CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – As Soldiers of California’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade trade places with their counterparts of Pennsylvania’s 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, troops will be taking part in a legacy of state-to-state cooperation stretching back to the Civil War.
California, while a state during the Civil War, was unable to contribute troops to the war in the East thanks to the lack of intercontinental railroads and vast oceanic travel distances. To remedy this, Californians called for Oregon Sen. Edward Baker to recruit a force in their state’s name to serve alongside Union forces. Dubbed the “California Brigade,” its Philadelphia-native recruits constituted the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th California Infantry Regiments. Baker, appointed the brigade commander, would fall in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff within the first year of the war.
Pennsylvania would reclaim the units of the California Brigade, dubbing it the “Philadelphia Brigade” and reorganizing its units as the 69th, 71st, 72nd and 106th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments. The units would continue to serve until the Battle of Cold Harbor. Today, the 72nd Pennsylvania (3rd California) is perpetuated by the 111th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard and the “Philadelphia Brigade” is spiritually succeeded by the 56th Stryker Brigade.
During World War I, the 111th Infantry would continue to play a part in interstate bonds. Sgt. James I. Mestrovitch, an immigrant who settled in California before resettling in Pennsylvania, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions near the village of Fismette, France.
California would contribute even more men than Mestrovitch to the 28th Division, as the 40th Division would serve as a depot division and help strengthen the deployed 28th. California Guardsman Joe Tong Sue, a replacement sent to the 111th Infantry, would be awarded the Croix de Guerre for his actions in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
During the Korean War, California and Pennsylvania Guardsmen would be part of the only four National Guard divisions mobilized to serve during the conflict. While the 40th would partake in combat on the Korean Peninsula, the 28th would be sent to Germany to guard against the Soviets.
More recently, in 2016 Soldiers of the California National Guard helped train Pennsylvania Guardsmen of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 28th Division, before mobilization to their peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.