CHARLESTON, W.Va. —
This October, our organization will commemorate the 100 year anniversary of our entry into World War I as a part of the 38th Infantry Division. Our time and involvement in the Great War was short, lasting only a few weeks, before the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, but our legacy remains one that must be remembered and reflected upon. Our proud heritage doesn’t begin and end with World War I. It predates even the formation of the United States of America, when General Washington called upon the men of West Augusta to march to Cambridge in preparation for the Revolutionary War. From that point, West Virginia Guardsmen have participated in every major battle in American history. We are the purveyors of freedom for our State and Nation.
I speak often of our important history when I visit the units in the state. It’s imperative for our Soldiers and Airmen to reflect upon that history and understand it so that we can align our current path with the trajectory we’ve been on for more than 238 years. Not only should we focus on the history of the West Virginia National Guard, but also that of our services branches - the major campaigns, key battles and geopolitical climates that have brought us to this point in the world today. The enemy and environment may be different than what we’ve faced in the past, but our values and strengths as an organization have not changed.
Defense Secretary James Mattis recently spoke of the global role played by the National Guard at the 140th National Guard Association of the United States conference and of the military’s shift of focus stating, “We recognize that great-power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary challenge to our national security, even as we continue to fight against terrorism." As we look forward as a National Guard, we must remain focused on the tasks at hand and be ready for new, uncharted threats, as the Secretary outlined. If you have not listened to his entire speech, I recommend you do so to understand his vision for the National Guard as an operational force.
I urge each and every Soldier and Airman in the West Virginia National Guard to study our past and look for the emerging threats on the horizon. Our ability to defend and protect America lies in our combat readiness and training, which serves as a deterrent to our adversaries. As I have said before, when a near-peer actor sees the enhanced capabilities of the National Guard and our focused training for combat, they may think twice about engaging in a battle with the United States. Let’s keep that intensity and focus on our readiness, lethality, and future threats like hybrid warfare and the cyber domain, as we carry out our missions at home and abroad.