“A Well Regulated Militia” – America’s Second String?
Gideon D Asche
This generation likes to quote the 2nd Amendment, but for some reason, they forget the first part of it. Granted, it was an afterthought, and it is unrelated to the primary point of the Second – “The right to Bear arms,” but it does grant each individual State and territory an unusual power.
It gives the individual States the authority to raise their own Armies.
I can’t think of any other form of government so confident that they allow their districts, territories, or states to raise their own armies. It’s is one of the unique things about our Republic.
I must confess, I was one of those who considered the Guard our Second String.
I grew up around the military and probably had much more exposure to Guardsmen than I knew, but the early 60’s the National Guard was considered a way to “Dodge the Draft.” Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both dodged Viet Nam by making sure they were in NG programs or units that wouldn’t deploy.
I can remember scrambling to get my permission slip to enlist at 17, so I would already be active duty when my draft notice showed up. Waiting to be drafted was simply not acceptable to my family, I had no intention of being the family’s first draftee.
Later at Fort Ord for Basic Combat Training, each trainee was required to declare their status to the Mess Headcount before signing – “One – RA, Drill Sergeant” identified me as a volunteer; Draftees would declare “One – U.S., Drill Sergeant” and then there were the “NG” and “ARs” – Reservists…The second String.
In my mind, they were more concerned with getting back to their civilian jobs than becoming professional soldiers. Maybe I was a little confused about the Guard back then, and it was years before experience enlightened me to the facts.
I did a short gig inside a National Guard Aviation Unit right about the time
Desert Storm ended. 1st SOCOM was contemplating including them in a future 4th BN of 160th SOAR.
There were 3 or 4 Pilots from Ft. Campbell and at least 2 discreet observers, one of them being me and I’m pretty sure the other was a guy in the refueling section.
The guys at Hunter were giving them enough rope to either prove or hang themselves. About ½ the aircrews had been through SERE and jump School; surprisingly enough they did well. None were LOM – Drops. Their Crews were training with JRTC and 1st SFG out of Lewis on a regular basis, and even made a Grey Mission or two in Thailand.
I joined the unit as E-6 Crew-chief, “right off active duty.” My first impression didn’t shake the “2nd String” image much. The officers and enlisted were just a shade too familiar for me. It wasn’t just the aircrews either– you can understand it between crews.
The XO was introduced to me as “Joe Bob” and looked at me funny when I kept addressing him as “Sir.” I kid you not there was a Jethro, a couple of Billys, a Bubba and a Eustis in the enlisted flight platoon alone.
There was even an E-6 who was the civilian boss for one of the Warrant Officers.
It almost struck me as comical, half the officers were in the “Geritol for lunch bunch, ” and the senior NCOs were a shade older. Then I met the oldest crotchetiest CW4 I had ever seen (CW5 didn’t exist at the time).
His call sign was “Draft Dodger.”
The old guy set me straight on our first flight; I discovered that the helicopter was little more than an extension of his personality. I never met anyone who could coax a Huey into doing the things he did. He had the distinction of one full year of flight time – More than 8766 Flight Hours.
I’ve known a lot of Army Pilots, and I believe he was the only one I ever met with a year in the Air. I learned that most of the Unit’s pilots had twice the average active duty flight time… and they are held to the same flight standards.
It didn’t take much effort to get him to explain the call sign… it turned out the only reason he was in the Guard was because he tried to dodge the draft during Korea.
It kind of threw me too.
He said he had no deferment options and was newly married when he got his draft notice. He heard that the National Guard would stay in Oklahoma, so he rushed down and enlisted in the 45th ID, Oklahoma National Guard.
He beat the draft, but less than 2 weeks after he finished training he was on the way home from his civilian job when the local radio station announced that the 45th ID was being called up for Korea.
The old Warrant officer confided in me that he pulled over to the side of the road and cried.
Oddly enough when I researched Guard deployments, I discovered that the National Guard units were almost all combat units, not support or garrison. Most NG units are in fact front line; infantry, artillery, Aviation, even Special Forces and Ranger units.
Forty-Seven (47) National Guard Units were activated for the Korean Conflict. These included full divisions from Oklahoma (45th ID) and California (40th ID), 3 Companies of segregated Black National Guardsmen and a company from the PR National Guard.
Viet Nam saw the deployment of 11 Combat units from the Army National Guard including D Co 75th Ranger Regiment (IND. NG) plus numerous support personnel from various states.
Air Guard Squadrons flying F-100s, flew 24,124 combat sorties and accumulated 38,614 combat hours.
Before Korea was WW2 and the nationwide federalization of National Guard troops. NGs were just melted into the Regular Army, but they were there.
The vast majority of National Guard units were activated during both World Wars.
I wouldn’t want even to try to calculate the contribution made by National Guard troops in these most recent conflicts. They’ve carried their share of the load, of this there is no question.
It’s true most NG troops never see combat… but neither do most Active Duty Soldiers.
Prior to 1914 the National Guard was commonly called “The Militia” and can trace its roots all the way back to 1636.
Militiamen were the first to engage the Red Coats in Battle. Long before congress authorized the raising of the Continental Army in 1775, Americans organized into paramilitary groups to defend each other’s rights.
Militia have served the US in every conflict since 1636.
National Guardsmen were in the Adrianne when Charles Whittlesey and The Lost Battalion held their ground, against all odds, swaying the victory to the allies.
Cpt. Nelson Holderman – MOH was one of the Company Commanders under Maj Whittlesey – he was also a California National Guardsman.
Charles A. Lindbergh “Lucky Lindy” – was a Captain in the Missouri National Guard before he made his trans-Atlantic flight.
Over the years 134 Medals of Honor have been awarded to National Guardsmen, including:
Lieutenant Colonel William J. Donovan – MOH (WW1) – the father of US Special Operations and Clandestine Services –New York National Guard.
Col Theodore Roosevelt – MOH (Spanish/American War), Commander Rough Riders, POTUS and general all around Bad Ass – New York National Guard.
They may not get the newest equipment or be as spry as they were when they took the oath, and being crotchety is just a function of age, but the National Guard is part of the tip of the spear and always has been. It was a militia girl who sounded the alarm at Danbury, Connecticut in 1777, and Militia who held off the Red Coats and won the day.
It was Militia Rangers and Snipers under Col. Daniel Morgan who gave the Crown a thrashing at Cowpens and has been the Citizen Soldier who answered Uncle Sam’s call every time he needed them.
Second String? … Horse-shit.
I would never call any of those men “2nd String” and the men and women of our “Well Regulated Militias” have long proven they are anything but the “2nd String.”
One of the things that stuck in my mind from that Oklahoma trip was a Sign in Flight Ops; well that and my contempt for the new one piece flight suits. We had 2 piece NOMEX, soft as a kitten’s butt, the last time I was active duty, the new one-piece flight suits chafed me like a sandpaper jock in the Oklahoma heat.
Back to the Sign in Flt Ops; It pretty much put the intrinsic value of the National Guard, the Militia, the Citizen Soldier into words.
GO Army! Beat Navy!