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National Guard Before the Great War

In 1902, Major General Charles W. Dick, commander of the Ohio Division of the National Guard and a member of the U. S. House of Representatives, became president of the National Guard Association. General Dick, working with Secretary of War Root, proposed legislation which would place the National Guard on an equal footing with the Regular Army. The final version of the law was a compromise between what National Guard Association wanted - an organization properly funded, equipped and trained, and what many career officers of the Regular Army wanted - a federally oriented reserve force, freed from state control.

The modern image of today's National Guard began to emerge in 1903, when the Militia Act (also called the Dick Act) thrust the federal government into the picture by establishing procedures for a more direct and active role in organizing, training and equipping the National Guard in line with the standards established for the regular Army.

The 1903 Dick Act, which replaced the old Militia Act of 1792, divided all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 into the organized militia (National Guard) and the reserve militia. In addition, it mandated that, within five years, the organization, pay, discipline and equipment of the National Guard be the same as that of the Regular Army. Increased federal funding would compensate Guardsmen for summer training camps and joint maneuvers with the Regular Army. States were required to hold at least 24 drills (instructional periods) each year, and some National Guard officers could now attend Regular Army schools. The War Department assigned Regular Army officers to each state as advisors, instructors and inspectors and enabled states to exchange outdated weapons and equipment for current issue. The War Department also created the Division of Militia Affairs, the forerunner of the National Guard Bureau, to oversee National Guard organization and training.

The Dick Act was a landmark. It created a stronger and more professional National Guard to serve as the nation's second line of defense. To some extent, the new law formalized many already existing practices.Membership in the National Guard remained voluntary, and governors retained control over National Guard mobilization. The Dick Act's nine-month limit on federal service was an improvement over previous restrictions. Most National Guard leaders, however, favored removing all limits to federal service.

A 1908 amendment lifted the nine-month restriction and permitted Guardsmen to serve outside the continental United States.

The act of Congress approved January twenty-first, nineteen hundred and three, entitled "An act to promote the efficiency of the militia, and for other purposes," (32 Stats., 775), as amended by the act of May twentyseventh, nineteen hundred and eight (35 Stats., 339), and the act of April 21 1910, (36 Stats., 329), is as follows: "Section 1. That the militia shall consist of every able-bodied male citizen of the respective States and Territories and the District of Columbia, and every able-bodied male of foreign birth who has declared his intention to become a citizen, who is more then eighteen and less than forty-five years of age, and shall be divided into two classes: The Organized Militia, to be known as the National Guard of the State, Territory, or District of Columbia, or by such other designations as may be given them by the laws of the respective States or Territories; the remainder to be known as the reserve militia:..."

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:20 ZULU