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virginia national guard history



The Colonial Era (1607–1774)

During the first 168 years after colonists first arrived in America, many Virginians served in the militia formed to protect various towns and counties around Jamestown. In 1644, free Black colonists (most of whom were formerly enslaved) also enlisted in the militia. Today, the 276th Engineer Battalion carries the oldest continuous lineage from that period. During the French and Indian War (1755–1763), George Washington served as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Virginia Regiment.

The Revolutionary War (1775–1783)

With the beginning of the Revolution in 1775, most of the Virginia militia volunteered to fight the British. George Washington was appointed as the commander of the Continental Army and several other Virginians soon became well-known military leaders; among them were Daniel Morgan, George Rogers Clark, Hugh Mercer, and “Light Horse” Harry Lee. During this period, four men who served in the Virginia Militia would later become President of the United States: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.


After the Revolution, the country mostly turned to peace until another war with Great Britain broke out: The War of 1812. Once again, Virginia supplied men and arms to defend the country and the state. 


The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) was established in 1839. Virginia also provided a Regiment of Volunteers to serve with the U.S. Army during the 1854 War with Mexico.


The Civil War (1861–1865)

Virginia joined the Confederacy on April 17, 1861. The most famous Virginia Guardsman of the war was Thomas Jackson, whose militia brigade was coined the “Stonewall Brigade” after the Battle of Manassas. Robert E. Lee ultimately surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.


The country and state were then at peace until the Spanish American War (1898–1899). As always, Virginia provided militia, including, for the first time, a regiment of African Americans. After the war, Virginia militiamen continued to serve in state duty for riot control and law enforcement.

The Birth of the Modern National Guard (1903–1916)

In 1903, Congress enacted the first of several laws that changed how the volunteer system would function as a ready reserve for the Army. One mandate required Guardsmen to drill a minimum of 48 periods a year along with 15 days of annual training. All enlisted men were now issued standard Army uniforms and were to be trained to Army standards. As a requirement of the law, the “Virginia Volunteers” designation made way for the new title: the Virginia National Guard.

The Mexican Border Campaign

After Mexican bandits raided Columbus, New Mexico in 1916 and fled back into Mexico, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the Army to pursue them across the border. Of the nearly 100,000 National Guardsmen he ordered to protect the border against further raids, 4,000 were from Virginia; they constituted two infantry regiments, a field artillery battalion, one cavalry squadron, and companies of engineers and signal troops. Most Virginia units returned home in early 1917 after serving six months on the border.

World War I (1917–1918)

America declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. By July, the Virginia National Guard was on active duty and soon moved to Camp McClellan in Alabama to train. Two companies of Coastal Artillerymen were assigned to the 42nd “Rainbow” Division and served with them for the entire war. At McClellan, the Army combined the Virginia Infantry Regiments into one large regiment and redesignated them as the 116th Infantry, an element of the newly organized 29th Division. Virginia’s field artillery units were consolidated into the 111th Field Artillery and assigned to the 29th Division. The 1st Virginia Cavalry was redesignated as the 104th Ammunition Train, 29th Division.


While at McClellan, the 29th Division adopted the nickname it still carries today: the “Blue and Gray.” Because the 29th’s units are from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia, these colors reference that their earlier generations from the North and the South were formerly enemies during the Civil War. By the outbreak of the First World War, they joined to fight together for their nation.


On October 8, 1918, the 29th was an assault element in the great Allied attack known as the Meuse Argonne Offensive. By the end of the offensive in late October, the 29th was pulled out of the line to rest and prepare for the next attack. This attack never occurred because the war ended on November 11, 1918, with the Armistice.

World War II (1941–1945)

After a lean interwar period, the nation needed the National Guard again for the Second World War. The 29th trained at Fort Meade in Maryland and then reorganized losing the176th Infantry and the 29th Tank Company to other units. The 116th remained in the 29th along with two infantry regiments from Maryland. The 111th Field Artillery Regiment was broken into two parts: the 111th Field Artillery Battalion (three firing batteries now armed with 105mm howitzers to give direct support to frontline infantry) and the 227th Field Artillery Battalion (three batteries armed with heavier 155mm howitzers for longer range fire). 


The 29th arrived in Great Britain in October 1942 and began training. On the morning of 6 June 1944, which is now forever known as “D-Day”, they fought in the largest invasion in history against five beaches on the coast of Normandy, France. One beach in particular, codenamed “Omaha”, will always be remembered in Virginia history as “Bloody Omaha”, because over 800 members of the 116th Infantry were killed, wounded, or missing during the amphibious assault. The 111th also fought on D-Day but lost most of their equipment in the attack. Thirty-two members of the battalion died in helping to gain a foothold on Omaha Beach. After D-Day, the 29th fought major battles at St. Lo, Brest, Julich, and several other places until May 8, 1945, when the war in Europe ended with a German surrender.


During its 335 days in combat operations, the 116th Infantry suffered 7,113 men killed, wounded, or missing. The 111th Field Artillery Battalion lost 43 men killed in action, 32 of them on D-Day. 

The Cold War (1946–1989)

During the 43 years of the Cold War, many changes occurred in the Virginia Guard, including the addition of the 149th Fighter Squadron, the Commonwealth’s first Air National Guard unit. No Virginia Guard unit fought in the Korean War or in Vietnam War, but some units were activated during the Berlin Wall Crisis of 1961. Black Americans joined the Virginia National Guard in the late 1960s and the first female soldier enlisted in 1973.

Operation Just Cause (December 1989–January 1990)

Virginia Air National Guardsmen serving rotationally in Panama supported Army and Marine Ground forces in their battles against the Panamanian Defense Force. Flying A-7 Corsairs, the airmen exhibited tremendous skill in attacking enemy targets without creating collateral damage to nearby civilian neighborhoods.

Operations Desert Shield/Storm and Peacekeeping (1990–2001)

Virginia National Guard units served in Operations Desert Shield/Storm with two truck companies, two engineer headquarters companies, a helicopter aero medical evacuation detachment, one company of military police, another of personnel services, and a military history detachment. Seven hundred and ten Virginia Guard personnel (both female and male) served in theater. After the war, Virginia Guardsmen deployed to the Sinai, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo as part of peacekeeping missions.

The Global War on Terrorism (2001–Present)

After the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the hijacked passenger flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Virginia National Guardsmen flew security patrols and provided security to government installations and critical infrastructure. As the United States committed to eliminating the terrorist threat, the Virginia National Guard became more involved. In early 2002, approximately 70 soldiers of Virginia’s Company B, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group were mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan. Many captured enemy combatants were brought to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for detention. To help guard the base, the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry was mobilized on November 2, 2002. It was the first Virginia National Guard battalion to deploy overseas for an active mission rather than training since World War II.

 In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq to locate and destroy what was believed to be stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD⎯both chemical and biological). Three Virginia National Guard units were in theater during the Iraq invasion, with two involved in the initial attack and the third entering the country later in the year. The Headquarters Detachment, 1030th Engineer Battalion, and the 1032nd Transportation Company both accompanied the invasion forces entering Iraq in March and April. In September 2003, as the situation in Iraq rapidly deteriorated, about 300 Virginia Air National Guard personnel from the 192nd Fighter Wing, along with several of the unit’s F-16 fighters, deployed to Qatar to fly combat cover missions over Iraq. In the intervening years, several Virginia Air National Guard units served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 192nd Security Force Squadron (the military police element of the 192nd Fighter Wing) served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2006. From late 2006 into early 2007, the 203rd RED HORSE squadron served in OIF, with elements again also in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), all performing various construction missions.


As combat operations and National Guard deployments increased and decreased in scope based on emerging events, more and more Virginia National Guard units were mobilized and deployed to OIF and OEF. This trend continues today as Virginia Guardsmen deploy throughout the world. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, over 15,000 Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen have mobilized to support operations.




The Cold War (1946–1989)

In May 1946, the Pentagon reactivated and redesignated a heroic WWII unit: the 328th Fighter Squadron. The unit previously organized at Mitchell Field in New York on October 10, 1942 and saw action in the European theater. The newly designated 149th Fighter Squadron was assigned to the Virginia Air National Guard and later earned official recognition from the National Guard Bureau in June 1947. The 149th Fighter Squadron was entitled to the history, honors, and colors of the 328th.

The unit was called to active federal service on March 1, 1951, sending many to duty in the Korean War. This activation resulted in the temporary dissolution of the Virginia Air National Guard. By November 1953, however, the unit was reorganized as a B-26 bomber outfit, then was redesignated again in 1957 as the 149th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. They were scheduled to work with F-86E Saber jets, but once they became the 149th Tactical Fighter Squadron later that year, F-84F Thunderstreaks began replacing the B-26.

At the height of the Cold War in 1961, the squadron was federalized because of tensions concerning the Berlin Wall. It remained in an active duty status at Richmond for around a year before being released. Twenty-two Virginia Air National Guard members then deployed to Chaumont Air Force Base in France in December 1961 for eight months to support the 7180th Tactical Fighter Wing, a deployed unit of the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing.

In October 1962, the unit was redesignated as the 192nd Tactical Fighter Group, with the 149th TFS becoming the group’s flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 192nd Headquarters, 192nd Material Squadron (Maintenance), 192nd Combat Support Squadron, and the 192nd USAF Dispensary.

During 1971, the 192nd was assigned the F-105D Thunderchief, a battle-hardened supersonic fighter bomber that was the backbone of America’s fighter element during the Vietnam War. The group’s special tasking during the next ten years included several deployments to Red Flag live fire exercises in Nevada and a deployment to RAF Lakenheath in England in 1976.

In 1981, the unit transitioned to the Vought A-7D Corsair II, a subsonic jet designed primarily for close air support. The ten-year A-7 era included several deployments to Ecuador, Norway, and Panama to defend the Panama Canal. A Virginia contingent competed in Gunsmoke ’85, the Air Force’s tactical fighter competition, and the 192nd was named the world’s “Best A-7 Unit.” The 192nd also earned the General Spruance Safety Award and was recognized as having the best Operational Readiness Inspection in the Ninth Air Force during 1985. That string of accomplishments helped the 192nd earn its first USAF Outstanding Unit Award in 1987.

Operation Just Cause (December 1989-January 1990)

On December 20, 1989, the United States unleashed Operation Just Cause, the emergency dispatch of U.S. forces to Panama to oust Noriega, break up his army, and pave the way for democratic elections. The Virginia Air National Guard flew fifty-nine Guardsmen and five A-7s to Howard Air Force Base near Panama City on January 20, 1990 for its rotation. The 192nd replaced the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Tactical Fighter Group, whose A-7 pilots had flown seventy-six sorties to support Operation Just Cause. Virginia sent a similar contingent two weeks later to replace its first group. The Virginia National Guard’s mission differed from previous ones. Some elements of the Panamanian Defense Forces and the Dignity Battalions were suspected to be at large in provinces, and the 192nd pilots supplied air cover for field operations and air reconnaissance where enemy activity was suspected. Headquarters, 192nd Tactical Fighter Group, and 192nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron later earned campaign streamers in recognition of their participation in Operation Just Cause.

The unit soared into a new era of aviation technology in 1991 when it became the first Air National Guard unit to receive the Air Force’s upgraded Fighting Falcon, the F-16C/D. The 192nd’s designation shortened somewhat during 1992 from 192nd Tactical Fighter Group to 192nd Fighter Group. This change reflected the retirement of the former Tactical Air Command and the new Air Combat Command’s multi-role mission. The unit was initially assigned twenty-four single seat F-16C models and two F-16D models, but defense cutbacks reduced the unit’s assigned inventory to eighteen F-16s by early 1994, and eventually to only fifteen fighter jets.


Operation Provide Comfort (December 1993-January 1994)

After the 192nd Fighter Group became fully operational with the F-16, it was chosen as the lead unit in a four-state Air National Guard F-16 “rainbow” detachment deployed to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to support Operation Provide Comfort II. During that operation between December 1, 1993 and January 15, 1994, Air National Guard pilots patrolled the no-fly zone over northern Iraq to prevent Iraqi forces from damaging Kurdish villages. This was the first time Air National Guard units had been called to active duty to serve in a peacekeeping role in the Middle East following Iraq’s defeat in 1991. The unit returned to Incirlik in February 1996 for another round of patrols over Iraq.

During October 1995, the 192nd’s designation was again slightly modified to reflect unit restructuring within the Air Force and Air National Guard. This time, the unit designation changed from 192nd Fighter Group to 192nd Fighter Wing.

At the direction of the commander of Air Combat Command, the 192nd became a test regional repair center for F-16 engines in January 1996. The eighteen-month assignment called for the 192nd propulsion section to strip and rebuild General Electric F110-GE-100 engines for its own F-16s and for F-16s assigned to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. With Pope AFB designated to become a composite wing with several types of aircraft, Air Combat Command officials sought more efficient and economical ways of maintaining its F-16 engines. By setting up a regional repair center at the 192nd, the Air Force reduced the number of required F-16 maintenance people in this region, consolidated their training, reduced resource and equipment duplication, and lowered maintenance costs per flying hour.

While that project was underway, the 192d was selected to evaluate and bring on a portable new reconnaissance pod designed for F-16s for an added aerial reconnaissance mission. Due to the unit’s many uniquely high profile accomplishments and high caliber results during an Air Force Quality Assessment in 1996, the wing earned its second Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in December of that year.

Iraq remained a thorn in the side of U.S. policy makers as Saddam Hussein defied the United Nations’ efforts to inspect suspected chemical and biological weapons plants. The 192nd Fighter Wing assisted in U.S. forces’ regular flight patrols over both the northern and southern no-fly zones. Between April and May 1999, several 192nd munitions personnel deployed to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey with personnel from the Florida Air National Guard to fill critical munitions slots in maintaining the northern no-fly zone. At the same time, personnel from the 192nd Communications Flight, Military Personnel Flight, Security Forces Squadron, Services Squadron, and Civil Engineer Squadron deployed to Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait to support Air Force contingency activities to guard and protect the southern no-fly zone.

In December 2000, twenty-nine members of the 192d deployed to Southwest Asia and other locations to support Operation Southern Watch. In addition to Turkey and Kuwait, they deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base and Eskan Village in Saudi Arabia, Aviano Air Base in Italy, and Qatar. During the same month, the 192nd deployed on its first Aerospace Expeditionary Force assignment. A one-hundred-thirty-person detachment went to Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles as part of Operation Nighthawk, an effort to stop drug smuggling into the United States. Aside from strictly operational matters, the fighter wing also focused on community support, humanitarian assistance, and military heritage.

The Global War on Terrorism (2001-Present)

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the 192nd’s activity pace jolted when terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners in major attacks against our country. The United States’ responses to those attacks, Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom, dominated the 192nd’s agenda in the following months. Over four hundred unit members were called to active duty for time frames ranging up to two years. This marked a period of prolonged intensity at the Air National Guard base that had been unmatched since the Berlin call-up of 1961–1962.

The wing’s home station in Sandston, Virginia took on the look of an active-duty Air Force base. Beginning in mid-September 2001, combat air patrols flew day and night for 218 consecutive days until mid-April 2002. They ultimately totaled 820 operational sorties and 3,515.5 flying hours.

American efforts to oust Saddam Hussein as Iraqi dictator kept the United States on a war footing in 2003. A coalition of U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq in March, and although President George W. Bush declared military victory on May 1, U.S. forces maintained a presence in Iraq. Between September and October 2003, the 192nd Fighter Wing deployed more than three hundred personnel to an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Security Forces Squadron provided support for several CONUS assignments during the 2004 fiscal year. Unit members were sent to Bolling AFB in Washington D.C., Andrews AFB in Maryland, Patrick AFB in Florida, Charleston AFB in South Carolina, Langley AFB in Virginia, and Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. In addition, fourteen members of the Medical Squadron deployed to the Detroit Receiving Hospital, a level 1 Trauma Center in downtown Detroit, Michigan. They supported those in-residence while completing the final phase of their Nursing Services training plan.

The 192nd Maintenance Group reached a milestone on January 14, 2004 when the propulsion section completed the 300th jet engine assembly since production began in 1994. As the year unfolded, new mission complexities and requirements arose for the 192nd Fighter Wing and their unit was scheduled to relocate to the nearby Langley Air Force Base.

In October 2005, Lieutenant Colonel Phillip Guy became the first Virginia Air National Guard pilot to transition to Langley AFB and fly the new F-22A Raptor in training missions and sorties alongside active-duty Air Force pilots stationed there. 192nd Fighter Wing pilots Lieutenant Colonel Guy and Major Patrick DeConcini were the first two Virginia Air National Guardsmen to complete ship flights on F-22As from Langley Air Force Base on February 18, 2006. Active duty personnel and Virginia National Guardsmen then completed tasking of a first ever joint exercise requirement later in May.

The last Unit Training Assembly occurred at Sandston in September 2007. Remaining base personnel solemnly attended the ‘Stand down’ ceremony in the main hangar and watched as Colonel Jay Pearsall rolled up and put away the unit flag. Afterwards, a single F-16 took off, turned, and passed over the flight deck. The pilot dipped the wings of his jet and made a final fly-by, then continued to bring the aircraft to its new location. This marked the closing chapter of an era of excellence as the 192nd Fighter Wing began its future with Langley’s 1st Fighter Wing.

On October 13, 2007, the 192nd Fighter Wing was reactivated in a ceremony held at the 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base. Integration with the active duty 1st Fighter Wing allows the Air National Guard to be at the forefront of the latest fighter craft designs. Set up as a classic ‘associate wing’, the 192nd Fighter Wing works directly with the 1st FW and yet maintains its own unit identity and command structure. It shares in the support of mission requirements for the F-22A Raptor but it does not own any of the aircraft on station.

Members of the Virginia Air National Guard have integrated into the 480th Intelligence Wing and support and medical groups. As of October 2007, the 192nd Intel Squadron has grown to approximately one hundred members. With ever-changing mission requirements to protect and defend the United States, the Virginia Air National Guard continues to grow and strengthen.