who is a four-star general in the Army or Air Force.


The Militia Act of 1903 organized the various state militias into the present National Guard system. With the passage of the 1916 National Defense Act approximately one half of the United States Army's available combat forces and approximately one third of its support organizations were National Guard units. The Air National Guard part of the United States Air Force was established in 1947.

Title 10 of the US Code states:
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 16 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

Many states also maintain their own State Defense Forces. These forces are federally recognized militia but not as an armed force service. Because of this, they are separate from the National Guard and are not meant to be federalized. They serve the state exclusively, especially when the National Guard is deployed or otherwise unavailable.

Army National Guard units are trained and equipped as part of the U.S. Army. The Army also operated air units until the passage of the 1947 National Defense Act. This created the U.S. Air Force, as well as the separate Air National Guard. Air National Guard units are trained and equipped as part of the U.S. Air Force. Both are expected to adhere to the same moral and physical standards as their "full-time" Federal counterparts. The same ranks and insignia are used and National Guardsmen are eligible to receive all United States military awards. The National Guard also bestows a number of state awards for local services rendered in a service member's home state.

Constitutional basis for the National Guard

The United States National Guard is authorized by the Constitution of the United States. As originally drafted, the Constitution limited the mustering of state militias: without the consent of Congress, states could not "keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace,...or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay." (Article I, Section 10; Clause 3) Congress, however, had a duty to protect states from invasion and domestic violence (Article IV, Section 4).

State militias are not entirely independent, however, because they may be federalized. According to Article I, Section 8; Clause 15, the United States Congress is given the power to pass laws for "calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." Congress may appropriate funds to support state militias (clause 12), and may:
"provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." (clause 16)
The President of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the state militias "when called into the actual Service of the United States". (Article II, Section 2).

Laws covering the National Guard and the National Guard of the United States

The United States Congress has enacted various laws which control the National Guard

  1. The Militia Act of 1792
  2. :Providing for the authority of the President to call out the Militia, and providing federal standards for the organization of the Militia.
  3. :For the 111 years that the Militia Act of 1792 remained in effect, it defined the position of the militia in relation to the federal government. The War of 1812 tested this uniquely American defense establishment. To fight the War of 1812, the republic formed a small regular military and trained it to protect the frontiers and coastlines. Although it performed poorly in the offensive against Canadamarker, the small force of regulars backed by a well-armed militia, accomplished its defensive mission well. Generals like Andrew Jackson proved that, just as they had in the Revolution, regulars and militia could be effective when employed as a team.
  4. The Insurrection Act
  5. The Militia Act of 1862
  6. :Providing for the service of persons of African descent in the Militia, and the emancipation of slaves owned by Confederates.
  7. Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1385: The Posse Comitatus Act of 18 June 1878
  8. :Reaction in Congress against the Reconstruction-era suspensions of Southern states' rights to organize militias led to the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act, restricting any person's use of the U.S. Army and, as later amended, the U.S. Air Force in domestic law enforcement (use of the Navy and Marine Corps, being uniformed services within the Department of Defense, is similarly restricted by statute). The U.S. Coast Guard, in its peacetime role within the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Guard, when not in Federal Service, are specifically not limited by this act.
  9. The States revise the military codes - 1881 to 1892
  10. The Militia Act of 1903
  11. :Established the creation of the National Guard of the United States as the primary organized reserve force for the U.S. armed forces.
  12. National Defense Act of 1916
  13. :This act abandoned the idea of an expandable Regular Army and firmly established the traditional concept of the citizens' army as the keystone of the United States defense forces. It established the concept of merging the National Guard, the Army Reserve, and the Regular Army into the Army of the United States in time of war. The act further expanded the National Guard's role, and guaranteed the State militias' status as the Army's primary reserve force. The law mandated use of the term "National Guard" for that force, and the President was given authority, in case of war or national emergency, to mobilize the National Guard for the duration of the emergency. The number of yearly drills increased from 24 to 48 and annual training from five to 15 days. Drill pay was authorized for the first time.
  14. The National Defense Act Amendments of 1920
  15. :This act established that the chief of the Militia Bureau (later the National Guard Bureau) would be a National Guard officer, that National Guard officers would be assigned to the general staff and that the divisions, as used by the Guard in World War I, would be reorganized.
  16. The National Guard Mobilization Act, 1933
  17. :Made the National Guard a component of the Army.
  18. The National Defense Act of 1947
  19. :Section 207 (f) established the Air National Guard of the United States, under the National Guard Bureau.
  20. The Total Force Policy, 1973
  21. :Requires all active and reserve military organizations be treated as a single force.
  22. The Montgomery Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1987
  23. :provides that a governor cannot withhold consent with regard to active duty outside the United States because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such duty. This law was challenged and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker in 1990 in Perpich v. Department of Defense.)
  24. The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 Pub.L. 109-364
  25. :Federal law was changed in section 1076 so that the Governor of a state is no longer the sole commander in chief of their state's National Guard during emergencies within the state. The President of the United States will now be able to take total control of a state's National Guard units without the governor's consent. In a letter to Congress all 50 governors opposed the increase in power of the president over the National Guard.
  26. The National Defense Authorization Act 2008 Pub.L. 110-181
  27. :Repeals provisions in section 1076 in Pub.L. 109-364 but still enables the President to call up the National Guard of the United States for active federal military service during Congressionally sanctioned national emergency or war. Places the National Guard Bureau directly under the Department of Defense as a joint activity. Promoted the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from a three-star to a four-star general.

