Capt. Ronald Himsel, Executive Officer of Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard -- the only Army reserve forces infantry unit to fight in Vietnam -- passes the honor guard that greeted the unit at Standiford Field, in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by John D. Simpson, Indiana Military Department
As combat continued, Americans became increasingly critical of the war in Vietnam. Combined with domestic insurgency related to the civil rights movement, protests and riots erupted in American cities and on college campuses. State governments called upon the National Guard to support local authorities to maintain law and order. The peak for domestic disturbances occurred in 1968, the year of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. In all, approximately 105,000 Army Guardsmen responded to seventy-seven incidents in twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia.
Public fatigue with the war and a growing antiwar sentiment resulted in increased demands for smaller defense budgets, force reductions, and an end to the draft. As these demands were met, US defense policy shifted towards a greater reliance on reserve forces for national defense. Taking some of the lessons learned from the SRF program and the Vietnam mobilization, and combined with readiness initiatives already begun by some of the services as a result of Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced a Total Force concept in 1970 wherein the armed services would begin addressing readiness issues with their reserve components. As the DoD began to implement the Total Force Policy in 1973, the National Guard started to receive more modern equipment, experience increased training opportunities within the US and overseas, and see a greater inclusion in Army and Air Force contingency planning.