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NEWS | June 24, 2021

Kentucky Guard Celebrates 229th Birthday

By Staff Report Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky National Guard gathered together to celebrate its 229th birthday commemorating its founding at Boone National Guard Center, June 24. 

During the ceremony, there was a ceremonial cake cutting where the two senior members of the Air Guard and Army Guard helped cut the cake with the two lowest ranking members in attendance of each branch.

This is the first time the Kentucky Guard has publicly celebrated the date, according to Lt. Col. Stephen Martin, the State Director of Public Affairs, and Master of Ceremonies for the event.

The Adjutant General of Kentucky, Army Brig. Gen. Haldane B. Lamberton, was one of the senior members who was involved in the cake cutting and acknowledged the significance of the day. 

 “For all of us just simply being more aware of our lineage, our history and tradition is important,” said Lamberton. “This is the first time we've ever done anything to recognize the birthday for the Kentucky National Guard, so this event becomes a baseline for building on it in the future.”

He went on to talk about the expertise gained from all the deployments that the guardsmen have participated in and have raised the level of professionalism that the organization’s Guardsmen display.

“I'm appreciative of you being here and perhaps even more so, I’m appreciative of everybody's service, whether you're a Soldier, whether you're an Airman, whether you're one of the great civilians that we get to work with in the Guard. It really does take all of us,” said Lamberton. “The Kentucky National Guard is unique in the military and I'm certainly proud to be among one of its members.”

Mr. Andrew Dickson, the Kentucky National Guard Command Historian, provided remarks on the significance of the date and major accomplishments of the organization. 

His remarks are provided in full:

The Kentucky National Guard, known under various names, but has the distinction of being one of the oldest military forces in the United States.  Its history dates back to 1775, when Kentucky was the western part of Virginia, known as Fincastle County.

The Kentucky National Guard was originally known as the local Militia under the command of Captain James Harrod in which the Militiamen was to serve as a self-protective association against hostile actions from both foreign and native attacks.

On the first day of June 1792, the Commonwealth of Kentucky became the 15th State in the Union.  On June 20th, Gov. Isaac Shelby approved and signed the Enrolled Bill entitled, “An Act to arrange the Militia of this State into Divisions, Brigades, Regiments, Battalions and Companies, and for other purposes.” 

This Act became effective immediately, and under it, on June 24, 1792, Gov. Shelby appointed the staff officers, and over the following month the regimental commanders were appointed.
On March 29, 2000, an Act of the Kentucky Legislature was approved and signed by Gov. Paul E. Patton establishing each June 24 as Kentucky National Guard Day in the Commonwealth.

In 1812, open war broke out again with Britain.  The Kentucky Militia responded to the call to arms, seeing action in battles such as River Raisin, Lake Erie, Thames, and New Orleans.

While many states withheld their troops from serving, many Kentuckians volunteered to fight.
Of the approx. 24,000 Kentuckians who served in the war, about 1,200 were casualties – Due to the varying statistics 2,200 – 3,700 Americans KIA in total, we know that around 30 to 55 percent of the Americans killed in the war were Kentuckians.

However, Kentuckians made their mark on the Battle of New Orleans, the final battle of the war.  In 1832, an unidentified British Officer, wrote an article in a Boston newspaper of a lone Kentucky marksman who faced the advancing British troops.  The man, dressed in linsey-woolsey, buckskin leggings, and a broad-brimmed hat stood his ground among the cannon fire and picked off British soldiers one by one with his long-rifle and never wavered.  This lone rifleman was so deadly, the British Officer wrote of this Kentuckian “to know that every time that rifle was leveled toward us… when the hammer came down, that the messenger of death drove unerringly to its goal, to know this, and still march on, was awful.”