Duties and administrative organization

Seal of the National Guard Bureau (NGB)
National Guard Bureau Officer Branch of Service Insignia
National Guard units can be mobilized for active duty, during times of war or of national emergency declared by Congress, by the President or the Secretary of Defense to supplement regular armed forces. They can also be activated for service in their respective states upon declaration of a state of emergency by the governor of the state or territory in which they serve; in the case of Washington DC, the Commanding General. Unlike Army Reserve members, National Guard members cannot be mobilized individually, except through voluntary transfers and Temporary Duty Assignments (TDY). However, there has been a significant amount of individual activations to support ongoing military operations related to the Global War on Terrorism (beginning in 2001); the legality of this policy is a major issue within the National Guard.

The National Guard Bureau is in Arlington, Va., and is a joint activity of the Department of Defensemarker to conduct all the administrative matters pertaining to the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. The current chief of the National Guard Bureau is General Craig R. McKinley. The chief is the senior uniformed National Guard officer, in charge of developing all policies and advising the Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff of the Army and the Air Force on all National Guard issues. He is appointed by the President in his capacity as Commander in Chief.


A National Guardsman in 1917.
Throughout the 19th century the regular Army was small, and the militia provided the majority of the troops during the Mexican-American War, the start of the American Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. In 1903, part of the militia was federalized and renamed the National Guard and organized as a Reserve force for the Army. In World War I, the National Guard made up 40 percent of the U.S. combat divisions in Francemarker. In World War II the National Guard made up 19 divisions. One hundred forty thousand Guardsmen were mobilized during the Korean War and over 63,000 for Operation Desert Storm. They have also participated in U.S. peacekeeping operations in Somaliamarker, Haitimarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, Kuwaitmarker, Bosniamarker, and Kosovomarker as well as for natural disasters, strikes, riots and security for the Olympic Games when they have been in the States.

The federally-controlled National Guard as we know it was officially created in 1916; however, the heritage of the National Guard traces back to English common law and the citizen militias of the British North American colonies. The claim that the National Guard is older than the nation itself, with over three and a half centuries of service, is based on the fact that the modern-day 101st Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Engineer Battalion and 181st Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard are directly descended from Massachusetts Bay Colony regiments formed over 370 years ago. On 13 December 1636, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had ordered that the Colony's scattered militia companies be organized into North, South and East Regiments--with a goal of increasing the militias’ accountability to the colonial government, efficacy, and responsiveness in conflicts with indigenous Pequot Indians. Under this act, white males between the ages of 16 and 60 were obligated to possess arms and to play a part in the defense of their communities by serving in nightly guard details and participating in weekly drills. After the United States came into existence, state militias would develop out of this tradition.

The visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to the U.S., in 1824-25, was in every sense a triumphal procession. The 2nd Battalion, 11th New York Artillery, was one of many militia commands who turned out in welcome. This unit decided to adopt the title "National Guard," in honor of Lafayette's celebrated Garde Nationale de Paris. The Battalion, later the 7th Regiment, was prominent in the line of march on the occasion of Lafayette's final passage through New York en route home to France. Taking note of the troops named for his old command, Lafayette alighted from his carriage, walked down the line, clasping each officer by the hand as he passed. "National Guard" was destined to become the name of the U.S. militia.

20th century

Following World War II, the National Guard aviation units became the Air National Guard. There is no Naval National Guard due to the constitutional provision against states having ships of war in time of peace, though Alaskamarker, Californiamarker, New Jerseymarker, New Yorkmarker, South Carolinamarker, Texasmarker and Ohiomarker have incorporated Naval Militia units, and the United States Coast Guard has military prerogatives in time of war. At this time the National Guard consisted of 27 Divisions; 25 Infantry and two armored, plus scores of smaller units.

The New York National Guard were ordered by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to respond to the Rochester 1964 race riot in July of that year, the first such use of the Guard in a Northern city. The California Army National Guard were mobilized by the Governor of Californiamarker Edmund Gerald Brown, Sr. during the Watts Riots, in August 1965, to provide security and help restore order.

Elements of the Ohio Army National Guard were ordered to Kent State Universitymarker by Ohio's governor Jim Rhodes to quell anti-Vietnam War protests, culminating in their shooting into a crowd of studentsmarker on 4 May 1970, killing four and injuring nine.

The 2 Battalion 138th Field Artillery of the Kentucky National Guard was ordered to service in Vietnammarker in late 1968. The unit served honorably in support of the regular 101st Airborne Division. The Battalion's C Battery lost 9 men killed and thirty-two wounded when North Vietnamese troops overran Fire Base Tomahawk on June 19, 1969.

During the LA Riots in 1992, when portions of south central Los Angeles erupted in chaos, overwhelming the LAPD's ability to contain the violence, the California National Guard were mobilized to help restore order. The National Guard were attributed with five shootings of people suspected of violating the curfew order placed on the city.

As a result of the Bottom Up Review and post Cold War force cutbacks, the Army National Guard manoeuver force was reduced to eight divisions (from ten; the 26th Infantry and 50th Armored were consolidated in the northeastern states) and fifteen 'enhanced brigades,' which were supposed to be ready for combat operations, augmenting the active force, within 90 days.

21st century

National Guard units played a major role in providing security and assisting recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in September 2005.

In January and February 2007, National Guard troops from 8 states were activated to go help shovel snow, drop hay for starving cattle, deliver food and necessities to stranded people in their houses, and help control traffic and rescue stranded motorists in blizzards dropping feet of snow across the country.

The Air National Guard has more than 106,000 personnel, and the Army National Guard (ARNG) around 325,000 personnel (as of February 2006).

In 2005, National Guard members and reservists were said to comprise a larger percentage of frontline fighting forces than in any war in U.S. history (about 43 percent in Iraq and 55 percent in Afghanistan). There were then 183,366 National Guard members and reservists on active duty nationwide who leave behind about 300,000 dependents, according to U.S. Defense Department statistics.

The Army National Guard is reorganizing into 28 brigade combat teams and 78 support brigades as a part of the Army's transformation plan. When the reorganization is complete, brigades will have 3,000-to-4,000 soldiers whereas the former Army organization was principally structured around large, mostly mechanized, divisions of around 15,000 soldiers each.

