Monday, February 08, 2016

Images flashed across the screen depicting the National Guard from its inception 379 years ago to today’s fight against global terror.

Paintings showed the first muster of minutemen in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636, and showed the National Guard fighting in every war and conflict – from before the Revolutionary War to the current fight.

They also conveyed its peacetime and domestic missions with emergency response on 9/11 at the World Trade Center, and disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The Oklahoma National Guard and Fort Sill celebrated the guard’s birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony in Snow Hall.

Post and National Guard leaders, soldiers, families and friends attended the ceremony in the Reimer Conference Center. The National Guard, which includes the Army and Air Guard, turned 379 in December.

In his invocation, Chaplain (Col.) John Morris, Fort Sill Command chaplain, said: "Gracious and O mighty God ... I thank you for those who had the wisdom over the years to come to the call of governors, states and presidents in time of national need, and I thank you for those who are far forward today – the men and women of the National Guard from our 54 states and territories."

In his remarks, Col. Paul Caviness, National Guard senior adviser to the Fires Center of Excellence, gave a history of the service.

"The National Guard is 140 years older than the Declaration of Independence, 151 years older than the U.S. Constitution, and it predates the Army, Navy and Marine Corps by 139 years," Caviness said.

In addition to augmenting the Department of Defense, the 450,000 volunteers of the National Guard perform homeland security, counter drug and immigration interdiction, stateside humanitarian missions and law enforcement.

The National Guard will continue to train with modern technology and provide operational forces, be good stewards of resources, sustain the guard community and forge and maintain partnerships, he added.

"Today’s National Guard members and yesterday’s minutemen remain the same person: Citizens with the conviction that their military service is required to make their nation and communities a safer and better place," Caviness said. "Always ready, always there."

Brig. Gen. Timothy Sheriff, deputy commanding general, 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, South Carolina Army National Guard, and deputy commander, Air Defense Artillery Fires Center of Excellence, officiated at the ceremony.

Sheriff said National Guard field and air defense artillery is well integrated into the Army at Fort Sill. "The active duty leadership here is all about one team, one fight."

He added the National Guard "is better poised for national defense and support for the governors of the states than they ever have been in the history of the guard."

Cake cutting

As part of a longstanding Army tradition, the youngest and oldest National Guard soldiers cut the cake with the Sherrif.

Hawaii National Guard Pvt. Jovit Marks, 17, who is in his fourth week of Basic Combat Training, joined retired Col. Robert Roshell, a 32-year National Guard veteran, along with Sheriff.

"A sword is used to cut the cake in honor of the first minutemen who defended our communities in time of need," said program narrator Capt. Blake Siebold, an activated North Dakota National Guard soldier.

Adding, "Today, the sword symbolizes that while we, as citizens of this fine country provide for our families, we as warriors, abide by the warrior ethos and remain an able-bodied force."

Roshell received the first piece of cake and passed it to Marks, who took the first bite "representing acceptance of the history, traditions and lessons passed down through generations of Guardsmen," Siebold said.

Marks then passed the piece back to Roshell "in recognition that the future pages of National Guard history will be written by the deeds of the younger generation."

Marks, who graduated from Kahuku (Hawaii) High School this year, will graduate from BCT in January, then attend combat medic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

National Guard Pvt. Montgomery Ripley, 21, from Denver, also in BCT attended the ceremony.

"It’s amazing that an organization has lasted for 379 years, and it’s still growing and getting stronger," said Ripley, who will also become a combat medic.

Roshell, who turned 58 in December, jokingly said he’s been trying for years to be the oldest National Guard soldier here.

"The guard has meant a lot to me in both my civilian and my Army career over the years, and I feel honored to be able to continue to serve as a Department of the Army civilian," said Roshell, the executive officer, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery.

The ceremony ended with a playing of "The Army Song" performed by the 77th Army Band’s Woodwind Trio.


Jeff Crawley

Fort Sill Tribune