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New Mexico National Guard

The history of the New Mexico National Guard is unique and has existed under many names and three flags from the time of the Spanish conquistadors to the present. The Spanish Colonial Militia began on April 30, 1598 when Juan de Onate's colonization expedition crossed the Rio del Norte (Rio Grande) in the vicinity of present-day Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. There were no regular Spanish soldiers with the expedition and none were assigned to the new colony of Nuevo Mexico during the seventeenth century through the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680. The military requirements of the colony were undertaken by the colonists themselves in their dual role of soldier-colonist.

By the early eighteenth century, the population of this province had grown and settlements proliferated. In each settlement, one of their numbers was designated Maese or Maestre de Campo, who served as the local leader or commander of the citizen-soldiers (vecinos) in his jurisdiction. The Meastre de Campo responded to a call to arms by the governor with as many citizen-soldiers as he could muster locally. Each member of this militia provided his own arms and mount for the common defense.

This militia system prevailed until 1846, when General Stephen W. Kearny occupied New Mexico. The first Territorial Militia was provided for by a system of laws devised by Kearny, commonly known as the Kearny Code. Then in 1851 the first territorial Legislature created the office of Adjutant General and placed the territorial Militia under its jurisdiction.

In 1862, the Territorial Militia (New Mexico Volunteers) played a decisive role in the defeat of Confederate forces in the Battle of Glorieta. During 1863 and 1864, the Militia was also active in Navajo and other Indian campaigns of the period.

In 1898, the war with Spain called for the organization of volunteer forces which achieved fame as Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders." Many New Mexico Guardsmen helped form the 2nd Squadron, 1st United States Cavalry, which served with Roosevelt at the legendary charge of San Juan Hill.

After the war with Spain, units of the New Mexico National Guard were again placed in active service on the Mexican border to pursue Pancho Villa after Mexican forces raided Columbus, New Mexico, 1916. The Guard spent one year on this border duty, hardening themselves to the rough field conditions of the desert southwest.

Mobilization for World War I found the New Mexico National Guard ready for the upcoming struggle. Upon activation into Federal Service, the First Regiment of Infantry was assigned to the 40th Infantry Division in France. A Battery of Field Artillery was assigned to the 41st Division and became part of the 146th Field Artillery Regiment. This unit took part in the actions at Champagne-Marne, Alsne-Marne, and Meuse-Argonne.

In 1921, the Guard was reorganized into the 111th Cavalry Regiment, the 120th engineers, and Battery A, 158th Field Artillery. In 1939, the War Department suggested the 111th Cavalry convert to another branch of service and the officers of the command jointly selected Coast Artillery. In 1940, the 111th was redesignated the 200th Coast Artillery and the 158th was reorganized as the 104th Anti-Tank Battalion. On January 6, 1940, these units, along with the 120th Engineer Regiment, were called to active duty for what was supposed to be a one-year training period.

In August 1941, the 200th was given notice that it had been selected for an overseas assignment of great importance. At about 0300 hours on December 8, 1941, the 200th went on full alert when the night radio crew picked up commercial broadcasts telling of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At 1235 hours, on December 8, Japanese bombers, accompanied by strafing planes, made their appearance over the Philippine Islands and the war was on for the 200th.

The 200th assumed the mission of covering the retreat of the Northern Luzon force into Bataan, while the Provisional Manila Group newly christened on December 19, 1941 and the 515th Coast Artillery assumed a similar mission for the South Luzon force. These units distinguished themselves during this action and during the defense of Bataan.

Of the 1,800 New Mexico men sent to the Philippines, 900 survived the Battle for Bataan and the horrors and atrocities of the "death march" and the privation and deep humiliation of the 40 months spent in prisoner of war camps. The 200th and its "child" the 515th, better known as "the Brigade," will always be remembered for the bravery and devotion to duty of its members. These proud men brought home three distinguished unit citations and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.

The 120th engineers (Less 1st Bn.) was inducted into Federal Service on September 16, 1940 and immediately departed for Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for the start of intensive engineer training preparing for the upcoming assault on Europe. When the 45th Division moved into Sicily, the attached 120th was there. With the 45th Division constantly on the move, the 120th also served in Rome, Southern France and throughout the Rhineland.

