As many as 25,000 members of the National Guard could be in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20. Thousands more will travel to state capitols across the country in preparation for demonstrations that law enforcement believes could turn violent. The size of the National Guard varies considerably from state to state. Texas has 21,977 members between the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, and that tops any other state.
National Guard units have an unusual reporting structure in that they report to both state governments and the federal government. Members are also members of the Organized Militia of the United States, under General Military Law “Section 246. Militia: composition and classes.” Predecessors of the National Guard date back to 1636. Most members are part-time and have civilian jobs.
Under “32 U.S. Code § 102,” the National Guard is defined, among other things, as “an integral part of the first line defenses of the United States be maintained and assured at all times.”
The National Guard has been called up to act as the federal government’s military presence dozens of times and in dozens of places. When the U.S. president uses the guard, it is “federalized.” Under the circumstances, it was used, for example, on September 24, 1957, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to protect the “Little Rock Nine” as part of programs to desegregate schools. In that case, the Arkansas National Guard was the body called upon. The California Army National Guard was mobilized by the Governor of California Edmund Gerald Brown Sr. during the Watts Riots in August 1965.
One of the most well-known incidents in National Guard history tarnished its reputation for decades. In May, the Ohio Army National Guard was sent to Kent State University by Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes Members of the guard shot and killed four students.
The California National Guard was used during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The Texas National Guard was used during the 1993 Waco siege, which was run by the ATF and FBI. It was another case in which the National Guard was involved in a tragedy that killed a number of people.
Over the years, members of the National Guard have been sent overseas as part of America’s war and international policing efforts. Over 100,000 were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq between 2005 and 2011.
The Texas National Guard is a good example of how the organization works within the states. There are 18,617 Army National Guard members in the state and 3,390 members of the Air National Guard. Members go through 10 weeks of training. The National Guard offers state education financial assistance, college scholarships, insurance, active duty pay, home loans and retirement benefits.
The great majority of the time, the Army National Guard and Air National Guard are invisible. That is not true now, nor will it be in the upcoming week.