National Guard

views updated Jun 27 2018


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 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 Congress responded to the failure of its small armies to fight off Native Americans in the West by enacting the Militia Act of 1792 (May 8, 1792, ch. 33, I Stat. 271 [repealed 1903]); this act was the militia's only permanent organizing legislation for more than 100 years. While the act governed the militia, the United States endured three wars—the war of 1812, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War—and the militia was ineffective in all three. Congress replaced the act with the Dick Act of 1903 (32 Stat. 775) to transform "a frontier police force into a respected and modern fighting machine."

The Dick Act provided for an organized militia—to be named the National Guard—that would conform to the organization of the Army, be equipped through federal funds, and be trained by Army instructors. The act consisted of 26 sections and set forth new provisions that had previously only applied to the Army, but now also applied to the newly formed National Guard, including a nine-month limit for reservists' service on active duty, a provision that when on active duty, the reservists would be guided by Army rules and regulations and would receive the same pay as that given to Army soldiers, and a new requirement for the performance of 24 drills per year and a five-day summer camp. The act also gave states' governors certain powers over their Guard units, such as the power to excuse their troops from any of the drills or summer camp.

Congress amended and strengthened the Dick Act when it passed the National Defense Act of 1908, on May 27, 1908, ch. 204, 35 Stat. 399 (amending Dick Act of Jan. 21, 1903, ch. 196, 32 Stat. 775), which provided that the Guard could not only be called into services within or outside of United States territory but could also be called into service for as long as the president deemed necessary, no longer subject to a nine-month limitation. The National Defense Act of 1916 (June 3, 1916, ch. 134, 39 Stat. 166) separated the Army, the reserves, and the militia and "federalized" the National Guard.

Several years later Congress declared the National Guard a part of the Army, and the National Guard became solely authorized by the Army Clause of the Constitution when Congress passed the Act of 1933 (48 Stat. 149, 155). This act provided that reserve soldiers would no longer be drafted into federal service and that they would be ordered to active duty only if "Congress declared a national emergency and authorized the use of troops in excess of those of the Regular Army."

Since 1933 federal law has provided that persons who enlist in a state National Guard unit simultaneously enlist in the National Guard of the United States, a part of the Army. The enlistees retain their status as state National Guard members unless and until ordered to active federal duty and revert to state status upon being relieved from federal service.

The authority to order the Guard to federal duty was limited to periods of national emergency until Congress passed the Armed Forces Reserve Act of 1952 (66 Stat. 481), which authorized orders "to active duty or active duty for training" without any emergency requirement but provided that such orders could not be issued without the consent of the governor of the state concerned. The act also set forth the mission of the reserve components and defined some important terms. For example, the act clarified that the U.S. armed forces are the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard, and that the seven reserve components are the National Guard, the Army Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Air National Guard, the Air Force Reserve, and the Coast Guard Reserve. According to the act, the purpose of the reserve components is to provide "trained units and qualified individuals to be available for active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States in time of war or national emergency, and at such other times as the national security may require."

Further, the act declares that "the National Guard … [is] an integral part of the first line defenses of this Nation [and must be maintained at all times]…. [W]henever … units and organizations are needed for the national security in excess of those of the Regular components …, the National Guard … shall be ordered into the active military service of the United States and continued therein so long as such necessity exists."

The legal basis of the National Guard is founded not only in federal constitutional and statutory law but in state constitutions and statutes as well. The original "militia," which eventually became known as the Army National Guard, began as a domestic force made up of untrained men led by political generals. The Army Clause of the Constitution gives Congress the power to provide and maintain a Navy and make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. The Militia Clauses of the Constitution authorize the states to organize the National Guard but give Congress the power to employ the Guard in the service of the country.

Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution states that the president of the United States is the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."