In another sector of the Italian campaign, the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion, formerly the 104th Anti-tank Battalion, was helping to write the pages of war history in support of the 34th "red Bull" division. While in action, men of the Battalion were awarded eight Silver Star medals, three Legion of Merits and sixty bronze stars. One hundred and thirty-five were awarded purple hearts; thirty of these were awarded posthumously. Campaign credits earned were for Rome - Arno, North Apennines, and Po Valley. Their decorations are as follows: Streamer in the colors of the French Croix de Guerre with Palm embroidery Central Italy.

The War Department made allotments for the reorganization of the Guard in March 1947. This order gave the State five separate Anti-Aircraft Battalions, one Operations Detachment, two Signal Radar Units, one Engineer Searchlight Maintenance Unit, three Ordnance Companies, one Transportation Truck Company and one Army Band. Also, in this same time the Guard was allotted a Fighter-Bomber Squadron for its Air National Guard. The organization listed above remained static until August 1950.

The Korean Conflict caused activation into Federal service of the 716th AAA Gun Battalion along with the 726th and 394th Signal Radar Maintenance Unit. The 188th was also activated during the conflict. New Mexico units furnished individual members as replacements to units engaged in active combat. No entire unit saw action in the hills of Korea.

During the buildup of the Army caused by the Berlin crisis in 1961, the 394th Signal Detachment was ordered into Federal service on October 1, 1961. This unit was assigned to Tobyhana Signal Depot in Pennsylvania until August 1962. On July 1, 1961, the 188th Fighter Interceptor Squadron assumed 24-hour Air Defense alert status at Kirtland Air Force Base.

The Vietnam Conflict caused a beef-up in the Guard's manpower and equipment. Although no Army National Guard units were activated for Federal service, many guardsmen did volunteer for duty.

In 1967, the Army Guard was ordered to State duty by the Governor to assist local and State law enforcement officials following a raid on the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. Once again units of both the Army and Air Guard were ordered to State duty in 1970 to assist local and State police during campus riots at the University of New Mexico.

The riot at the State Penitentiary in Santa Fe during February 1980 will be remembered as one of the worst in history. Guard personnel and many law enforcement officers were on duty throughout the thirty-six hour seize during which the penitentiary was burned and thirty-three inmates were killed and many injured. This same year the 150th Tactical Fighter Group won the Winston P. Wilson Trophy for being the best Fighter Unit in the Air National Guard.

During the 1983-1989 time frame the New Mexico Army National Guard began a complete modernization program to gain high technology type units. The 5th Battalion (Roland) was fielded at McGregor range. This unit was disbanded in September 1988, due to Federal budget cuts. A complete conversion of Duster Battalions to the Chaparral Battalions was accomplished. A new HAWK Missile Battalion is now in place at Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

In November 1990, four units of the Guard were federalized into active duty in support of Operation Desert Shield later to be called Desert Storm: 720th Heavy Truck Transportation Company, Las Vegas, 812th Medical Detachment, Santa Fe, 150th Security Police flight, Albuquerque, and the Air Defense Training Activity, Ft. Bliss, Texas. As in past wars, when the Nation called, these men and women served with pride and distinction.

FY99 proved to be a year of unique operational accomplishments for the New Mexico Army National Guard. The field artillery battalion underwent a 21-day annual training, receiving NET on the M-109A6 PALADIN. Two ADA AVENGER battalions participated in Roving Sands, the largest air defense exercise in the free world. This clearly demonstrated interoperability capabilities between the AC, RC and allied forces. The newly activated PATRIOT battalion sent 9 soldiers to SWA in support of Operation Southern Watch. The NMARNG supported a number of ODT missions in FY99 including Ulchi Focus Lens in Korea, Yama Sakura in Japan, three rotations to Germany and Italy as well as maintenance company rotations though JRTC and NTC. At home the NMARNG executed 22 state missions ranging from water hauls to snow emergencies, and 13 search and rescue missions involving our UH-60A equipped air ambulance company.

The New Mexico National Guard completed construction of one readiness center and broke ground on another during fiscal year 1999, bringing the number of new armories in the state to 23. The organization is updating several buildings and remains committed to providing the finest state-of-the art training facilities for its soldiers.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:31 ZULU