District of Columbia National Guard

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District of Columbia National Guard
JFHQ-DC National Guard Emblem.png
The Seal of District of Columbia National Guard
ActiveAs militia: 1776–1903
As reserve: 1903–present[1]
Country United States of America
Allegiance District of Columbia
Branch United States Army
 United States Air Force
RoleState militia, reserve force
Part ofNational Guard
Garrison/HQD.C. Armory
Nickname(s)Capital Guardians
ColorsGold, Red, Navy Blue
Major General William J. Walker
John Mason (planter)
John Peter Van Ness
Francis Scott Key
Albert Lyman Cox
William H. Abendroth
Charles L. Southward
Russell C. Davis
David F. Wherley, Jr.

The District of Columbia National Guard is the branch of the United States National Guard based in District of Columbia. It comprises both D.C. Army National Guard and D.C. Air National Guard components.

Joint Force Headquarters, District of Columbia National Guard

The president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the District of Columbia National Guard. Command is exercised through the secretary of defense and the commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters, District of Columbia National Guard. The secretary of defense has delegated his command authority to the secretary of the Army for the District of Columbia Army National Guard and the secretary of the Air Force for the District of Columbia Air National Guard.[2] The District of Columbia National Guard is commanded by a major general with a brigadier general as his or her adjutant general. The mayor of the District of Columbia, or the United States marshal for the District of Columbia, or the National Capital Service director, may request the commander-in-chief to aid them in suppressing insurrection and enforcement of the law; however, there is no chain of authority from the District of Columbia to the D.C. National Guard.[3]



Creating the District of Columbia[edit]

The Residence Act of 1790 established that the country would create a new capital city rather than selecting an existing city. In 1801, The Organic Act designed District of Columbia as the capital of the United States and put its governance under the control of Congress. Which militia would protect a city without a governor under the control of Congress?[5][6]

Establishing the D.C. National Guard[edit]

(From left to right): District of Columbia Militia commanding generals, Brig. Gen. Richard Simms (January 18, 1918 – March 31, 1920), Maj. Gen. Anton Stephan (April 28, 1920 – April 10, 1934) and Brig. Gen. William Harvey (June 4, 1913 – August 17, 1917)

The D.C. National Guard came about in part due to the efforts of President Thomas Jefferson, the first president to spend his term in District of Columbia He came into office during a time when strife between two major political parties was threatening to tear the new country apart. Soon, the commanding generals of the two closest militia units were members of President Jefferson's rival political party. At this point, there was only a very small regular army, and they were mostly patrolling the border. If one of the state's militias tried to force political will, there would be no way to keep them from marching on the Capitol and coercing—or even overthrowing—the government.

President Jefferson saw how vulnerable America's democracy would be if the will of a military general could keep the legislative body from enacting the will of the people. To prevent this, the Militia of the District of Columbia was created in the Assumption Act of May 3, 1802.[7]

The D.C. National Guard is the only local National Guard with a national mission—to protect our Federal Government – a mission reflected in its motto "Capital Guardians."

On October 30, 1802, the D.C. Militia held its first muster. President Jefferson hand-selected his new officers and was known to enjoy attending drills. A year later, the Congress officially recognized the organization.

The Bladensburg races[edit]

The fledgling D.C. Militia was tested during the War of 1812 and the Battle of Bladensburg. Maryland and Virginia, preoccupied with attacks on their own territory, were sluggish to send troops to D.C. The D.C. Militia, even when augmented by regular forces, was overwhelmed and ordered to withdraw. They watched their nation's capital burn. After the incident, Congress too noticed and increased the size and equipment of the D.C. Militia.

Other than the Headquarters itself, which traces its lineage to 1776 as an elements of the Maryland Militia in Georgetown and Bladensburg, the oldest continuous unit of the D.C. National Guard is Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 372nd Military Police Battalion which traces its lineage to the Washington Light Infantry organized in 1836 by John A. Blake.[8]

Francis Scott Key and the national anthem[edit]

The war of 1812 would produce an American treasure and one of the most famous veterans of the D.C. National Guard: Francis Scott Key, a lieutenant with the Georgetown Field Artillery of the D.C. Militia. During the British bombardment in Baltimore Barbour, he was sent to Maryland to negotiate with the British for a prisoner exchange. After negotiations, the ship's commander felt Key had seen too much and needed to stay on the ship through the rest of the attack on Baltimore's Fort McHenry. In the morning he observed the flag still flying above the Fort and was inspired to write the poem that became the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner— the national anthem of the United States. Since Key was on military orders to guarantee his safe passage, it may be said that the Star Spangled Banner was written by a District of Columbia national guardsman on temporary active duty.