The Framers of the Constitution authorized Congress to recognize a militia that was largely controlled by the states. The states generally have maintained control over the militia during times of peace but not during war or national emergency. However, after two state governors refused to consent to federal training missions abroad for their Guard units, the gubernatorial consent requirement was partially repealed in 1986 by the Montgomery Amendment, which provides that a governor cannot withhold consent for reservists to be on active duty outside the United States because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such duty. The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Montgomery Amendment in Perpich v. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334, 110 S. Ct. 2418, 110 L. Ed. 2d 312 (1990). According to the Court, the Militia Clause of the Constitution granted independent rights to both the states and the federal government to train the militia. Congress is free to train the militia as it sees fit, provided it does not prevent the states from also conducting training.

Ultimately, the National Guard enjoys a dual status as both a state militia and as an integral part of the federal armed forces. Although the

Guard continues to perform important domestic functions, the federal government has ultimate power when it requires the National Guard for national defense.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the significance of the National Guard as a major part of the country's national defense system increased. In 1991 more than 75,000 reservists participated in the first Gulf War ("Desert Storm"). Since that time, components of the National Guard have completed missions in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. After the september 11th terrorist attacks, more than 50,000 National Guard members were called upon to provide security at home and abroad. In 2003, National Guard members and reservists played a crucial role in the war against Iraq.

further readings

Bovarnick, Jeff. 1991. "Perpich v. United States Department of Defense: Who's in Charge of the National Guard?" New England Law Review 26.

Breitenbach, Roy W. 1989. "Perpich v. United States Department of Defense: Who Controls the Weekend Soldier?" St. John's Law Review 64.

Derthick, Martha. 1965. The National Guard in Politics. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

National Guard. Available online at <>(accessed July 28, 2003).

Rich, Steven B. 1994. "The National Guard, Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities, Posse Comitatus: The Meaning and Implications of 'In Federal Service'." Army Law 35.

Theurer, Kenneth M. 1994. "Low-Level Conflicts and the Reserves: Presidential Authority Under 10 U.S.C. sec. 673b." University of Cincinnati Law Review 62.



National Guard

views updated Jun 27 2018


The militia tradition, with its origins in the Minutemen of the Revolutionary War, is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. By 1898 voluntary military units receiving state support were commonly called the National Guard. Guard units joined the Volunteer Army that had formed to fight the Spanish-American War, providing the majority of over 200,000 volunteers supporting an active army of 60,000. Although regular army units did most of the fighting in Cuba, guard volunteers played a major role in the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902.) After the war, critics claimed that massive volunteering had overwhelmed the War Department's mobilization effort. As with the regular army, the National Guard became the subject of major postwar legislative reforms.

From 1898 to 1945 debates surrounding National Guard reform reflected a tension between the professional officer corps and citizen-soldier militia that dated to the Revolutionary War. Army officers, many of them West Point graduates, claimed the guard was militarily unprepared and physically unfit. They charged that Guard officers failed to meet federal standards and received commissions because of political influence. The guard, citing their historical record, asserted that such complaints were contrary to fact and that army officers were attempting to create a European-style army at odds with American tradition. The guard wanted to retain their state affiliations, including unit integrity and command, while serving as the nation's frontline reserve force. In opposition, army reformers advocated a national reserve force under War Department control using individual replacements that would either supplant the guard or restrict it to domestic defense duties.

The Militia Act of 1903 (commonly known as the Dick Act after Ohio congressman and National Guard Major General Charles Dick) established two classes of militia. The Organized Militia (National Guard) was under dual federal-state control and received federal funding and equipment. In return, these units had to meet federal training and organizational standards. The Unorganized Militia was a pool of males, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, with emergency state and federal military obligations. Significantly, the Dick Act recognized the National Guard as the nation's ready reserve force and acknowledged presidential authority to call militia troops into national service for nine months.

The National Defense Act of 1916, passed as World War I raged in Europe, designated the National Guard as the army's primary reserve. The president's authority to mobilize the National Guard for the duration of emergencies was recognized, and federal training requirements and funding (including drill pay) were expanded. Additionally, National Guardsmen were required to meet the same enlistment standards as the regular army and take a dual oath to their state and the United States.