In the first quarter of 2007, United States Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced changes to the Guard deployment policy aimed at shorter and more predictable deployments for National Guard troops. "Gates said his goal is for Guard members to serve a one-year deployment no more than every five years... Gates is imposing a one-year limit to the length of deployment for National Guard Soldiers, effective immediately.” Prior to this time, Guard troops deployed for a standard one-year deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan would serve for 18 or more months including training and transit time. During the transition to the new policy for all troops in the pipeline, deployed or soon to be deployed, some will face deployments faster than every five years. "The one-to-five year cycle does not include activations for state emergencies."

Developments After September 11, 2001

Prior to the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the National Guard's general policy regarding mobilization was that Guardsmen would be required to serve no more than one year cumulative on active duty (with no more than six months overseas) for each five years of regular drill. Due to strains placed on active duty units following the attacks, the possible mobilization time was increased to 18 months (with no more than one year overseas). Additional strains placed on military units as a result of the invasion of Iraq further increased the amount of time a Guardsman could be mobilized to 24 months. Current Department of Defensemarker policy is that no Guardsman will be involuntarily activated for more than 24 months (cumulative) in one six year enlistment period (this policy is due to change 1 August 2007, the new policy states that soldiers will be given 24 months between deployments of no more than 24 months (individual states have differing policies).

Traditionally, most National Guard personnel serve "One weekend a month, two weeks a year", although personnel in highly operational or high demand units serve far more frequently. Typical examples are pilots, navigators and aircrewmen in active flying assignments, primarily in the Air National Guard and to a lesser extent in the Army National Guard. A significant number also serve in a full-time capacity in roles such as Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) or Air Reserve Technician or Army Reserve Technician (ART).

The "One weekend a month, two weeks a year" slogan has lost most of its relevance since the Iraq War, when nearly 28% of total US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at the end of 2007 consisted of mobilized personnel of the National Guard and other Reserve components.

Presidents who have served as Guardsmen

Militia service was a common trait among presidents of the United States. Eighteen of America's 44 presidents have served in colonial or state militias and two have served in the National Guard since it was established in 1903. Among these, three served in colonial militias (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison), 15 served in state militias, one in the Army National Guard (Harry S. Truman) and one (George W. Bush) served in the Air National Guard.

See also


  1. Definitions (National Guard)
  2. Army and Air National Guard of the United States: status
  3. General policy
  4. Military Reserves Federal Call Up Authority
  5. Officers: Army National Guard of the United States
  6. Officers: Air National Guard of the United States
  7. Army National Guard of United States; Air National Guard of the United States: enlistment in
  8. National Guard in Federal service: call
  9. Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
  10. Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 full text
  11. Sec. 1812. Establishment of National Guard Bureau as Joint Activity of the Department of Defense.
  12. National Guard Bureau
  13. Functions of National Guard Bureau: charter from Secretaries of the Army and Air Force
  14. Restriction on direct participation by military personnel
  15. Governors lose in power struggle over National Guard
  16. National Governors Association
  17. Ready Reserve
  18. Reserve components generally
  19. Kentucky: National Guard History eMuseum - Summary
  20. Government Accounting Office, Army National Guard: Enhanced Brigades Readiness Improving But Personnel and Workload Are Problems, June 2000, record accessed at DTIC, May 2009. The fifteen enhanced brigades included the 27th (NY), 29th (HI), 32nd (WI), 41st (OR), 45th (OK), 48th (GA), 53rd (FL), 76th (IN), 81st (WA), 256th (LA), 116th Cavalry Brigade (ID), 155th (MS), 218th (SC), and the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment (TN).
  21. FindLaw (14 February 2007). Guard to Rescue in 8 States". FindLaw. Retrieved on 14 February 2007.
  23. MSNBC. Health. Mental Health. Most vet suicides among Guard, Reserve troops. New government report raises alarm, calls for long-term mental services. Associated Press. February 12, 2008.
  24. The National Guard - Image Gallery - Presidential Series

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