Army National Guard
The armed forces have been supplemented
and supported by reservists for many years. The Army National
Guard and the Air National Guard (part of the US Air Force)
have performed this function, serving overseas and acting for
civil defense at home in the US. The same ranking applies as in
the regular armed forces and guardsmen are given the same
Due to recent conflicts and events, the number of guardsmen
sent abroad on active duty has increased and the length of
overseas service has risen from a maximum of six months to two
years. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the terrorism on
September 11th 2001 has stretched the armed forces and the Army
National Guard has been called upon more and more. They number
325,000 soldiers at present, all trained and equipped by the US
Army. Guardsmen must be between 17 and 45 years of age.
Guardsmen are not officially allowed to be mobilized on an
individual basis, although this has happened occasionally and
has caused controversy. Normally, the Army National guard will
be mobilized by order of the President in support of the army
regulars. State governors can also mobilize in their home state
if there is a formal state of emergency in place there.
Guardsmen have seen action in many major wars, including both
World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation
Desert Storm in 1990-1991. They have also supported in
conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo and Somalia.
Home defense is also part of their brief. This is to include
natural disasters and civil unrest. The Army National Guard has
been present at strikes, riots and has been part of the
security at Olympic Games hosted in America. Guardsmen were on
hand to help with the damage done by Hurricane Katrina 2005.
Their presence has sometimes caused controversy, particularly
when they shot four students dead in 1970. They had been sent
to disperse an anti-Vietnam War protest at Kent State
University and they shot into the crowd. This event incensed
opponents of the war and the bombing of Cambodia, putting
further pressure on President Richard Nixon.
It has been something of a tradition for American Presidents
to serve in the National Guard. These have included George
Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln,
Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and George W. Bush.
The National Guard tends to blend into the rest of the armed
forces when they are serving overseas as far as the public is
concerned. Their activities on American streets and campuses
gets more notice and has damaged their reputation, something
which they would want to resolve.