NEWS | May 19, 2021

Ceremony celebrates Virginia National Guard’s 414th birthday

By Cotton Puryear JFHQ Public Affairs

The Virginia National Guard celebrated its 414th birthday May 14, 2021, at the Sergeant Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. Command Chief Master Sgt. Kelly Reich, Virginia Air National Guard Command Chief, and Sgt. Korion Hunt, a Virginia Army National recruiter assigned to Newport News, cut the cake flanked by Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs and Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.

The VNG traces the heritage and traditions of Citizen-Soldier service to the 1607 founding of America’s first permanent English colony at Jamestown when Capt. John Smith organized the colonists for defense. There has not been a day since May 14, 1607, without a military presence in Virginia to defend freedom at home and overseas.

Jabs presented the Governor of Virginia's 414th Birthday of the Virginia National Guard Proclamation as part of the ceremony. Read the proclamation at https://go.usa.gov/xH6nM.

Earlier in the day, Williams and Reich, along with retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Al Barnes, Virginia National Guard command historian, discussed their service and VNG history during a “Salute to Service: National Guard” livestream hosted by the Virginia War Memorial. Watch the livestream at https://vimeo.com/549344724.

Prior to 1652, formal military organizations were formed as needed and disbanded after the threat passed, and then the House of Burgesses passed a bill that each county would organize militia companies into a regiment. The oldest continuous service regiment in the Virginia National Guard is the 116th Infantry, dating from 1742. The 1st Virginia Regiment was raised July 17, 1775, in Williamsburg as a state militia unit and later for service with the Continental Army, and its lineage lives on today in the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion.

National Guard Bureau states on their website that the official birth date of the Army National Guard as a reserve component of the Army is December 13, 1636. On this date, the Massachusetts colonial legislature directed that the colony’s existing militia companies be organized into three regiments. This date is recognized based upon the Department of Defense’s practice of adopting the dates of initial authorizing legislation for organized units as the birthdates of the active and reserve components of the armed services.

According to their web site. the Florida National Guard celebrates the first known muster of Citizen-Soldiers in the continental U.S. during a celebration in St. Augustine, Fla. The “first muster” took place on Sept. 16, 1565, when Pedro Menendez de Aviles gathered around him the soldiers of his small Spanish army, as well as the civilian settlers who had accompanied him to the newly established presidio town of St. Augustine. Because his plan called for the use of the majority of his regular soldiers, Menendez drew upon Spanish laws governing the milicia, or militia, in an imperial province. As both the civil governor and the commander-in-chief of the military establishment, he had the authority to call all free male settlers in the presidio province to active service.

Virginia National Guard service dates back to the American Revolution through the American Civil War to World War I and II and on into Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.

The 29th Infantry Division, 116th Infantry Regiment, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 54th Field Artillery Brigade and 246th Field Artillery Regiment were all formed in 1917 from existing militia units as the United States prepared to enter World War I. Soldiers of the 116th Infantry spearheaded an attack in October 1918 during what was known as the Meuse Argonne Offensive. During this attack, Sgt. Earle Gregory of the 116th Infantry earned the Medal of Honor, the first Virginia Guard Soldier to receive the award. The 29th, 116th and 111th are still in active service today, and the 329th Regional Support Group carries the lineage of the 54th, and the 429th Brigade Support Battalion carries the lineage of the 246th.

World War I marked the first time that volunteer state militia units were activated for federal duty under a formal Army structure and deployed overseas for combat operations. Guard Soldiers served with courage, honor and distinction, and that tradition continues on today as we have Guard personnel deployed all over the world.

During World War II, Soldiers from the 29th took part in the massive invasion of Normandy France that began the morning of June 6, 1944, to be known forever as “D-Day.” More than 800 members of the 116th Infantry were killed, wounded or missing during the assault on Omaha Beach, but their courage and bravery helped create a foothold that allowed follow on forces to continue the assault. Two days after D-Day, Tech. Sgt. Frank Peregory of Company K, 116th Infantry from Charlottesville, became the second Virginia Guard Soldier to earn the Medal of Honor when he single-handedly killed or captured 30 enemy soldiers defending a trench line.

The last 18 months have seen unprecedented employment of the National Guard for COVID-19 response as well as support to civilian law enforcement.

As of May 14, Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have administered more than 48,370 COVID-19 vaccinations and provided administrative and logistical support enabling nearly 415,300 vaccinations at clinics around the commonwealth. Since COVID response operations began in April 2020, VNG personnel have collected more than 179,160 samples for testing and conducted thousands of N95 respirator mask fit testing in support of localities.

Missions from April through July 2020 included providing support to food banks across the state, helping distribute nearly 1,350,000 pounds of food. VNG personnel also provided more than 51,000 hours in planning augmentation to VDEM.

The Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division assisted federal agencies in securing the nation’s capital during the 59th Presidential Inauguration and were among more than 25,000 National Guard members from 50 states and three territories who were activated to support the inauguration. The 29 led a task force of more than 9,000 personnel from 24 states that was responsible for securing property at the U.S. Capitol, protecting government employees, providing logistical support, staffing   traffic control points and providing crowd management.

The last group of Virginia National Guard personnel assisting civilian law enforcement with security operations at the 59th Presidential Inauguration and the days before and after the event departed Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2021.  On Inauguration Day, approximately 2,400 VNG troops were among the more than 25,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from across the country on duty assisting authorities with keeping people safe and protecting property. A group of about 1,000 VNG personnel remained to assist with the enduring National Guard support following the inauguration.

More than 500 VA and MD Soldiers assigned to the 29th ID began a federal mobilization May 15 for a 10-month long deployment in the Central Command Area of Operations as Task Force Spartan to provide leadership, command, control and in-depth staff analysis for Operation Spartan Shield.

In Fall 2021, approximately 80 Soldiers assigned to the HQs. 329th Regional Support Group will begin a 10-month deployment in the Central Command Area of Operations under the operational control of Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve serving as the base operating support-integrator for multiple installations.

With additional federal mobilizations anticipated to take place this year, the VNG is on pace to deploy the largest number of troops since 2007 when about 2,300 personnel were serving in support of Operation Iraq Freedom and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. Nearly 700 Soldiers mobilized for support to OIF and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2008.

Nearly 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen served on federal active duty in the last 24 months, and VNG units conducted a wide variety of missions including F-22 fighter jet air dominance, civil engineering, cyber, mission command, partnership building, sustainment, security and rotary wing flight operations and maintenance. They join more than 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen who have mobilized for homeland security missions, combat operations and peacekeeping and stabilization missions since September 11, 2001.

View photos on Flickr at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmVDKNuE.

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