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Guard History

In times of crisis, our colonial forebears were willing to lay down their plows and shoulder their rifles, to preserve their mutual safety and freedom. Over the years since then, war, civil strife and natural disaster have called forth that spirit of teamwork and sacrifice again and again.

Today, the proud heirs of the militia tradition can be found in the men and women of the Pennsylvania National Guard. They still stand ready to leave the comforts of home and family to help their friends and neighbors defend their nation's interests and bring peace and hope to people throughout the world.

1747 - Overcoming the long pacifist tradition of Pennsylvania's founding Quakers, Benjamin Franklin leads some 600 "gentlemen and merchants" of Philadelphia in signing "articles of association" to provide for a common defense against Indian raiders and French privateers. These "Associators" (today's 111th Infantry and 103rd Engineers) are recognized as the foundation of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

1755 - The Pennsylvania Assembly passes the first Militia Act, formally authorizing a volunteer militia.

1775 - The First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry escorts General George Washington to New York to take command of the Continental Army. The Army's first units include a regiment of rifle companies from Pennsylvania – among them, the predecessor of a current National Guard unit in York.

1776-1783 - With the start of the Revolutionary War, Pennsylvania supplies 6,000 troops (4,500 of them Associators) for military operations in New York. One unit, the Philadelphia Artillery Battalion, lives on as today's 103rd Engineer Battalion. In all, tens of thousands of Pennsylvania Soldiers are called to service over the next seven years.

1793 - Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Mifflin establishes the Adjutant General's Office to provide for "a new system for the regulation of the militia."

1794 - Pennsylvania contributes 4,000 militiamen to a four-state force, which quells the Whiskey Rebellion in the western part of the state -- a crucial test of the new federal authority.

1812-1814 - The War of 1812 draws 14,000 Pennsylvanians into active service. In the battle for Lake Erie, an artillery company provides volunteers to serve as cannoneers on Commodore Perry's fleet. That unit is known today as Wilkes-Barre's 109th Field Artillery.

1846-1848 - Two regiments of volunteer militiamen from Pennsylvania played a key role in winning the Mexican-American War.

1861-1865 - At the start of the Civil War, five units from the Lehigh Valley race to the nation's threatened capital, in response to an urgent plea from Congress. President Lincoln proclaims them the "First Defenders" -- an honor still borne by their descendants in today's 213th Area Support Group. More than 200 Pennsylvania regiments took part in the war. (24 major campaigns)

1870 - The name "militia" is dropped, becoming by law the "National Guard of Pennsylvania."

1877 - Thousands of Guardsmen are called up to restore order in the face of a violent statewide railroad strike. Rioting is worse in Pittsburgh, where five Guardsmen and 20 civilians are killed.

1879 - The Pennsylvania National Guard is organized into a single division. That event makes Pennsylvania’s division (now designated the 28th Division (Mechanized)) the oldest in the U.S. Army. A keystone is prescribed as its distinctive badge.

1898 - The entire Pennsylvania division is mustered into federal service for the Spanish-American War. Units see action in Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

1916-1917 - With Mexico in the throes of revolution, Pennsylvania's division (then known as the 7th) is mobilized to join in punitive operations along the U.S.- Mexican border.

1917-1918 - Redesignated the 28th, the Pennsylvania division is called up in the wake of America's entry into World War I. The division takes part in six major campaigns in France and Belgium, suffering more than 14,000 battle casualties. Its ferocity in combat earns it the title "Iron Division" from General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

1924 - The 103rd Observation Squadron -- forerunner of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard -- is organized at Philadelphia Airport.

1941-1945 - Ten months before Pearl Harbor, the 28th Division is ordered into federal service. After America enters World War II, the division trains extensively, here and in England and Wales. Landing in France after D-Day, the division fights through Normandy, helps liberate Paris, and ends up bitterly engaged along the "West Wall" of Germany in November 1944. One month later, during the Battle of the Bulge, the division is instrumental in stalling the last German offensive of the war. Its exploits earn it the nickname "Bloody Bucket" division -- but 2,000 of its Soldiers paying for that honor with their lives. Elsewhere in the war, the division's 111th Regiment is detached to serve in the Pacific; Pennsylvania's 213th Regiment sees action in North Africa and Italy; and other units serveing throughout the globe.

1947 - The Pennsylvania Air National Guard is formally established.

1950-1952 - The 28th Division is mobilized for NATO duty in Germany, replacing Regular Army units that have been deployed to Korea. Several Pennsylvania units see service in Korea.

1966-1967 - Pennsylvania Air National Guard airlift units fly 134 supply missions to Vietnam -- becoming the first reserve air force ever to enter a combat zone without actually being mobilized.

1972 - Widespread flooding in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Agnes results in 45 deaths and $3 billion in property damage. Nearly 13,000 Army and Air Guard members are called to state active duty to help with relief operations.

1990-1991 - Eight Army and Air Guard units from Pennsylvania are mobilized for duty in Southwest Asia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Every member returns home safely.