On April 6, 1917, when America declared war on Germany, 66,000 guardsmen were still serving on the Mexican border after being activated in response to Pancho Villa's incursions. By August 1917 almost 380,000 guardsmen in sixteen divisions were on active duty. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was still undergoing training when the German offensive started in March 1918, so the ready National Guard 26th "Yankee" and 42nd "Rainbow" Divisions were sent immediately into battle. By war's end over 433,000 guardsmen had served in the Great War. Eighteen of the forty-three divisions sent to France were National Guard, representing about 40 percent of the AEF.

During the Second World War, after France fell to Hitler's forces in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the National Guard into federal service. Between September 1940 and October 1941 over 300,000 guardsmen were called up. Rapid mobilization led to numerous problems for both active and reserve forces, including major equipment shortages and high discharge rates. The army's training maneuvers in Louisiana, Tennessee, and the Carolinas during the fall of 1941 were a mobilization high point. As part of the largest army field exercises ever conducted, guard divisions participated fully and acquired valuable experience. However, some critics viewed the guard as especially lacking in combat readiness.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the National Guard provided the backbone of available divisions for the early war effort. At the time of the attack, eighteen of the army's thirty-four divisions were in the guard and provided critical offensive combat capability in the Pacific. The guard's 34th Division was the first army division deployed to the European Theater, and the division participated in the 1942 North African amphibious assault. The army's longestserving division commander was Ohio National Guard Major General Robert Beightler of the 37th "Buckeye" Division. By 1945, the eighteen guard divisions had seen extensive combat in both the Pacific and European theaters. World War II again proved that the National Guard was a ready and reliable standing reserve force.


Chambers, John W. To Raise an Army: The Draft Comes to Modern America. New York: Free Press, 1987.

Cooper, Jerry M. The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865–1920. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Crossland, Richard B., and Currie, James T. Twice the Citizen: A History of the United States Army Reserve, 1908–1983. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief, Army Reserve, 1984.

Millett, Alan R. "The Constitution and the Citizen-Soldier." In The United States Military under the Constitution of the United States, 1789–1989, edited by Richard H. Kohn. New York: New York University Press, 1991.

Ohl, John K. Minuteman: The Military Career of General Robert S. Beightler. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001.

Internet Resource

Doubler, Michael. "Century of Change, Century of Contribution: A Militia Nation Comes of Age." National Guard Association of the United States. Available from <>

Rosemary Bryant Mariner

See also:Conscription, World War I; Conscription, World War II.

National Guard

views updated May 17 2018


NATIONAL GUARD. The modern counterpart of the militia has the longest continuous history of any American military component. The guard's original units were organized in December 1636 as the North, South, and East Regiments of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Artillery. They served at the beginning of the twenty-first century as components of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. The name "National Guard" was first used in 1824 by New York units to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, commander of the Garde Nationale de Paris, during his visit to the newly established United States. The Marquis de Lafayette greatly assisted General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. After 1889, the term "National Guard" was adopted gradually by the militias of the various states.

From the Militia Act of 1792 to the Dick Act of 1903, the United States lacked a uniformly enforced militia policy. The modern National Guard began with the Dick Act, which divided the militia into the organized militia, or National Guard, and the unorganized militia. Units were to conform to the standards of the regular army and receive increased state and federal aid, but they were separate from the army. A 1908 amendment authorized the president to send guard units outside the country. The National Defense Act of 1916 made the guard a component of the army while in federal service and provided for regular training. The National Defense Act of 1920 established a three-component army: the regular army, the National Guard, and the organized reserves. Although the guard was considered the first-line reserve, it still was not a full-time component of the army. An amendment in 1933 created the National Guard of the United States (NGUS) as a full-time reserve component of the army. Although the composition of this force was identical to that of the state National Guard, it was subject to a call to active duty by the president without his having to go through the governor. In 1940, just prior to the outbreak of World War II, nineteen guard divisions along with their air "observation squadrons" were activated. They served in all theaters of war, garnering campaign credits and honors. After the cessation of hostilities in 1945, the War Department established the guard as a twenty-seven-division force, available for immediate service in the event of war. Under terms of the Reserve Forces Act of 1955, the army became responsible for training guard recruits for at least six months.

