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The National Guard, of which the Air National Guard is a part, dated back to the defense of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by citizen soldiers in l 636. From the Colonial Minute Man of the Revolutionary War to the present day Total Force Air Guard men and women, the Citizen Soldiers and personnel of the Air National Guard have served the nation bravely and with great honor.
In 1792, the Militia Act was enacted into law, requiring states to register all males between the ages of 18 and 44 for assignment to state militias.
Militiamen (forerunners of the National Guard) served at the Battle of New Orleans and during the Mexican War. They also served with both the Union and Confederate armies during the US Civil War.
After the Civil War, the state militias almost became defunct. However, with the formation of the National Guard Association of the United States in 1878, the militia (now the National Guard) gained a new life when Congress doubled the annual appropriation for its support. By the 1880's, the National Guard had grown to over 100,000 members.
The beginning of the present day Air National Guard was in 1911 when a Guardsman from New York's 1st Signal Company flew the first " Air Guard" flight.
In 1915, the Guard's first flying unit, the 1st Aero Company of the New York National Guard was activated for service in the skirmishes with Pancho Villa on the US - Mexican border.
During World War I, the 1st Aero Company, along with thousands of other National Guardsmen saw combat service in Europe.
In World War II, 29 National Guard observation squadrons were activated and served admirably during that prolonged conflict. Hundreds of thousands of their fellow Army National Guardsmen saw combat and served with honor in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific.
In 1947, the Army Air Corps officially became a separate branch of military service as the Unites States Air Force. As part of the 1947 National Security Act passed by Congress, the Air National Guard was officially recognized as a separate service within the National Guard structure.
After World War II, the Air National Guard began to grow both in number of units, numbers of personnel, and the variety of assigned missions. [On 15 March 1948, the North Carolina Air Guard was born with the federal recognition of the 156th Fighter 1, Squadron, formerly the World War II-born 360 Fighter Squadron.]
In 1950 and 1951, many units of the Air National Guard were activated for service in the Korean Conflict, including units of the North Carolina Air National Guard.
On return from Korean War service, units of the Air National Guard began to be re equipped and re-manned and to place emphasis on more and better training in order to be operationally ready for any future national emergencies or war time service. Part of the increased emphasis on training was the deployment of the Air Guard units to Air National Guard Permanent Field Training Sites where training could _be accomplished on a "bare base" concept.
During the fifties and sixties, the Air Guard responded to several national crises including the Berlin Airlift, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the USS Pueblo Incident. During the latter part of the sixties, the Air Guard played a significant role in support of the active forces in Southeast Asia. The Air Guard's involvement in the Vietnam War continued into the early seventies.
Sµsubsequent to the Vietnam War, the Air Guard was supposed to become a major player in the Air Force mission under the 1970 Total Force Concept adopted by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, In 1973, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger declared Total Force was no longer a concept, but a policy. Despite disputes and tensions between the Air Force and the Air Guard, the Total Force began to take shape and be implemented during the mid to late seventies. During the seventies, the Air Guard assumed the entire air defense mission for the continental United States from the active Air Force.
During the 1980's, strategic airlift missions and aircraft returned to the Air Guard. Also in the eighties during the Reagan Administration military buildup, the Air Guard began to receive "first line" equipment such as F- l6s and A-1Os rather than " worn out" F-4s.
The equipment modernization and adequate funding of Air Guard units and missions continued throughout the eighties and into the nineties with the Air Guard assuming greater responsibility and a wider range of world-wide missions. As of the writing of this history, the Air National Guard is truly a major partner with the US Air Force in the national defense of the United States. Its aircraft and equipment reflect the latest technology. Its personnel reflect the highest degree of qualifications and training. Whether performing combat missions in the Persian Gulf War or fighting forest fires in California, the Air National Guard of 1998 continues to prove with its performance that it is one of the best, if not "the best air force" in the world.