September 11, 2001 brought new meaning to the concept of homeland defense for the National Guard. In the immediate wake of the attack on the World Trade Center, the New York Army and Air National Guard mobilized over 8,000 personnel to secure the area, rush in supplies, and assist in the rescue and recovery. Other states mobilized lesser amounts in order to increase security and provide assistance to the recovery efforts in New York and at the Pentagon. On September 27, President Bush authorized the use of the National Guard in a Title 32 status (federally-funded, but State-controlled) to increase security at airports; by mid-December, 2001 in excess of 50,000 Guard members nationwide were mobilized in either a federal or state status in order to secure airports and other vital facilities, or to support Operation Noble Eagle (homeland defense) and Enduring Freedom (the Afghanistan war). While the airport security mission ended in June 2002, the Army Guard continues to support the states and the nation in large numbers as security forces protecting vital infrastructure here in the U.S.
A significant portion of the force deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to come from the Guard. At one point in 2005, half of the combat brigades in Iraq were Army National Guard â€“ a percentage of commitment as part of the overall Army effort not seen since the first years of World War II. These extended deployments initially placed some strain on recruiting in the Army National Guard, but had the positive effect of creating cohesive, battle-hardened units. The extended active duty has also largely validated the Total Force policy of reliance on the Guard and Reserves, to include Guard combat units. In late 2005 the headquarters of the 42nd Infantry Division returned from a one year deployment to Iraq, where it commanded both active and Guard brigades - the first time in the history of the National Guard that a Guard division commanded active Army brigades in a combat zone, and the first deployment of a Guard division to a combat zone since the Korean War.
Because of the high level of commitment of active duty forces, reserve forces have been integrated on a greater scale than ever before in the regular rotations of forces for regional peacekeeping. The Kosovo and Sinai peacekeeping operations have all been turned over to the Guard for continued execution, as has the security force at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and numerous smaller operations.
2005 marked the largest deployment ever of National Guard troops in response to a natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina devastated broad swaths of Mississippi and Louisiana, and the damage was compounded by the failure of levees in New Orleans. Hurricane Rita followed shortly thereafter and did great damage to Louisiana and Texas. At peak, over 50,000 Army and Air Guard members responded to these hurricanes, while nearly 80,000 were simultaneously serving on active duty elsewhere in the world. Over 17,000 civilians were saved from imminent danger, primarily by Army Guard helicopters, with hundreds more rescued in small boats. Army and Air Guard members from every state, territory, and the District of Columbia gave assistance to Gulf Coast states by virtue of State Emergency Management Assistance Compacts, agreements that allowed governors to call on neighboring states for help without having to surrender control of the recovery effort to federal authorities.
If you would like more information on the Army National Guard, or would like to contact a recruiter, please visit the Army National Guard web site.
Note: It does not obligate you to join.