Upon the creation of a separate air force in 1947, the Air National Guard was formed. Many Air Guard units were formed from those that previously existed as division observation squadrons and from units that had earned campaign credits and battle honors during World War II. Both Army and Air Guard units were called to federal service in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. The Air Guard has served as an integral part of the U.S. Air Force since the beginning of the Vietnam War, when airlift units were added to its (Air Guard) flying inventory of mostly fighter units.

Reorganization in 1962 cut four divisions from authorized guard strength. In 1965, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara tried to amalgamate the guard with the reserves, but he encountered powerful opposition from Congress. Two years later fifteen divisions were cut from the force structure, leaving six infantry and two armored divisions. All National Guard unit members must serve at least forty-eight drills and fifteen days of field training annually. They must also conform to the regulations and requirements of the Departments of the Army and Air Force. From the 1980s into the twenty-first century, Army and Air National Guard units have been called to serve in all of the major contingency operations that have involved the United States.

Aside from being used in wartime, guard units have also given aid in times of natural disasters and maintained order during civil disturbances.


Doubler, Michael D. Closing with the Enemy: How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944–1945. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

Mahon, John K. History of the Militia and the National Guard. New York, Macmillan, 1983.


See alsoMilitias .

National Guard

views updated Jun 27 2018

National Guard

The part-time civilian militia in Brazil that was established on 18 August 1831 during the politically tumultuous period following Brazilian independence from Portugal. In its founding charter the militia was pledged to defend the Constitution of 1824 and to maintain internal order. The new government hoped that the force would counterbalance the army, which still harbored Portuguese officers whose loyalties were suspect. Though it persisted into the twentieth century, when it became a mere reserve force of the army (as determined by the Constitution of 1934), the National Guard played its most significant role during the forty years following its formation.

Participation in the National Guard was mandatory for free men between the ages of eighteen and sixty who were not already serving in another military force and who possessed the minimum annual income required for voting. Guard units were organized by county, and most members were artisans, modest farmers, or petty businessmen—in short, a group which stood several notches above the poorest men, who were often forcibly recruited into the army. Although men of color were admitted from the beginning, their chance to become officers narrowed in the 1830s, when reform measures in many provinces deprived the rank and file of the right to elect local officers and placed provincial governments in charge of the appointments. This change precipitated the Guard's slide into the mire of electoral fraud, as officer positions were bestowed on those who could swing the vote in the right direction. The process was accelerated between 1850 and 1871, during which time local units often became the personal armies of the rural colonels who commanded them.

Although the National Guard drew praise for its performance in the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870), its past could not be erased, and the state finally curtailed its functions in 1873. From that point on, the Guard lost its policing powers and would be called into action only during times of extreme crisis.

See alsoWar of the Triple Alliance .


Sources in English are limited, though a good discussion is found in Fernando Uricoechea, The Patrimonial Foundations of the Brazilian Bureaucratic State (1980). See also Jeanne Berrance De Castro, A milícia cidadã: A Guarda Nacional de 1831 a 1850 (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Ribeiro, José Iran. Quando o serviço os chamava: Milicianos e guardas nacionais no Rio Grande do Sul (1825–1845). Santa Maria: Editora UFSM, 2005.

                                        Judith L. Allen

National Guard

views updated May 18 2018

Na·tion·al Guard • n. 1. (in the U.S.) the primary reserve military force, partly maintained by the states but also available for federal use. ∎  the primary military force of some other countries.2. an armed force existing in France at various times between 1789 and 1871, first commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette. ∎  a member of this force.DERIVATIVES: Na·tion·al Guards·man n.

National Guard

views updated Jun 27 2018

National Guard

views updated May 18 2018

National Guard Volunteer citizen militia in the USA. Units are under state jurisdiction in peacetime and in times of national emergency may be activated for federal duty. Units are also activated during disasters and civil unrest.

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National Guard