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Montana Army National Guard

The Department of Military Affairs oversees all activities of the Army and Air National Guard, Disaster and Emergency Services Division, and provides administrative support to the Veterans Affairs Division, which is administratively attached to the department. The department is administered by the Adjutant General and his staff, as provided for in section 2-15-1202, MCA.

The department manages a joint federal-state program that keeps in readiness trained and equipped military organizations for the Governor in the event of a state emergency and the President in the event of a national emergency. Federal agencies control the military strength and mobilization missions of the Montana Guard. The department also plans for and coordinates state responses in disaster and emergency situations (Title 10, Chapter 3, MCA). The department administers an environmental program for the Army National Guard. The department manages and cooperates with state and federal agencies in providing statewide services for discharged veterans and their families (Title 10 Chapter 2, MCA).

The Montana Army National Guard was notified 14 September 2001 by the Department of Defense that security missions may potentially be assigned, as authorized by President Bush's declaration of a national emergency. The Guard's headquarters issued a preparation order to three of its units - the 495th Transportation Battalion headquarters located in Kalispell, Company B(-) 1-163rd Infantry Battalion located in Great Falls, and Battery C(-) 1-190th Field Artillery Battalion located in Malta - directing them to prepare security teams for potential activation.

The Montana Guard was formed in 1867 to protect settlers against marauding Indians along the Bozeman trail. The Montana regiments saw service in the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.

The Montana National Guard was inducted into Federal service for one year during the period of September 16, 1940; September 23, 1940; and October 8, 1940. The period of active duty was later extended eighteen months by Executive Order No. 8862, dated August 21, 1941. They had completed only about two and one-half months of the latter period when the United States was treacherously attacked at Pearl Harbor. When the Montana National Guard was inducted, it consisted of a total of 119 officers, 1 Warrant Officer and 1,631 enlisted men. At the date of induction into Federal service, the Montana National Guard consisted of the State Staff and Detachment; 163rd Infantry Regiment; Co. D, 116th Quartermaster Regiment; Co. D, 116th Medical Regiment; Hq. 2nd Battalion, 116th Quartermaster Regiment, and parts of the 81st Brigade Headquarters and 41st Division Headquarters. These troops were a part of the 41st Division comprised of troops from the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wymoing and were inducted into Federal service with the Division on September 16, 1940. They remained at their home rendezvous for a few days until the process of induction was completed and then entrained for their permanent training station at Camp Murray and Fort Lewis, Washington.

In March 1942, the men of the 41st Division boarded the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth for the long trip to Australia, becoming some of the first American troops deployed overseas during the war.

In the Spring of 1944, U.S. and Australian forces began "island hopping" to the Philippines, and the airfields on the island of Biak were the first U.S. objective. Planners forecast a week-long operation, unaware that there were 11,500 Japanese on the island entrenched in large caves which honeycombed Biak's mountainous interior. On May 27, 1944, the experienced veterans of the 41st Infantry Division, made up originally of National Guardsmen from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, landed unopposed on Biak. It was a feint: the 41st, which had earned its "Jungleer" nickname in New Guinea, was about to enter its toughest fight of World War II. Oregon's 162nd and 186th Infantry were moving inland toward the airfields when the enemy struck.

The 163rd Infantry (Montana) was quickly brought in to join the horrible jungle fighting, where despite the heat and steep terrain, water was rationed to one canteen every 24 hours. On June 15, I Corps commander Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger assumed command, prompting a new plan of attack. On June 16, the 2nd Battalion, 186th Infantry, attacked to close a gap between their regiment and the 162nd. The battalion overran dozens of machinegun nests, log bunkers and even a naval gun, and opened the battle's second phase when they discovered a second major cave system. These caves were not cleared until June 27, and not until August 20 would the fight for Biak be declared over. The brilliant Japanese use of natural defenses foreshadowed later fighting on Pelileu and Okinawa, and as on those more famous islands, the fighting on Biak was costly. Only 10 percent of the Japanese defenders survived; the U.S. suffered some 400 killed and 2,000 wounded in action, most of them from the 41st Division. Today, the proud heritage of the Jungleers is carried on by the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments of Oregon's 41st Infantry Brigade, and by Montana's 163rd Infantry and 163rd Cavalry Regiments.

The 163rd Infantry Regiment, like the rest of the 41st Division, was deactivated without fanfare at the end of 1945. The unit that had begun as the Montana National Guard contained barely 20 percent Montanans at the end of the war, more than five years after the Montana National Guard had been inducted.

In FY99 the Montana Army National Guard fulfilled its federal and state missions while meeting aggressive deployment challenges throughout the world in El Salvador, Honduras, Germany, Kahzakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Japan. Montana stood up new units such as Troop E, 163d Cavalry, part of the NTC OPFOR 11th Armored Cavalry "Black Horse" Regiment. Montana also began fielding new Army Division Redesign Strategy units with relevant and immediate real world missions.

The MTARNG led the Guard in military construction during FY99 with over $31 million of ongoing construction for several key facilities including Billings Armed Forces Reserve Center, Helena Armed Forces Reserve Center and Pistol and Rifle Qualification Ranges and Simulation Center. Additionally, the Montana Army National Guard provided $4.6 million for the Distance Learning Initiative and $41.9 million for the Youth ChalleNGe Program in the state. The MTARNG successfully launched the Youth ChalleNGe Program by recruiting 124 students in its first year.

The MTARNG strengthened its presence in 28 local communities in FY99 through ongoing recruiting and counterdrug programs. Successful community action projects included Christmas at Our House, American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Race for the Cure, Kaleidoscope Food Drive and the Disabled American Veterans Homeless Stand Down.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:28 ZULU