The History of the Vermont Army National Guard

The men and women of the Vermont National Guard are dedicated, combat ready citizen soldiers, committed to serving their community, state, and nation, while facing future challenges and opportunities united in spirit as one Guard. The Vermont Army National Guard went through many reorganizations in the 1960s. The Vermont Guard went from being part of the 43rd Division to the 50th Armored Division and in 1988 the Brigade rejoined the 26th Yankee Division. At the present time, Vermont's Brigade is part of the 42nd Infantry Division.

Vermont has a unique history of citizen soldiers that goes back to the beginning of the country. Tracing their legacy to the Green Mountain Boys of the Revolutionary War, today's Vermont National Guard is as relevant today as it carries on the militia tradition in our nation's defense.

The original militia company of the Vermont National Guard was formed on October 24, 1764. Eleven years later, on May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys crossed Lake Champlain and captured Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War. According to Allens memoirs he demanded the surrender of the Fort "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." Another account written just days after the daring conquest reported that Allen's words were decidedly more down-to-earth: "Come on out you old rat!" Some historians believe that it was the Vermont 2nd Brigade that turned the tide of the Civil War in favor of the North, when they flanked the confederate charge under General Pickett at the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

The Spanish-American War saw the Vermont Militia again called into federal service. Vermont's 1st Regiment was mobilized on May 10, 1898 at Camp Olympia, presently Camp Johnson, in Colchester, Vermont. Olympia was the name of the flagship of Admiral George Dewey, a Vermonter, who led the victorious U.S. Navy Fleet into Manila Harbor earlier that same year.

The Regiment was returned to Vermont and mustered out of active service in late October and early November. Six months after being mustered out of federal service for the Mexican Border problems in 1916, the Vermont Guard was activated for World War I. The Vermont Regiment was incorporated into elements of the 26th "Yankee" Division which saw action in Europe. On February 24, 1941, the Vermont Army National Guard was mobilized as part of the 43rd Infantry Division. By the close of World War II, the 2nd Battalion of Vermont's 172 Infantry Regiment had earned a Presidential Unit Citation and Leonard "Red" Wing of Rutland, Vermont was the Division's Commanding General. From the day General Wing assumed command on October 7, 1943, "Winged Victory" became the 43rd Division's nickname.

The Vermonters were once again called to active duty as part of the 43rd Division during the Korean War. The Division served in Germany for two years. Elements of the Vermont Army National Guard also served in federal service during the Berlin Crisis of 1961-1962 and again in Vietnam from 1968-1969. In addition, units of the Vermont Army National Guard served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War from January through May 1991.

Within the state, the Guard can be called up by the governor in state emergencies. This happens during floods or the massive ice storm that hit Vermont in January of 1998. In that storm, Guard units played an essential role in clearing roads, restoring power, and bringing normalcy back to Isle LaMotte and Grand Isle. Governor Dean activated several Guard units on January 10, and by that afternoon, despite the damage sustained to some of their own houses and property, 450 troops were at work. The ice storm mobilization was the Guard's largest disaster operation since the great Winooski River flood in 1973. it would have taken a month longer to restore electricity without the Guard's vital help.

The 2nd Tank Battalion of the 172nd became only the second National Guard unit to qualify on the Army's tough tank platoon gunnery test in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Army helicopter unit has gone nearly 20 years without a major accident.

Despite their impressive accomplishments, the Guard has absorbed their share of budget cuts and equipment cutbacks since the end of the Cold War. To make matters worse, the Pentagon regularly under-funds the Guard, knowing that Congress will try to make up the difference during the annual budget process. One important victory came in March of 1998, when the Army agreed to modernize our aging helicopter unit. The following year, Vermont received the first of nine modern Blackhawk helicopters to replace eight Hueys, some of which were older than their pilots.

In 1995, Vermont's only engineer unit, the 131st Engineer Company, was scheduled to be deactivated because of an arbitrary Pentagon decision. This cut would deal a serious blow to Vermont's ability to respond to state emergencies. Since then, the 131st has been used in nearly every state emergency.