Inaugural heritage[edit]

The D.C. National Guard has played a special role in presidential Inaugurations, a tradition starting in the earliest days of the nation. The D.C. Militia or National Guard has been at every presidential Inauguration beginning with an honor detail which rode with President Washington in recognition of his time as Virginia's militia commander.

A D.C. National Guard soldier helps local civilian authorities with traffic control and crowd management, among other activities, at the 2013 presidential inauguration

The D.C. Guard's participation in inaugurations may be that old, but certainly takes form in 1860. The election of Abraham Lincoln triggered several southern states to eventually secede from the Union. At Lincoln's first inaugural, Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of the Army, ordered the D.C. Militia to protect the president-elect from harm. The D.C. Militia guarded the parade routes, sappers preceded the president-elect, and D.C. Cavalry rode alongside of him, bucking their horses to make it difficult for snipers to take a shot. Upon arriving at the White House the new president received his first military salute from volunteer members of the D.C. Militia and an unbroken tradition of inaugural service was born.

When necessary, members of the D.C. National Guard may be deputized as special police, a role the active Army and Air Force cannot perform. That makes the National Guard an important element in large-scale events such as an inauguration. In 2009, the D.C. National Guard led a group of over ten thousand National Guard soldiers and airmen in support of he largest inauguration in history.[9]

American Civil War[edit]

As war approached, the D.C. Militia was commanded by Major General Roger C. Weightman, one of six District of Columbia Mayors to serve as D.C. Militia Colonels or Generals. His subordinates included Major General Force; brigadier generals Bacon and Carrington; and Brigadier General Robert Ould, who would move to Virginia and later join the Confederate States Army.[10]

Maryland and Virginia were both slave states at the beginning of the war, surrounding District of Columbia with potential enemy territory. Three days before the shots at Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called in the D.C. Militia to protect the capital, making it famous for providing "the first man…first company…first regiment" mobilized for the American Civil War.

The D.C. Militia saw an unfortunate first when Private Manual C. Causten became the first Union prisoner of war captured by the Confederacy during the Civil War.

D.C. Militia soldiers served on active duty for up to four years, engaging in combat during the Battle of Manassas and the Valley Campaign. They also maintained their historical role as protectors of the Capital, manning the forts which encircled Washington, D.C. At Fort Stevens, in District of Columbia soldiers included African-American quartermaster clerks who were originally not allowed to join combat regiments. As D.C. faced attack from the Confederate States Army, they were issued weapons and told to defend their city. President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Fort Stevens to view the fighting. It is said that he was brusquely ordered from harm's way by an officer, possibly Horatio Wright, although other probably apocryphal stories claim that it was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., later Acting Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. It would be the only time in history that a serving president would face enemy fire.

Protecting the nation's borders[edit]

From its earliest days, the D.C. National Guard has remained ready to accept the call to protect the United States, participating in the Creek War, Seminole Wars and Spanish-American In 1898, the D.C's 1st Volunteer Infantry fought alongside the United States Volunteers during the War, where they earned credit for the Santiago Campaign.

The D.C National Guard served with border patrols on the Southwest border in 1916 during the Pancho Villa raids, a mission similar to the one they would return to in the 21st century in support of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

World War I[edit]

Enlisted men of the 1st Separate Battalion, an all African-American unit, examine weapons in the old army arms room prior to entering World War I

In 1917, fearing espionage, D.C. National Guard elements were mobilized 12 days before the U.S. officially entered World War I to protect reservoirs and power plants around District of Columbia Military officials were concerned that too many of the D.C. units were made up of men with foreign roots, thus the job of protecting vital facilities fell to the all-black 1st Separate Infantry, the only unit the military believed could be trusted with this mission.

Eventually the 1st Separate was mustered into active service and re-designated the 1st Battalion of the 372nd Infantry. In France, unsure of what to do with an African-American regiment, the 372nd was attached the French army's 157th "Red Hand" Division. The Soldiers fought in Meuse-Argonne, Lorraine and Alsace, where they were awarded the Croix de Guerre—one of the highest honors bestowed by the French military. Général Goybet, the 157th commanding general, gave the unit a Red Hand insignia in honor of their service. The red hand appears today on the crest of the 372nd Military Police Battalion. Although many D.C. National Guard units were mobilized, the 372nd was the only one to actually see combat during the war.

