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Arkansas Army National Guard

The Arkansas Army National Guard maintains 75 armories, and is present in 74 communities.

During FY99 the Arkansas Army National Guard provided emergency support to the state when tornadoes tore across 17 counties. An average of 375 members stayed on duty each day during the recovery period. In its federal role, the 39th Infantry Brigade (Separate) deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to guard Patriot missile sites in support of Operation Southern Watch. The 39th is one of 15 "enhanced" brigades in the nation, equipped with the most modern military hardware and support services. Training exercises in FY99 centered on Razorback '99, a joint annual training venture combining nearly every unit within the Arkansas Army and Air National Guard. The exercise combined over 4,500 soldiers and air forces from the Camp Robinson Maneuver Training Area, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ebbing ANG Air Base and the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center. Army National Guard units from Texas, Illinois and Kansas provided technical support. The event coordinated, communicated and directed actions that normally are not tested during annual training events. The positive results are already paving the way for Razorback 2001.

The Arkansas National Guard can trace its history back nearly 200 yrs, to a time before Arkansas could even lay claim to statehood. The first recorded instance of an organized militia in the state occurred in the tiny trading village of Arkansas Post in 1806, consisting of only one company of infantry, and one company of light cavalry.

The Arkansas National Guard's roots go back to 1804. At that time, the legislative body governing the Indiana Territory, of which Arkansas was a part, enacted a law making all free males liable for military service excepting superior court judges, supreme court judges, the attorney general, the supreme court clerk, all licensed ministers, jail keepers, and those exempted by the laws of the United States. This created the first real instance of a localized militia in the Arkansas region. However, Arkansas was still a very sparsely populated area, and though militia did exist, their function was more social in nature than anything else. It would be almost a half century before these forces would see combat.

Arkansas was admitted to the Union as the twenty-fifth state on June 15, 1836. Almost ten years later, on May 27, 1846, Governor Thomas Drew issued a proclamation calling for volunteers to fight in the Mexican War. All of the Arkansans who fought in the war were volunteers; militia raised from the civilian population, and, as such, were precursors to the National Guard as we know it today. When the companies of the various counties came together there were twenty-two companies of cavalry and seven of infantry. From these, ten companies of cavalry were selected for service in the Arkansas Regiment of Mounted Volunteers - a regiment that consisted of Arkansans from every conceivable social strata. Archibald Yell, a former governor, and at the time a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, gave up his seat and enlisted as a private, later to be elected to the position of colonel. He met his end in true heroic fashion while leading a desperate charge into Mexican lancers. Another famous and highly controversial Arkansan, Albert Pike, also joined the war effort. A prominent Little Rock lawyer and commander of the "Little Rock Guards", Pike offered his company to the governor as cavalry willing to serve in Mexico.

The United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. While Congress was debating the declaration of war, the 1st Regiment was mobilized March 31, 1917 and began reporting to Fort Roots in North Little Rock. The 2nd and 3rd Regiments mobilized August 5th and were encamped around the new state capitol by August 8th. After completing mobilization paperwork and physicals, the regiments moved to Fort Roots, and then to Camp Pike on the 24th. In addition to the three infantry regiments, the following Arkansas National Guard units were mobilized: 1st Arkansas Ammunition Train, 1st Arkansas Ambulance Company and 1st Arkansas Field Hospital.

In mid-September the Arkansas units were notified that they were to be part of a newly created division, initially called the 18th but later named the 39th. The 1st Regiment became the 153rd Infantry Regiment, the 2nd Regiment became the 142nd Field Artillery Regiment, and the 3rd Regiment was split between the 154th Infantry Regiment and 141st Machine Gun Battalion. The Ammunition Train was redesignated the 114th, and the Ambulance Company became the 153rd as did the Field Hospital. The Arkansas units were ordered to Camp Beauregard in Alexandria, LA and began moving by train in late September. A total of 110 officers and 6,317 enlisted soldiers arrived at Camp Beauregard. The rest of the 39th Division was made up of National Guard units from Louisiana and Mississippi, and later, was brought up to strength with the addition of soldiers from Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky. The 39th, less its artillery units, left Camp Beauregard August 1, 1918 and sailed for overseas service August 6th. Shortly after arriving in France, the division was broken up and personnel used as replacements on the front lines. 142nd Field Artillery Regiment (originally the 2nd Infantry) was delayed by training as it converted from infantry to artillery. It sailed for France August 31st and arrived September 7th. The 142nd was certified for combat November 8th, 1918 and the armistice was signed on the 11th, preventing the 142nd from participating in combat.

Most former Arkansas guardsmen returned to the United States during January and February of 1919 and were discharged at Camp Pike. The 142nd stayed in France to conduct tests and exercises to develop techniques for motorized artillery battalions and won a commendation for efficient performance. The 142nd sailed from France aboard the USS Amphion June 3, 1919 and personnel were discharged at Camp Pike June 26th.

Arkansas National Guard units saw service in World War II, and all were called to duty before the start of the war on December 7, 1941. Arkansas's National Guard units were trained in accordance with War Department requirements. Considering the dearth of modern weaponry and equipment afflicting both the Regular Army and the National Guard, the Arkansas troops were probably as well-trained as any civilian force could be. Without the proper tools, realistic training was an almost impossible task. But the Guard did the best it could with what was available. When, for example, it was not possible to conduct live antiaircraft firing drills, gun crews of the 206th received instruction from the official series of War Department training guides and supplemental materials. The small arms available to Arkansas's Guardsmen were almost exclusively World War I surplus, but the men usually kept them in top condition.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:14 ZULU