1993 - The Pennsylvania National Guard launches a military partnership with the government of Lithuania, as part of a U.S. initiative to promote the growth of democratic institutions among the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

1996 - Pennsylvania Guard members open roads, transport doctors and patients, and mount heroic helicopter rescue operations during statewide flooding and blizzards.

1996-1997 - Hundreds of Pennsylvania Soldiers and Airmen deploy to Germany, Hungary and Bosnia in support of United Nations peacekeeping efforts in the former Yugoslavia.

2001 - Forty two Soldiers from Battery F (Target Acquisition), 109th Field Artillery, of York, an element of the 28th Infantry Division (Mechanized), participated in a seven-month peacekeeping assignment in Kosovo.

9/11/2001 - For the first time in Guard history, both state and federal chain of commands are activated in response to terrorists’ attacks.

2002-2003– Approximately 1,100 28th Infantry Division Soldiers become the command element of NATO peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.

2003-2004 – 28th Infantry Division units become the first Guard command element for peacekeeping operations in eastern Kosovo. The 213th Area Support Group, Co. G, 104th Aviation and several smaller support units deploy in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

2004 – Some 2,000 Pennsylvania citizen Soldiers and airmen are deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, for some of the following reason: searching for weapons of mass destruction, providing convoy security, rebuilding infrastructure and protecting senior officials.

2005 – Some 750 citizen Soldiers with Task Force Dragoon help protect 29 polling places during Iraq’s first free election in January. An additional 2,100 Soldiers from the 28th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, augmented by 2,000 Soldiers from 30 other states, touch down in Iraq in June. Known as the "Iron Brigade," Soldiers conducted convoy escorts, patrols and training for Iraqi civil defense forces.

2,500 Pennsylvania Army and Air National Guard members are deployed in September for a month-long mission in support of hurricane disaster relief efforts along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is the largest state activation of Pennsylvania National Guard troops since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. These Guard members also assisted with relief efforts following Hurricane Rita.

2006 - Approximately 350 Pennsylvania soldiers are deployed to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The 28th Infantry Division Joint Area Support Command, the 1-213th Air Defense battalion, Detachment C 1-169th Aviation (Medical), 131st Transportation Company, and members of the 55th Brigade participate in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and participated in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Over 700 National Pennsylvania National Guard members performed around-the-clock operations for flood victims in the North East part of the state. Evacuation and search and rescue missions air lifted nearly 1,000 citizens.

2007 - Over 1,500 Pennsylvania Guardsmen deployed to Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Major units included the 213th Area Support Group, 28th Military Police Company, 128th Chemical Company, 28th Finance Battalion, 1-104th Cavalry Squadron, and the 3-103rd Armor Battalion. Pennsylvania volunteers participated in Mexican Border Patrol Operations, local snowstorm response and training exercises in preparation for future operations.

Additionally, members of the the 111 Medical Group participated in the first joint Air National Guard/Navy USSOUTHCOM Humanitarian mission aboard USNS Comfort. They provided healthcare to over 85,000 disadvantaged Latin American citizens and post-operative care to 1,200

2008 - Training for future operations continue as the 56th Brigade (the only National Guard Stryker unit), the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team prepare for deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

2009 – Nearly 1500 Pennsylvania Guardsmen mobilized for the 56th Presidential Inauguration National Special Security Event and later that year over 2500 soldiers and airmen mobilized for the World Wide G20 Summit. Organized and deployed nearly 3000 Pennsylvania soldiers and airmen in response to back to back state snow emergencies shutting down roadways and electricity across the state.

Soldiers and Airmen of the Pennsylvania National Guard provide assistance for the Inauguration of our nation's 44th president in Washington, D.C. While the Pennsylvania National Guard has supported numerous inaugural parades, this was the first time in history that Keystone Soldiers and Airmen performed security, traffic and crowd control missions in Washington, D.C. for such an event.

Soldiers from 3-103rd Armor return from Operation Enduring Freedom where they served as provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) and performed counter-insurgency operations, the 1-109th Infantry and 1-104th Cavalry return from Egypt where they served on the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, and the 56th SBCT and elements of the 28th CAB return from their deployments in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

More than 2,500 Soldiers and Airmen from throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mobilize in support of Operation Steel Kickoff. The service members support local, state and federal agencies by providing security during the G-20 Summit held in Pittsburgh.

2010 – During the "Year of the NCO," the Pennsylvania National Guard recognizes more than 80 of its non-commissioned officers. Airmen of the 210st RED HORSE Squadron prepare to leave for a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia while Airmen of the 171st Air Refueling Wing's Security Force Squadron provide security in Iraq.

The 193rd Special Operations Wing provides 118.5 tons of relief supplies while providing broadcast information during Operation Unified Response during relief operations for the earthquake in Haiti.

The 111th Fighter Wing officially ends 86 years of flying as they transition to a new mission after their last A-10 aircraft took their final flights. The 111th Fighter Wing's history began with the establishment of the 103rd Observation Squadron in June 1924, based at the Philadelphia Airport as a unit in the 28th Infantry Division.

2011 – Pennsylvania takes important lead in activating Homeland Response Force for Northeastern United States homeland defense and first-ever Police Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams in partnership with Lithuania and deployed to Afghanistan for stability operations.