Members of the 2nd Connecticut Infantry on a road march through the rugged terrain of Arizona during the regiment's Mexican Border service. Painting by Donna Neary for the National Guard Bureau
1916Nogales, Arizona - Members of the 2nd Connecticut Infantry conduct training maneuvers along the Mexican Border while guarding it against incursions from revolutionary fighters across northern Mexico.
The trouble started in March 1916 when Mexican leader Pancho Villa led his men on a raid against the town of Columbus, NM. The invading Division of the North killed ten civilians and eight Soldiers in the raid. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched most of the small American Army into northern Mexico to kill or capture Villa and his men, in a campaign that became known popularly as the "Punitive Expedition."
To protect the border and stop further raids, Wilson mobilized 158,664 Guardsmen from all 48 states and ordered them to camps in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Serving as a security presence on the border, this mobilization allowed the Guard to conduct large-scale field exercises not normally available in two weeks of annual training each summer. This proved beneficial on multiple levels, as World War I raged in Europe and America's active-component Army, along with the Guard, needed preparation in case the nation was drawn into the conflict.
While Villa was never caught, tensions eased with Mexico in late 1916 / early 1917. Soldiers from the Punitive Expedition came home. This allowed many Guard units to return to their states; soon thereafter, men were released from active duty.
This 2nd Connecticut mobilization ended in November 1916. However, the regiment was remobilized in February 1917, as America prepared to go to war with Germany later that spring. The lessons and skills learned by the Guardsmen on the border proved of great value when the men of the 2nd Connecticut, redesignated as the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division, fought in six battles in France in 1918.