National Guard Birthday

Updated: January 9, 2024
In this Article

    The National Guard includes the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. These two components have a mission to equip, train, and deploy when needed in emergencies for contingencies around the world.

    The National Guard Birthday will be observed on Friday, Dec. 13, 2024.

    The Air National Guard will be observed on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2024.

    What It Means To Be Part of The National Guard

    Whether serving in the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard, the nature of service involves a concept some call being a “citizen soldier.” They are also known as a “citizen airman” which means that Guard members have joined the military with its responsibilities and privileges. They also maintain a civilian job and a life outside the active duty military world.

    National Guard members have been labeled “weekend warriors” or “part-time” soldiers and airmen. The role of the Guard should not be taken for granted in the larger scheme of homeland security, global military operations, or the war on terror.

    The end of the first Operation Desert Storm led to a serious reconsideration of how Guard and Reserve forces could be used to augment active duty missions. This brought the reshaping of the work and deployment of these part-time forces.

    Being a member of the National Guard means being ready to put civilian careers on hold to train, deploy, and serve. The role that “weekend warriors” play in the full-time Army and Air Force work done around the world is a crucial part of the Defense Department’s planning for such operations.

    Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, more than 650,000 National Guard members have been called on to serve at home and abroad.


    The National Guard Birthday: Dec. 13, 1636

    The birthday of the National Guard may surprise you. The National Guard official site lists the official date as Dec. 13, 1636.

    That is no misprint. The date the Massachusetts colonial legislature authorized a consolidation of the colony’s militias into three regiments was indeed on Dec. 13, 1636.

    This date is used as part of a Defense Department tradition of using the date on the legislation officially recognizing an active or reserve component’s existence.

    Later, the Militia Act of May 8, 1792 authorized military units formed before the Act to retain “customary privileges.” Over 100 years later, the Militia Act of 1903 plus the National Defense Act of 1916 with other laws, the original Militia Act has been perpetuated.

    The National Guard: Older Than the United States Army

    There are four United States Army units considered direct descendants of the 1636 reorganization. The units are the following:

    • 101st Engineer Battalion
    • 101st Field Artillery Regiment
    • 181st Infantry Regiment
    • 182nd Infantry Regiment

    All four belong to the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

    The Air National Guard’s Army Heritage

    Like the Air Force, the Air National Guard has its roots in the U.S. Army. Military flying missions have their genesis in the Army Signal Corps. This included military balloon operations and later the first military heavier-than-air powered flights.

    The Air Force became a separate branch of military service via the National Security Act of 1947. It wasn’t long before the existing National Guard Army Air Force units began operations under the command of the newly minted United States Air Force.

    The official birth date of the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force is Sept. 18, 1947.

    The National Guard official site says the new branch of service inherited 59 aviation units. This included a significant number of original squadrons that were activated in 1940. The final transfer from the Army to the Air Force was finalized in 1948.

    The oldest Air National Guard Unit is the New York 102nd Rescue Squadron. It was originally designated the Aero Company, Signal Corps in 1915.

    The 102nd is not the oldest continually serving unit in the Air National Guard. That distinction goes to the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard. It was created as the 109th Observation Squadron in 1921.


    Celebrating the Birthday of The National Guard

    Similar to many other military observances, the birthday of the National Guard is not a national holiday, a bank holiday, or a special day off on the federal calendar. Yet Guard units around the world make a point to honor this special day. One of the most common activities to celebrate is with a National Guard Birthday cake cutting ceremony.

    Tradition requires this ceremony to involve the oldest member of the celebrating Guard unit cutting the cake together with the youngest member. This is similar to the cake cutting tradition found at Army Dining-Out ceremonies, the Air Force Ball, and many other events where military heritage is an important part of the proceedings.

    Some Guard units may celebrate on the local level with open houses, recruitment drives, charity work, or other community involvement.

    Some governors may make an official proclamation or continue the tradition of proclamations on this day honoring the sacrifices and accomplishments of Guard members. Memorial observances for those who have died on duty are also a way to honor Dec. 13 each year.

    You can get involved in an effort to support Guard members celebrate the National Guard birthday. You can make yourself available as a current or former Guard member by contacting your local National Guard office or a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), or Wounded Warrior Project.

    Written by Team