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This Week in Guard History


Each week, the National Guard Educational Foundation provides an historical fact about a significant date in the history of the National Guard.

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August 23, 1973: Washington, District of Columbia - Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird announces the adoption of the "Total Force Policy" as the new doctrine of American military preparedness. The war in Vietnam has just ended. One of the major conclusions drawn from that experience was that the American people had not supported the war because it was fought without a stated declaration and the Johnson Administration failed to mobilize and use large numbers of Reserve Component (RC) forces, including the National Guard. By conscripting (drafting) individual men for service there is little notice by the larger community. However, when an RC unit is mobilized, often taking dozens to hundreds of personnel at one time, attracting big local headlines and impacting whole communities in numerous ways. Only by having a supportive populous, one backing the effort, can American military objectives be met. By restructuring missions, training and equipment to more fully integrate RC units in with their active duty counterparts, it was hoped that the U.S. could never commit itself to another war without facing the debate about whether or not to mobilize the Guard and Reserves. This proved true first in Operations Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991 and again in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom starting in 2001. So many necessary elements of the American military now belong to the RC that active duty forces cannot fight a major conflict without RC mobilization. This is just what the planners of Total Force envisioned.

Source: National Guard Bureau


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