In 1991 the Pentagon hatched a plan to eliminate the 1/86th artillery battalion, one of the finest units in the whole Army, while at the same time creating a whole new artillery unit in Massachusetts. The Army retreated from this plan.

FY99 was busy with more "firsts" for members of the Vermont Army National Guard. Members of Detachment 1, Company E, 111th Aviation, Air Traffic Services returned from an eight month tour of Bosnia in February where they participated as air traffic controllers for the US peacekeeping mission. During spring annual training, members of Vermont's 86th Brigade led the way for the 42nd Infantry Division. Sixteen of twenty tank crews qualified to a new tank gunnery standard at Fort Drum. The new, more demanding standard was implemented by the Army in 1998. In September, Company C, 1/126 aviation was redesignated as the 86th Medical Company (Air Ambulance). The redesignation included a transition from a general purpose mission with the UH-1 "Huey" to an air ambulance mission with the UH-60 Blackhawk. During the redesignation ceremony, the Director of National Guard Bureau Aviation Safety presented two awards to the unit: the Charles Lindbergh plaque and the Minuteman Award.

While Adjutant General of Vermont, Maj. Gen. Donald E. Edwards founded the U.S. Army’s Mountain Warfare School and developed the only mountain infantry battalion the U.S. Army. He promoted growth of the Vermont National Guard by over 500 soldiers while expanding female Guard membership from 2 % to 20%. He introduced simulation-training techniques leading to unit readiness levels recognized as some of the highest in the U.S. military. General Edwards fostered a joint relationship with the Army’s 10th Infantry (Mtn) Division that enhanced training for the 10th Division and the Vermont National Guard. He developed military relationships with Canada, Australia, Italy and Macedonia. Youth programs were initiated in Vermont under General Edwards’s leadership that dramatically improved math and science skills for elementary level students.

The Vermont National Guard has partnered with the Macedonian Army to assist that nation’s challenging struggle to achieve these laudable political and military objectives. The Vermont National Guard has supported over 100 events involving Vermonters or Macedonians visiting each others’ nations. During the summer of 2000, the Vermont National Guard was the lead organization for Cornerstone 2000, an engineering exercise with Macedonian military engineers, which rebuilt two health clinics and two schools in rural Macedonian towns. The activities of the Vermont National Guard nicely complement the Macedonian-based programs of the Vermont-based Institute for Sustainable Communities which are also intended to develop close ties between Vermont and Macedonia in pursuit of developing a sustainable Macedonian democracy.

The Vermont National Guard will become home to the Armory of the Future, an $8.3 million state-of-the-art armory which will house the latest communications technology and military training equipment. The 76,000 square-foot Norwich Armory/National Guard Regional Technology Center, the first of its kind in the country, is being viewed as a prototype by the National Guard Bureau, a model which they hope to emulate in other military construction projects around the country in years ahead. The Norwich armory will be home to the Vermont National Guard's Information Operations battalion, Norwich ROTC cadets, and will provide a distance learning center for community leaders. Other units housed in the building will be Headquarters 86th Armored Brigade, Detachment 1, 42nd Military Police Company, a platoon from the 2-172nd Armor Battalion, a platoon from the 3-172nd Infantry (Mountain) Battalion, and one section from the 1-86th Field Artillery. The Norwich Armory of the Future will house approximately $5.5 million in military training simulators and information operations computer equipment. There will be simulators for tanks, tracked howitzers, and weapons qualifications, all state-of-the-art. The initial funding which was approved in October 1999. Since that time, the coordination process with the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C., Norwich University, and the State of Vermont has taken place to obtain the necessary local planning and environmental permits. The ground breaking ceremony took place on Monday, June 25, 2001, at the Disney Field at Norwich University in Northfield, VT.

The Vermont Guard is linked to Macedonia through the National Guard’s state partnership program, which links 33 states with fledgling democracies across the world.

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