Tuesday marked the 375th anniversary of the National Guard in the United States.
"For 375 years, the men and women of the National Guard have been protecting the lives and property of the people of the United States and defending freedom around the world," said Maj. Gen. (KS) Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general. "During this anniversary, we salute the Guardsmen who have made the ultimate sacrifice and all those who have served in the National Guard in peacetime and war."
The military organization now known as the National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on Dec. 13, 1636, when the Massachusetts General Court, for the first time in the history of the North American continent, established that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. With this decree, citizen-soldiers who mustered for military training could be and would be called upon to fight when needed.
Out of this first mustering grew the ranks of the "Minutemen," who would, 139 years later, fire the "shot heard around the world" at Concord River’s North Bridge on April 19, 1775, and begin our nation’s struggle for independence from Britain.
Today, although about 85 percent of National Guard soldiers and airmen across the country are part-time, the Army National Guard provides 32 percent of the Army’s total personnel and 40 percent of its operating forces, receiving only 11 percent of the Army budget. The Air National Guard provides 19 percent of the Air Force’s total personnel and 30 to 40 percent of the Air Force fighter, tanker and airlift capacity, receiving only six percent of the Air Force budget. Since Sept. 11, 2001, National Guard soldiers and airmen have been mobilized nearly 700,000 times in support of overseas and domestic missions and more than 115,000 current and former Guardsmen have mobilized more than once.
The Kansas National Guard is a significant contributor to the entire National Guard effort with our soldiers and airmen having served in numerous domestic missions in the last decade alone, including airport security missions following 9/11; security missions along the southwest border, disaster response missions in response to Hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustav and in numerous major state disasters including floods, tornadoes, wildfires and winter ice storms.
Since 9/11, more than 10,000 Kansas Army and Air National Guardsmen have been deployed for service in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and many other areas of the world. Currently, Kansas has more than 930 Army National Guardsmen and more than 90 Air National Guardsmen deployed.
Ten Kansas Guardsmen have sacrificed their lives since 9/11.
The Kansas Militia, the forerunner of the Kansas National Guard, was formed on Aug. 30, 1855. Kansas became the 34th state Jan. 29, 1861, and the territorial militia was organized into units of the Kansas National Guard. Article 8, Section 4 of the Kansas Constitution designates the governor of Kansas as the commander in chief for state duties. The U.S. Congress passed the Militia Act of 1903, providing the same organization and equipment for the National Guard in each state as provided to the U.S. Army.
Barton County has a history of support for members of the military who also are in its work force and this week the Barton County Commission continued its support through the adoption of a statement of support for the Guard and Reserve.
It’s an annual step the county takes, County Administrator Richard Boeckmen explained.
“In addition to recognizing the Guard and Reserve as being essential to the strength of our nation, the proclamation urges employers to enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, provide supervisors the tools to effectively manage employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve and recognize and support service members and their families,” according to information from the county.
The public support is important to service members who will return to their civilian jobs, according to information from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense agency. “The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 is the federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for members of the National Guard and Reserve and their civilian employers.
“USERRA affects employment, reemployment, employment benefits and retention in employment, when employees serve or have served in the uniformed services.”
The acts requires employers to provide:
• Allow employees to participate in military service
• Provide for prompt reinstatement into a job following military service
• Accumulation of seniority, including pension plan benefits
• Reinstatement of health insurance
• Training or retraining of job skills, including accommodations for disabled
• Protection against discrimination
“The law applies to all public and private employers in the United States to include federal, state, and local governments, regardless of size,” according to the agency.