National Guard

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 177

The National Guard is the term for the state-organized units of the U.S. Army and Air Force, composed of citizens who undergo training and are available for service in national or local emergencies. National Guard units are organized in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The National Guard units are subject to the call of the governor of their state or territory, except when ordered into federal service by the president of the United States. Entry into the National Guard is by voluntary enlistment. The National Guard is trained to work in conjunction with the active forces of the Army and Air Force. Much of its value comes from its service in times of peace, when the Guard provides emergency aid to victims of national disasters and assists law enforcement authorities during civil emergencies.

"Citizen-soldiers" have come a long way since the American Revolution. The Army National Guard has fought in every major war in which the United States has been involved, from the American Revolution to the VIETNAM WAR and the 2003 war in Iraq. Since the end of the Vietnam War, the Guard has been engaged in all U.S. national defense missions. Not only is the National Guard devoted to the defense of the United States and its allies, it is also involved in a number of other activities, such as dealing with emergencies like civil disturbances, riots, and natural disasters, and helping law enforcement agencies to keep illegal drugs off the streets.

After the American Revolution, the First CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES did not consider the formation of a militia a top priority, and it disbanded the Continental Army. Congress did not officially debate the notion of a militia until the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Constitution authorized a standing

Page 178

army in its Army Clause (art. I, § 8, cl. 12) and provided for a militia under the Militia Clauses (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cls. 15?16). Under the Constitution, the militia is to be available for federal service for three distinct purposes: "to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." Congress is to organize and discipline the militia, and the states are to appoint officers and train the soldiers.

The National Guard, whose main responsibility since its inception had been the protection of colonial settlements, faced its first significant challenge when it tried to defend the settlements from Native American domination. In 1789, the federal government formed a War Department of approximately 700 men for the purpose of defending U.S. soil and its settlements from Native American attack. These small armies failed, and...

To continue reading