Virginia Army National Guard
The Virginia Army National Guard maintains 67 armories, and is present in 50 communities. The major units of the Virginia Army National Guard are:
- State Area Command
- 91st Troop Command
- 29th Infantry Division (Light)
- Engineer Brigade, 28th ID
- 54th Field Artillery Brigade
Historically, a number of people have served their "Country" in the Virginia Guard and ultimately gained notoriety. These include Virginia Guard officers who later became Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Tyler. Also among these are Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Jubal Early of Civil War fame, Sergeants Earle Gregory and Frank Peregory (both of whom earned the Medal of Honor) and Secretary of the Army John 0. Marsh, Jr., a former lieutenant colonel in the Virginia Guard.
The first man to give his life for "Commonwealth and Country", while unknown, did so within three weeks of the landing at "James Towne" in 1607, during an Indian attack against the unfinished "James" fort.
Over the next 168 years, thousands served and many died (more from disease than combat) to expand the Virginia colony. By the start of the Revolution in 1775, most men in the Virginia militia volunteered to fight for liberty. Gaining fame as a leader was Winchester's Daniel Morgan; but we should also remember the brave Virginians with him who died in the cold and snow of Canada in his failed attack on Quebec on New Year's Eve 1775. Soldiers from the Old Dominion served in every theater of the war and thousands lay today in unmarked graves far from home.
At the beginning of the Civil War, before Jackson and Early became household names, there was Captain John 0. Marr of the "Warrenton Rifles," who gained fame when he was killed on 1 June 1861 at Fairfax Courthouse, becoming the first of 15,000 Virginians to die during the war.
Between the end of Reconstruction in 1871 and the war against Spain in 1898, the "Volunteers" were often called upon to serve their communities in "Aid to Civil Authorities." This duty usually meant quelling riots and preventing mobs from lynching accused prisoners. It was in this role that, in September 1893, two members of the "Roanoke Light Infantry" were shot while exchanging gunfire with a mob storming the city jail in an attempt to hang a man accused of rape.
Four regiments of Virginians served in the Spanish-American War, though none saw combat. However, 47 men, including Private Ned Hobbs from Petersburg, an African-American soldier in the 6thVirginia Volunteers, died of disease.
Soon after America entered World War I, most Virginia Guard units were organized into regiments with the now familiar designations of 116th Infantry and 111th Field Artillery. While the 111th saw no combat, more than 300 men of the 116th Infantry were killed. Among them was Winchester's Captain Robert Conrad, who was the highest-ranking Virginia Guardsman to die in the war.
On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Virginians led the way onto "Omaha Beach," with over 800 members of the 116th Infantry and 42 men from the 111th Field Artillery becoming casualties. Among the dead were Richmond's Lieutenant Colonel Thornton Mullins, commander of the 111th; and the ll6th's Private Charles Milliron from Roanoke.
During the Cold War selected Virginia Guard units, including elements of the newly organized Virginia Air Guard, were called twice to active duty - first during the Korean War, 1950-1953, and again during the Berlin Crisis of 1961-1962. While no Virginia Guard units were put on active duty during the Vietnam War, some men volunteered for Federal service. One of them, Captain Harry Rose who graduated from the state OCS in 1966, was killed while serving the nation in Vietnam in 1969.
Eight Virginia Army Guard units deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Of the more than 700 Guard personnel serving in the Gulf, only one, Private First Class Pamela Gay from Sandston's 183rd Personnel Company, died (in a traffic accident).
The "Team Virginia" concept brings units and communities together to build a stronger, cohesive team. In support of this concept, the Virginia Army National Guard responded to the needs of their Commonwealth citizens through programs such as Lunch Buddies, Weed and Seed and Youth ChalleNGe. The VAARNG also remained committed through initiatives in Distance Learning, Y2K and preparing for a mission involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. A 22-person Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection Team led "Team Virginia," into the new millenium.
Guard members participated in numerous training activities both CONUS and OCONUS, including OPFOR missions at the National Training Center in California, the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Germany and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk. Soldiers also participated in New Horizons '99, a nation building project in Bolivia. In December 1999, the Headquarters of the Virginia Guard ended a 208-year existence in Richmond by leaving the Capitol for the first time since 1865. The new post at Fort Pickett trained more than 50,000 soldiers from all components.
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