World War II[edit]

When the U.S. entered World War II, the D.C. Guard was immediately mobilized. Ground units served in both the Pacific and European theaters and air units saw service along the Atlantic coast in anti-submarine defense. The D.C. National Guard's 121st Engineer Combat Battalion was among the units in the first wave on Omaha beach in Normandy on D-Day, and is immortalized in the 1962 movie, The Longest Day.

In 1940, the 121st Observation Squadron was organized and began operations at Bolling Field (today Bolling Air Force Base) in District of Columbia It ended the war as the 121st Fighter Squadron. At the end of the war the U.S. Army Air Corps (later the U.S. Air Force) decided to preserve the history of its most famous fighter unit, the 352nd Fighter Group (know affectionately as the Bluenosed Bastards of Bodney), and allocated it to the D.C Air National Guard's 113th Wing. Since the 113th Wing includes the 121st, it carries the campaign credit from the Antisubmarine Campaign, the Po Valley Campaign, the North Apennines Campaign and the Rome-Arno Campaign.

The Cold War era[edit]

At the end of World War II, the D.C. National Guard faced the enormous task of restructuring and retraining. The Cold War years marked a new relationship between the National Guard and active military. In 1947, the U.S. Air Force was designated a separate branch of the military; the D.C. Air National Guard became a reality in 1950, when the 113th Wing received federal recognition.

In 1951, the D.C. Army National Guard's 715th Truck Company became one of the few National Guard units mobilized for the Korean War to actually go to Korea. They called their orderly room in Korea the Blair House after the president's Guest House.

In 1961, the 113th Wing was activated for a year in support of the Berlin Crisis. In 1968, they were again activated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in response to the Pueblo Crisis. The bulk of the unit was assigned to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Later, many of these airmen deployed as individuals to Vietnam in support of the Vietnam War.


During the Vietnam War most National Guard units were purposefully left out of the war over concern that a National Guard call-up would increase the unpopularity of the war. As part of the individual or "levied" replacement program, Air National Guard pilots were allowed to volunteer for deployment to Vietnam. The 113th Wing established a Replacement Training Unit to send F-100C Super Sabre pilots to the conflict. In 1968, Lieutenant Colonel Sherman Flanagan, who had been a D.C. air guardsman, was shot down and killed over Vietnam, one of the few National Guard casualties.

9/11 response[edit]

Continuous combat air patrols were maintained over Washington, D.C., and New York City until the spring of 2002. Today, the D.C. Air National Guard's 113th Aerospace Control Alert Detachment, day, night, rain or shine, are on alert 24/7 protecting the skies of Washington, D.C.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a duty officer from the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, received a call from the U.S. Secret Service with instructions from the White House to get the F-16s in the air. The Pentagon had just been hit, and the White House knew another airliner, United Flight 93—had been hijacked. After a call with the White House operations center, the 113th Wing commander issued a scrambled order to set up a combat air patrol over D.C. and to deter all aircraft within 20 miles with "whatever force is necessary…to keep from hitting a building downtown." As the F-16 crew returned due to fuel, the next crew went out. There was no time to arm them with missiles, so each fighter went out carrying only 500 training bullets—just enough for a five-second burst. At the time, they believed that there may be more hostile aircraft. Each committed to doing whatever necessary to stop any hostile aircraft they encountered, up to and including ramming the airliner.[11] By this point, fighters from Langley Air Force Base and the fighters from the D.C. National Guard were put in contact with each other. Flight 93 was no longer a threat, but the two units worked together to escort aircraft out of the airspace.

Meanwhile, with little more information that several people at the Pentagon were dead and several more injured, the D.C. Army National Guard helicopter pilots were launched from Davidson Army Air Field to the site of the attack on the Pentagon. They began ferrying casualties to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and medical personnel back to the Pentagon.

In the days after September 11, 600 soldiers from the D.C. Army National Guard were mobilized around the city, including the Capitol building. The Mobilization Augmentation Command reported to duty immediately, becoming the first National Guard unit mobilized for the Global War on Terror.

