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Always Ready, Always There, for 379 years

Dec. 13, 2015

By Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, the adjutant general

Dec. 13, 2015 is the 379th birthday of the National Guard.

Dec. 13, 2015 is the 379th birthday of the National Guard.

This Sunday, we will observe the 379th birthday of the National Guard. The date commemorates “The First Muster,” when three regiments of volunteer militia were formed on Dec. 13, 1636 in Massachusetts Bay Colony for the purpose of becoming a well-trained and capable defense force.

There is a distinct pride that comes with that heritage, belonging to the long line of our homeland’s defenders. This heritage precedes by nearly seven score years the birth of our nation and the establishment of our Army and Navy as a national military.

The early American militia sought to ensure territorial integrity against incursions by domestic or international powers, and today’s Army and Air National Guard also defend the homeland against foreign and domestic threats. In the 21st century, this role has grown to include the cyber realm, and the National Guard is leading the way in building cyber protection teams across the nation, partnering with local, state and federal agencies in safeguarding critical infrastructure from cyber attacks that could halt or diminish critical services.

The National Guard continues to hone its emergency response role. Beyond responding to devastating stoms, wildfires, floods and civil unrest, the National Guard also has specialized teams to support local authorities in identifying potential weapons of mass destruction as well as rescuing and recovering victims of natural and man-made disasters. We are the nation’s first military responders, and we work closely with local authorities — even conducting periodic and realistic training — to ensure that our response efforts are appropriate to the event. The National Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated how important a trained and ready response force truly is in a large-scale emergency.

And dating back to the Spanish-American War, the National Guard has played an increasingly important role as the nation’s primary combat reserve supporting our overseas operations. During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the National Guard validated the Abrams Doctrine of a total force concept — reserve component units serving shoulder-to-shoulder with active duty counterparts. And since 9/11, the National Guard has proven its intrinsic value to our nation by defending our skies, collaborating in multi-agency anti-terror efforts such as Joint Task Force Empire Shield in New York City, and deploying overseas to support such operations as Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve.

Our National Guard has never been better trained or more experienced than it is today. This is fortunate, as our responsibilities to the homeland show no signs of diminishing. But maintaining our readiness to respond where we are needed in a timely manner is not easy. We need quality men and women to fill our ranks. We need the support of families and employers who understand and are willing to sacrifice having their service member at home or on the job in those moments when their state or nation calls. And we need appropriate funding to maintain troop strength and training in a time of increasing peril at home and abroad.

The Citizen-Soldier is part of the fabric of our nation, and embodies the noble characteristic of service before self that has always enabled our nation to endure in good times and bad. 379 years of service is something to be proud of, and I am proud of each and every one of our soldiers and airmen in the Wisconsin National Guard.

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Pearl Harbor a reminder to remain always ready

Dec. 7, 2015

By Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, the adjutant generalh72273k

Dec. 7 lives on in America’s history because it is one of the moments when time stood still. It was a devastating attack that caught us off guard and ill prepared. It shook our confidence. The next day, Congress approved President Roosevelt’s request for a declaration of war. America joined the fight on two fronts and led the allies to victory in Europe and in the Pacific.


There are many poignant stories about the Pearl Harbor attack. One of the most memorable involves the battleship U.S.S. Arizona. The Arizona was the most heavily damaged battleship on Dec. 7 and she remains submerged in Pearl Harbor to this day. A memorial stands over the ship’s remains to remind us of that day and has come to commemorate all military personnel killed in the attack. The memorial has seven windows on each side and on the roof, which represent a perpetual 21-gun salute. The structure stands tall on both sides and sags in the middle; representing a proud nation before the attack, a sag in the middle as the nation felt the impact of the attack, and a triumphant nation that defeated her enemy.


Following Pearl Harbor, America’s response included a massive military buildup that included mobilization of the Wisconsin National Guard. The 32nd (Red Arrow) Division wrote another chapter in its storied history, which built upon the combat success of World War I, where it earned its nickname, “Les Terribles.” Originally bound for Europe, the division was diverted to the Pacific were it defeated the enemy in the first offensive action on Papua New Guinea and would go on to serve 654 days in combat.


Today, the National Guard remains the primary combat reserve of the United States Army and the United States Air Force, and the nation’s first military responder for domestic emergencies.


On Dec. 7, let us remember and honor those killed in action at Pearl Harbor and honor our greatest generation for their service and victory in World War II. Let us also preserve our nation for future generations by remaining ready and never again being caught ill prepared by an enemy. This is increasingly more difficult in an era of cyber threats and terrorism.


I cannot predict the next moment when time stands still, but it will occur. We must remain steadfast in our preparedness and resolute in preserving our nation’s freedoms.