Members of Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard posed for a photograph in Vietnam. The unit served in theater for a year, from December 1968 to January 1970.U.S. Army Photo

Home : Features : 2016 : Vietnam War 50th Commemoration : 1969

The height of the Army National Guard’s participation in the Vietnam War was 1969. In addition to the 2,729 soldiers that deployed in 1968, approximately 4,000 soldiers from the 29th Infantry Brigade from Hawaii and the 69th Infantry Brigade from Kansas deployed as individual augmentees.

Army Guardsmen repeatedly faced the perils of combat with courage and determination. On June 19, 1969, Viet Cong sappers infiltrated Fire Base Tomahawk where members of Kentucky’s Battery C, 2-138th Field Artillery held the line. In all, the battery lost thirteen soldiers; nonetheless, the unit held the base and killed 18 insurgents during the attack. Serving with Illinois’ 126th Supply and Service Company (Direct Support), Specialist Gail Oitker earned a Bronze Star for Valor for thwarting an enemy ambush by wielding a machine gun.

Air Guardsmen who served in Vietnam did so with valor and expertise. The 35th Tactical Fighter Wing historian wrote that the Air Guardsmen at Da Nang were “highly professional.” General George S. Brown, the 7th Air Force commander and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote that “the five F-100 Air National Guard squadrons…were the five best F-100 squadrons in the field.” The Air Guard provided more than fighter units, and in 1970, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 193rd Special Operations Wing deployed to Korat Royal Thai Air Base with two EC-121 Lockheed "Super Constellations." As Operation Command Buzz, the unit’s two aircraft conducted psychological operations against North Vietnamese forces.

Meanwhile in the states, the Department of Defense ended the SRF program in September 1969. The reduction of active duty forces in theater combined with a better resourced and more ready National Guard reduced the strategic uncertainties that had necessitated the SRF.