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Air National Guard

Air National Guard. The Air National Guard (ANG) was established as a separate reserve component of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) by the National Security Act of 1947. The Guard's involvement in aviation began before World War I, when a few states established small but poorly funded flying programs. In 1915, the first viable National Guard aviation unit—the First Aero Company of New York—was organized, and a year later it was mobilized during the border crisis with Mexico. All‐Guard aviation units were disbanded by the War Department in 1917. Instead, Guardsmen played important leadership and combat aviation roles as individual volunteers in the U.S. Army Air Service.

After World War I, despite War Department opposition, Guard aviation was placed on a permanent footing. The army organized twenty‐nine Guard observation squadrons during the interwar period. Those units, with 4,800 experienced personnel, were mobilized in 1940–41. Although many remained intact, they lost the majority of their personnel to other units of the Army Air Forces (AAF) during World War II, when Guard aviators served in every operational theater.

A reluctant AAF was compelled by political pressure from National Guard interests to develop a dual‐component postwar reserve system consisting of the ANG, a force with federal and state roles, and the Air Force Reserve (AFRES), an organization with a strictly federal role. At first, the ANG was little more than a poorly trained and equipped flying club.

The Korean War (1950–53) proved a turning point for the ANG. Some 45,000 Air Guard personnel, 80 percent of the force, were called into federal service, but they were unprepared for combat. Eventually, ANG units and individual Guardsmen contributed substantially in the air war in Korea and the USAF's global buildup. Mobilization problems and political controversy forced the USAF to revamp its reserve programs. In 1951, the USAF included the ANG in its war plans. Two years later, ANG units began augmenting the nation's air defense runway alert forces. That program integrated training and operational support of the USAF by the ANG on a daily basis. The innovation served as a precursor for the Total Force policy implemented in 1973 by the Department of Defense.

ANG units gradually improved their readiness after the Korean War and were integrated into a widening circle of planning activities, exercises, and operational missions. The ANG became a mixed force of fighters, airlifters, tankers, and support units.

Mobilization performance continued to improve in the Berlin crisis (1961) and the USS Pueblo and Tet Offensive crises (1968). From 1967 to 1977, ANG volunteers operated a tanker task force in Europe on a continuous basis, foreshadowing the extensive use of reserve forces abroad in a nonmobilized status. During the 1970s, significant numbers of women and minorities began to enter the ANG, and with the draft's end in 1973, it became an All‐Volunteer Force. The ANG evolved into a well‐equipped force capable of rapid global deployment. During the Persian Gulf crisis (1990–91), over 12,000 Air Guard members performed ably. Since then, the ANG has assumed a growing share of the USAF's missions.
[See also Militia and National Guard.]


Charles J. Gross , The Air National Guard and the Persian Gulf Crisis: From Shield to Storm, 1995.
Charles J. Gross , Militiaman, Volunteer, and Professional; The Air National Guard and the American Military Tradition, 1996.

Charles J. Gross

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