Delaware Army National Guard
The Delaware Army National Guard maintains 15 armories, and is present in 12 communities. The Delaware Army National Guard makes a significant financial contribution to the communities where Guard members live and work.
The Delaware National Guard began on August 31, 1655. The commissary (someone appointed to do a particular task) rode up and down the length of the colony calling the settlers to take up arms and defend the colony against the Dutch force that was about to attack Fort Christina, the present site of Wilmington. The area now known as the State of Delaware was a Swedish colony.
Delaware soldiers are credited with saving the army when they covered George Washington's 1776 retreat from Long Island. Although the regiment sustained heavy casualties in that heroic stand, many historians believe that without them, Washington's troops would have been routed. The Revolution would have ended that day. The First Regiment was with Washington in every battle from then on, with the exception of Princeton.
Following the Revolution, veterans of the Delaware Regiment reorganized the volunteer militia and carried on the regimental tradition through separate volunteer companies of light infantry, artillery, and cavalry. These members bought their own uniforms, horses, and even bought their own artillery pieces.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, President Lincoln called on the Governor for the detachment of one regiment and Delaware had no common or enrolled militia, only volunteers. The regiment went through the Wilderness campaign, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg. When their three year enlistments expired the two regiments combined into the First Delaware Veteran Volunteer Regiment made up of men who reenlisted "for the duration."
Men who served March 25, 1917 for 8 months on the Mexican border, of the First Battalion, First Delaware Infantry Regiment , were called upon for service. The regiment, federal duty was to defend vital utility and communications points against possible German sabotage. The Third Battalion-Companies I.K.L. and M-did its work in the Argonne forest at the height of the battle, building their water and railway systems under almost continuous air raids and shell fire, including gas shells. This is commemorated on the colors of the present day Delaware National Guard descendants of the 59th-the 198th Signal Battalion-by rainbow-hued battle streamer for Meuse-Argonne.
During World War II, Delaware's 261st Coast Artillery Battalion was a harbor defense unit, charged with defending the Delaware bay. Shortly after entering Federal service, it went into "temporary" bivouac on the sand dunes at Camp Henlopen. Before the battalion was through, the bivouac had become the $20,000,000 Fort Miles, the most modern and best equipped coast defense installation on the Atlantic Coast
Throughout the Cold War much reorganization, expansion and consolidation occurred in Guard units, especially in Delaware. Initially, two new anti-aircraft battalions, the 197th in Smyrna and the 945th in Laurel, were formed in the mid 1950s to meet these new challenges. In addition, two of Delaware's six battalions received the new self-propelled twin-40mm "Dusters," and two other battalions received the 75mm "Skysweeper" guns. At this time the 116th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital was organized in Wilmington. Then, in 1959, a major reorganization, based on the "Pentomic" division structure and the introduction of the Combat Arms Regimental System, took place within the Guard. Under this reorganization, all of Delaware's artillery units once again became part of the old regiment, and the 198th Artillery (First Delaware) became the regimental headquarters. The 156th Anti-aircraft battalion was redesignated as First Battalion, 198th Artillery. Their headquarters battery, which dated back to the Revolution, is the senior unit in the state. Then, in 1962, the Army Guard's five air defense outfits were again reorganized, this time into automatic weapon battalions. From this point on, the National Guard furnished not only all air defense for Army divisions, but also the automatic weapon capabilities. Finally in 1963, while maintaining its vital mission, the Delaware National Guard was reduced 10 percent due to the economy. This forced a consolidation of the Fifth and Third Battalions, and the one artillery battery became the 198th Army Aviation Company.
Although not called to active duty for the Vietnam War, Delaware Army and Air Guard members fulfilled vital roles which made possible the heavy commitment of active forces there. From the start of the build-up in Vietnam, numbers of individual Delaware Guard members, especially aviators, volunteered for active duty.
In November 1990, the 249th Engineer Detachment and the 736th Supply and Service Battalion of the Delaware Army National Guard were placed on alert status and very shortly thereafter placed on active duty to participate in Operation Desert Shield.
The 44th MPAD of the Delaware Army National Guard deployed in FY99 for a 270-day mission in support of Operation Joint Forge. The unit was divided into four sections, each with different responsibilities within US Army Europe's Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. In April, the Delaware Army National Guard began construction of its first new readiness center in over twenty-five years. The 31,000 square foot facility replaces the existing 14,000 square foot armory constructed in 1953, and will serve as a military training center and a community center.
The Guard received over $1.2 million in federal funding during FY99 to combat the war on drugs in Delaware. The Guard's "Drug Education For Youth" program was phenomenally successful. The program sponsors up to 80 inner-city youths for an exciting one-week program at the Bethany Beach Training Site. The Delaware Guard is well known for its contributions in support of natural disasters as witnessed during major snowfall, ice storms or "Nor'Easters". The Delaware guard also supports the Delaware Radiological Emergency Plan by providing decontamination centers, radiological monitoring teams and assistance with the Delaware River and Bay Authority.
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