Global War on Terror[edit]

The D.C. National Guard has deployed more than 1,200 soldiers and airmen to support the Global War on Terror. The D.C. Guard completed over 90 whole-unit deployments, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Saudi Arabia and stateside missions as part of Operation Noble Eagle. Many D.C. National Guard soldiers and airmen served multiple deployments. Since September 11, 2001, the 113th Wing has provided 24-hour protective coverage over the skies of the United States's Capitals, as the "D.C. National Guard Capitol Guardians."

The D.C National Guard served with border patrols on the Southwest border in 1916 during the Pancho Villa raids, a mission similar to the one they would return to in the 21st century in support of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Unique law[edit]

Normally, U.S. federal law specifically charges the U.S. National Guard with dual federal and state missions. As Maryland gave the U.S. federal government jurisdiction in the District of Columbia to establish a federal district, there is no elected governor to command this guard unit. The D.C. National Guard is the only National Guard that reports only to the president.

Supervision and control of D.C. National Guard was delegated by the president to the defense secretary pursuant to Executive Order 10030, 26 January 1949 with authority to designate National Military Establishment officials to administer affairs of the D.C. National Guard. The Army secretary was directed to act in all matters pertaining to the ground component, and the Air Force secretary was directed to act in all matters pertaining to the air component.

The D.C. National Guard is the only U.S. military force empowered to carry out federal functions in a state or, in this case, a district. Those functions range from limited actions during non-emergency situations to full scale law enforcement of martial law when local law enforcement officials can no longer maintain civil control. The National Guard may be called into federal service in response to a call by the president or Congress.

When the D.C. National Guard is called to federal service, the president serves as commander-in-chief. The federal mission assigned to the U.S. National Guard is "To provide properly trained and equipped units for prompt mobilization for war, National emergency or as otherwise needed."

List of commanding generals[edit]

The District of Columbia commanding general is the senior military officer and commander of the District of Columbia National Guard.

However, the Congressional Act of 1871 placed a governor at the head of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Militia, and from 1871 to 1887, there was no commanding general. in 1887, the position of governor was eliminated and a commissioner form of government was established with five appointed commissioners, and the position of commanding general returned.

As of today, there have been 23 commanding generals of the District of Columbia National Guard.

Maj. Gen. William J. Walker Mar. 01, 2018 - Present
Rank Name Appointment Date of Relief
Brig. Gen. John Mason Jun. 28, 1802 1811
Maj. Gen. John Peter Van Ness 1811 1814
Vacant 1814 1827
Maj. Gen. Walter Smith 1827 1829
Maj. Gen. Walter Jones 1829 1847
Brig. Gen. Roger C. Weightman 1847 1849
Maj. Gen. Walter Jones 1849 1859
Brig. Gen. Roger C. Weightman 1860 1871
Brig. Gen. Alberet Ordway 1887 1897
Maj. Gen. George H. Harries 1897 1913
Brig. Gen. William E. Harvey Jun. 4, 1913 Aug. 17, 1917
Brig. Gen. Richard D. Simms Jan. 18, 1918 Mar. 31, 1920
Brig. Gen. Anton Stephan April 28, 1920 April 10, 1934
Col. John W. Oehman (Acting) 1934 1938
Brig. Gen. Albert Lyman Cox 1938 1949
Maj. Gen. William H. Abendroth 1949 1967
Maj. Gen. Charles L. Southward 1967 1974
Maj. Gen. Cunningham C. Bryant Aug. 4, 1974 Dec. 5, 1981
Maj. Gen. Calvin G. Franklin Dec. 8, 1981 Sept. 30, 1991
Maj. Gen. Russell C. Davis Dec. 1991 Dec. 1995
Maj. Gen. Warren L. Freeman Dec. 18, 1995 Dec. 31, 2002
Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr. June 27, 2003 June 20, 2008
Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz Jun. 27, 2008 Jan. 20, 2017
Maj. Gen. William J. Walker Jan. 20, 2017 Present

Joint Task Force-District of Columbia[edit]

Joint Task Force-District of Columbia, is an element of the District of Columbia National Guard. It usually is constituted as part of a larger local or Federal effort to prepare for or react to an emerging situation, including National Special Security Events.

It is tasked to support presidential inaugurations, State of the Union (SOTA) addresses, summits like the Nuclear Security Summit, protests, weather-related storms, the annual Washington, D.C., Fourth of July event, among others.

