- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

The D.C. National Guard, which celebrates its 200th birthday today and tomorrow, has a military history that goes back to the Revolutionary War and includes 1st Lt. Francis Scott Key.

Then it was called the D.C. Militia, and Lt. Key, who watched the British bombard Fort McHenry in Baltimore, wrote a poem about the American flag, which was later put to music and became the national anthem. Both the poem and the song became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The celebration begins tonight at the National Guard Armory just down East Capitol Street from the Capitol. About 1,000 members, veterans and retirees are expected to attend the event. The Guard's symbol and name is "Capitol Guardian."

There will be a big cake cut by some of the speakers and the oldest D.C. Guard veteran, who has not been selected yet. He will be named and summoned from among guests at tonight's program.

The speakers include James G. Roche, secretary of the Air Force; Reginald J. Brown, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs; and Craig Duehring, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.

Tomorrow at the Armory, there will be a command family picnic, displays and programs about the history of the Guard. Permanent exhibits may be seen in the museum there.

Only those who receive invitations will attend the celebrations. The Guard has about 3,000 members. The members, veterans and retirees range in age from 18 to about 85.

"We hope to get people back who were in World War II," said Lt. Col. Anthony Alford, deputy chief of staff for personnel.

Called the D.C. Militia until it was turned into a National Guard unit by Congress in March 1802, it now includes the Air National Guard.

"Every conflict this country has been in, we've been involved," said Col. Alford.

They include the War of 1812, the Seminole Indian wars, Creek Indian wars, the Civil War, the 1898 war with Spain, the Mexican border campaign of 1916, World Wars I and II, wars in Korea and Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm against Iraq, Bosnia, and the air defense of Washington after the September 11 attacks.

The D.C. unit is the only "federal" organization among the 54 National Guard units throughout the states. The president is commander in chief, but the command and control were turned over in 1949 to the secretaries of the Army and Air Force.

Still known as the U.S. Militia in 1861, its mobilization was ordered by President Abraham Lincoln two days before the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, S.C. the first Union mobilization of the war.

In 1917, 12 days before the United States entered World War I, the D.C. Guard was mobilized. It's all-black 1st Separate Infantry went into combat against German forces.

In World War II, its 352nd Fighter Group known as the "Blue-Nosed Bastards of Bodney," England, because of the blue noses on their fighter planes was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.

Mobilized in 1950, its 715th Transportation Truck Company, an all-black unit, went to Korea and served in eight campaigns.

In 1968, it was mobilized again, and many of its pilots and support personnel were in combat in Vietnam. That spring, the Guard served 12 days to quell demonstrations in the District after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

The Guard keeps busy at home, too. It has helped keep order for presidential inaugurations, the Million Man March, and International Monetary Fund and World Bank demonstrations.

In the last year, its 113th Wing F-16 pilots flew combat patrols over Washington, while ground units stood guard around the Capitol.

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