The Virginia National Guard celebrated its 416th birthday May 12, 2023, with a ceremonial cake cutting at the Sergeant Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. Army Spc. Kojo Kumi-Darfour, Army Sgt. Alexis Abraham and Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Wyatt representing the Virginia Army National Guard and Virginia Air National Guard, cut the cake flanked by Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Brig. Gen. James W. Ring, VNG Director of the Joint Staff.
After the cake cutting, Crenshaw presented Williams with the Governor of Virginia's 416th Birthday of the Virginia National Guard proclamation.
The VNG traces the heritage and traditions of citizen-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.
Read more about the VNG’s historical connection to Jamestown at https://ngpa.us/25278
Read the full Governor’s proclamation at https://ngpa.us/25279
The last two years have seen unprecedented employment of the Virginia National Guard both at home and overseas.
According to the proclamation, in the last 24 months the utilization of the National Guard has been unprecedented with Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force providing critical support to the state's COVID-19 response, assisting civilian law enforcement during periods of civil unrest, as well as assisting state and local governments during hazardous weather response operations.
The proclamation also recognizes the historical pace of federal active duty mobilizations over the last two years.
From August 2021 to February 2023, more than 2,000 Virginia National Guard personnel mobilized on federal active duty in the United States and overseas, the most since 2007.
VNG Soldiers on duty in the U.S. provided aviation, engineer, transportation and unmanned aerial surveillance support to the Department of Defense-approved mission assisting Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest Border and cyberspace operations support to U.S. Cyber Command.
Soldiers deployed overseas provided mission command for multi-national forces in Kuwait, mission command and base life support in Iraq and Kuwait, a security response force in the Horn of Africa, air defense site security in Iraq, engineer utilities support in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait and conducted NATO peace support operations in Kosovo. VNG Airmen also supported a short-notice air superiority support in the United Arab Emirates.
Since September 11, 2001, more than 18,500 VNG Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized across the globe and here in the United States for homeland security missions.
Virginia National Guard History Overview:
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.