15 photos of what it’s like to be in the National Guard

By J.G. Noll

In the mid-1600s, two Massachusetts towns created the first militias in the New World. In the 1700s, these groups were known as Minutemen and were the first to fight in the Revolutionary War. In the 1800s, the Marquis de Lafayette, while traveling through the United States on a friendship tour, first popularized the words “national guard” in reference to these local groups of soldiers. In the 1900s, the name was formalized by the government. And in the 2000s, there have been more than 780,000 activations of National Guardsmen since 2001.

Citizen Soldiers are the oldest form of codified defense in American history, having fought in every American war since the 1600s. Here’s a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the National Guard in the 21st Century:

1. A National Guardsman floats by a church submerged by Hurricane Matthew earlier this year.

Photo: DVIDS, Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

2. Working with JROTC programs, these Alaskan National Guardsmen present an oversized American flag at the beginning of a hockey game.

Photo: DVIDS, Sgt. David Bedard

3. Members of the 42nd Infantry Division Rainbow Band prepares for a Veterans Day Parade in New York City.

Photo: DVIDS, Capt. Mark Getman

4. Members of the Iowa National Guard end a day of training in the cool autumn air.

Photo: DVIDS, Spc. Tawny Schmit

5. Two citizen soldiers emerge from red concealing smoke during a tactical training session.

Photo: DIVDS, Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

6. Lionel Richie’s likeness adorns a National Guard Chinook in Afghanistan.

Photo: DVIDS, Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill

7. South Carolinians load a helicopter with needed supplies for hurricane survivors. 

Photo: DVIDS, Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine

8. A young boy meets three members of the National Guard in North Carolina.

Photo: DVIDS, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan

9. Members of the Oregon and Kentucky National Guards work together during earthquake response training.

Photo: DVIDS, Tech. Sgt. John Hughel

10. Working alongside the local public works, this soldier helps to clear a fallen tree and debris after a disaster.

Photo: DVIDS, Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons

11.A lone soldier watches the smoke-filled South Carolina backcountry from a Black Hawk.

Photo: DVIDS, Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine

12. A father says goodbye to his four daughters before deploying to Ukraine with the National Guard.

Photo: DVIDS, 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch

13. A Vermonter takes a piece of home with him during a deployment ceremony.

Photo: DVIDS, Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison

14. A soldier watches for enemy combatants during a training session in Georgia.

Photo: DVIDS, Jamila A. Haven

15. An F-16 prepares for a night flight in Oklahoma.

Photo: DVIDS, Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske