Pennsylvania National Guard History
The Army National Guard (ARNG) is one branch of the U.S. Total Army, consisting of the Active, Guard, and Reserve
components. The Army National Guard is composed of reservists – civilians who serve their country on a part-time basis. Pennsylvania like each state and territory has its own Army National Guard force as provided by the United States Constitution.
The Pennsylvania Army National Guard has a unique dual mission, with both Federal and State responsibilities.
During peacetime, the Governor, through the State Adjutant General, commands the Pennsylvania Guard forces. The Governor can call the Guard into action during local or statewide emergencies, such as storms, drought, and civil disturbances, to name
but a few. Additionally, the President of the United States (Commander-In-Chief) can activate the National Guard to participate
in Federal missions. Examples of this are the many Pennsylvania Guard units that over the years have deployed to support
operations in theaters overseas or here in the States.
- The PA National Guard is one of the top ten employers in the commonwealth. About 3,000 of our members serve full-time; the remaining 16,000 are “traditional” Guard members who train on a part-time basis while pursuing a civilian education or career.
- The PA National Guard is one of the largest National Guards in the nation. It has the largest Army National Guard of all
the states and the fourth largest Air National Guard.
- With armories and air bases in some 90 communities – in 52 counties – our presence blankets the commonwealth.
With approximately 15,000 members, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard plays an important role in the nation’s defense and supporting the commonwealth in times of need.
Its units have taken part in every conflict America has faced, from the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Guard Soldiers have provided humanitarian relief, led peacekeeping missions and deployed thousands of soldiers at home and abroad to fight the war against terrorism.
The largest element of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard is the 28th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Founded in 1879, the 28th is recognized as the oldest continuous service division in the United State Army. In 2001, the 28th Infantry Division's 56th Brigade was selected as the only National Guard force to be transformed to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team or SBCT. The other six SBCT units are active duty Army.
Fielding the Stryker Brigade is the largest program undertaken by the Pennsylvania National Guard in modern history. It is a $1.5 billion program that includes 85 construction projects across the commonwealth and more than 1,000 wheeled vehicle including 300 Stryker vehicles. The Department of Army’s decision to field the Stryker Brigade in Pennsylvania recognizes that the 28th Infantry Division has achieved the highest levels of strength and readiness.
Pennsylvania’s other major unit, the 213th Area Support Group, handles combat support missions, including transportation,
finance and personnel services.
The commander of the 19,000-member Pennsylvania National Guard is Major General Jessica L. Wright. She is responsible for a joint military force – comprised of Air Force and Army units – that reaches from Joint Headquarters located at Fort Indiantown Gap, Lebanon County, to some 90 communities across the commonwealth.
In time of war or national emergency, or in support of any military operation worldwide, the president can mobilize units of the Pennsylvania National Guard into active federal service. Pennsylvania units have taken part in every conflict America has faced,
from the Revolutionary War through Iraqi Freedom, as well as ongoing peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, Bosnia and elsewhere. Since September 11, 2001, over 17,000 of our Soldiers and Airmen have deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.
In peacetime, the governor serves as commander in chief of the Pennsylvania National Guard, exercising control through the adjutant general. In the event of natural disaster or civil emergency, the governor can order Guard personnel and equipment into service to assist state and local authorities. For example, in September 2005, in the wake of the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,
2,500 of our Soldiers and Airmen were deployed to the Gulf Coast within a few days of the storms to provide communications, humanitarian assistance and force protection.
Even when no emergency threatens, the PA National Guard offers broad support to the civilian community. The counter drug program, for example, provides trained people and specialized equipment to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in
the fight against illegal drugs.
And, all across the state, Guard members serve as role models as well as community volunteers and civic leaders – living examples of citizenship at its best.