Kentucky was also on the forefront of air technology as well.   Corporal Edward Ward from Pine Knott, Ky – was the first enlisted man assigned to the Signal Corps Aeronautical Division on August 1, 1907 and in September 1909 helped uncrate the Wright Flyer for its Army trials at Fort Myers, Virginia.  From there, Ward pioneered the way for mechanics for the first aircraft.
1947, for the first time since the beginning of the National Guard, air units were allotted to the State and federally recognized through February to October of 1947 with full-time, federally paid personnel authorized by the National Guard Bureau. 
Captain Thomas F. Mantell Jr. was the first flight casualty of the Kentucky Air National Guard. Mantell was born in Franklin, Kentucky, 30 June 1922.  During World War II, Mantell was assigned to the 440th Troop Carrier Group, 96th Troop Carrier Squadron, 9th Air Force. He was awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal w/3OLCs for heroism.  Following the war he returned to Louisville, joining the newly organized Kentucky Air National Guard, in the 165th Fighter Squadron. On 7 January 1948, while on a training flight with three other P-51Ds (Mustang) returning to Louisville from Marietta, Georgia, Mantell was directed by the flight tower at Godman Field to pursue an unidentified flying object. While in pursuit of the object, he died in plane crash in Simpson County, Kentucky.  It is still uncertain what Mantell was pursuing at the time of the crash.
In 1950, the 123rd Fighter Group was called to federal service by President Truman in response to the Korean War and reported to Godman Field.  While at Godman Field, the 123rd was re-designated the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing (FBW) and tasked with training replacement pilots for the Korean War. At this time several Kentucky Air National Guard pilots were assigned to combat squadrons in Korea on a temporary basis. Five Ky. Air Guardsmen were lost either in action or during captivity. One of the five Kentucky Guard pilots who lost their lives in combat in the Korean Conflict was Captain John William Shewmaker whose name was given to Shewmaker Air National Guard Base in 1959. The name was later changed in 1976 with the designation of Standiford Field (ANG).
The dual mission of the Kentucky Guard brings with it service on the home front.  Operation Katrina, Jump Start, flood, forest fires, tornadoes, ice and snow storms, civil unrest, and a host of planned events have kept the Soldiers and Airmen actively engaged across the Nation and the Commonwealth through the years.

In the infamous trial of Neal and Croft in 1882-1883, Kentucky troops were ordered to provide escorts for the men on trial along the Big Sandy River and the Ohio River.  Troops were fired upon by mobs who wanted to lynch Neal and Croft in Ashland, Ky.  A number of troops were wounded during an exchange of gunfire between the mob and the troops.  The mission, however, was a success with the men arriving to Ashland for their trial.  Troops continued to be stationed in Ashland for support, staying in harsh conditions of ice, sleet, snow, and mud; this exposure causing many to fall severely ill and one dying within days of his return home.

On 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving a wide path of destruction. That same afternoon, two Kentucky Air National Guard aircrews scheduled to fly routine local training sorties were tasked to fly the first hurricane relief sorties into Navy New Orleans airfield and by 31 August the 123d Special Tactics Squadron was conducting search and rescue and helicopter evacuation operations in New Orleans with seven para-rescue personnel, six FAA-certified combat/air traffic controllers and four Zodiac rescue boats. By the end of September, Kentucky Air Guard personnel had reinforced the unit’s reputation as a world-class organization with an outstanding record of support to Katrina victims.

The Joint Force Headquarters and Major Commands of the Kentucky National Guard performed in an exceptional manner coordinating the deployment and operations of nearly 1,500 Kentucky Guard Soldiers and Airmen who deployed in response to Hurricane Katrina.
Between 29 August and 30 September 2005, the Kentucky National Guard (both Air and Army Guard) provided 38 task organized units, totaling 1,486 Soldiers and Airmen to the Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief efforts.

Since September 11th, 2001, approximately 18,000 Kentucky National Guard servicemembers have heeded the call to protect against threats to our national security.  Both Army and Air servicemembers have exceeded the call.

Master Sgt. (Ret.) Keary Miller received the Air Force Cross for actions in the Battle of Robert’s Ridge in Afghanistan and Tech. Sgt. Daniel Keller received the Air Force Cross for exemplary service on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Timothy Nein was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and now Sgt. First Class Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star, the first female soldier to be cited for valor in close quarters combat, for the Battle of Salmun Pak in Iraq. 
This is a small testament to the duties our servicemembers have contributed to the security of our nation in the past 20 years.
For the past few years, a motto has been used to rally our volunteers that has deep roots in our State’s history.  Not only is this a rally, but it embraces who we are as an organization.

To again quote the unidentified British officer in 1832:
‘I could see nothing but the tall figure standing on the breastworks; he seemed to grow, phantom-like, higher and higher, assuming through the smoke the supernatural appearance of some great spirit of death.  Again did he reload and discharge and reload and discharge his rifle with the same unfailing aim, and the same unfailing result; and it was with indescribable pleasure that I beheld, as we marched [towards] the American lines, the sulphorous clouds gathering around us, and shutting that spectral hunter from our gaze.

‘We lost the battle, and to my mind, that Kentucky Rifleman contributed more to our defeat than anything else; for which he remained to our sight, our attention was drawn from our duties.  And when at last, we became enshrouded in the smoke, the work was completed, we were in utter confusion and unable, in the extremity, to restore order sufficient to make any successful attack. The battle was lost.”
Our history is our legacy.  Together as Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky National Guard and as we celebrate our 229th Birthday, may we always remember to “Fight as Kentuckians.”

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