JTF-DC participates in all inter-agency planning and conducts planning with joint partners in the National Capital Region (NCR). Additionally, JTF-DC provides support, including traffic control, crowd management and security, for presidential inaugurations and related official ceremonies and events throughout the inaugural period, continuing the tradition of military participation in the presidential inauguration of the commander-in-chief dating back to the inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

State Partnership Program[edit]

Brig. Gen. William J. Walker, District of Columbia National Guard, during his first official visit to the island nation of Jamiaca, which serves as a State Partnership Program partner with the D.C. National Guard. During his three-day visit, the general met with key Jamaica Defense Force leaders to discuss continued collaborative training opportunities and visited JDF military facilities around the island to learn more about the capabilities of the JDF.

The State Partnership Program (SPP) is a joint program of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the individual states, territories, and District of Columbia.

The SPP has 73 security partnerships involving 79 nations around the globe. SPP links a component of the Department of Defense – a state's National Guard – with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.[citation needed]

The District of Columbia has one country in the SPP. Jamaica joined the SPP with the District of Columbia National Guard in 1999. Jamaica fall under the area of operations of SOUTHCOM.

D.C. National Guard Museum[edit]

The D.C. National Guard Museum, also known as Brigadier General Wes Hamilton Museum, is a military museum of the District of Columbia National Guard. It is located at the District of Columbia National Guard headquarters at the D.C. Armory, adjacent to the Stadium-Armory Metro Stop near RFK Stadium.

The collection includes (inside) military artifacts and memorabilia including National Guard weapons, uniforms and diaries, and outside, static displays including an F-16 Fighting Falcon and a UH-1Y Venom Huey helicopter.

D.C. National Guard decorations[edit]

Awards and decorations of the D.C. National Guard are presented to members of the United States National Guard in addition to regular United States military decorations. The District of Columbia National Guard maintains a series of military decorations for issuance with such awards presented under the authority of the District of Columbia Commanding General.

District of Columbia National Guard Awards:

  • DC Distinguished Service Medal.png District of Columbia Distinguished Service Medal
  • DC NG Meritorious Service Medal.JPG District of Columbia Meritorious Service Medal
  • DC NG Commendation Medal.JPG District of Columbia Commendation Medal
  • DC NG Achievement Medal.JPG District of Columbia Achievement Medal
  • DC NG Homeland Defense.JPG District of Columbia Homeland Defense Medal (ribbon has three red stars in the center).
  • DC NCO Commendation Ribbon.png District of Columbia NCO Commendation Ribbon
  • DC Enlisted Excellence Ribbon.png District of Columbia Enlisted Excellence Ribbon
  • DC NG Long & Faithful Service Medal.JPG District of Columbia Long and Faithful Service Medal (one medal for three years, recognition for five years and additional five-year increments noted with Roman Numerals up to 45 years)
  • DC Emergency Service Ribbon.png District of Columbia Emergency Service Ribbon (Deactivated)
  • DC Recognition Ribbon.png District of Columbia Recognition Ribbon
  • DC Special Award Ribbon.png District of Columbia Special Award Ribbon
  • DC Recruiting and Retention Ribbon.png District of Columbia Recruiting and Retention Ribbon (Deactivated)
  • DC Community Service Ribbon.png District of Columbia Community Service Ribbon
  • DC Ceremonial Drill Team Color Guard Ribbon.png District of Columbia Ceremonial/Drill Team/Color Guard Ribbon
  • DC Active Duty Ribbon.png District of Columbia Active Duty Ribbon (Deactivated)
  • DC Attendance Ribbon.png District of Columbia Attendance Ribbon
  • DC Commanding General's Outstanding Unit Award.png District of Columbia Commanding General's Outstanding Unit Award

Notable D.C. Guardsmen[edit]


  1. ^ "District of Columbia National Guard". National Guard Educational Foundation. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  2. ^ Memorandum from S/D James Forestall to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force, 2 February 1949, NARA RG 330, OSD Correspondence Control Section, Central Numeric File N9-1(3).
  3. ^ Executive Order 11458, 1 October 1969, 34 Federal Register 15411, 15433.
  4. ^ ”An act to provide for organizing a naval battalion in the District of Columbia,” approved 11 May 1898, 30 Statutes at Large 464.
  5. ^ “An act additional to, and amendatory of, an act entitled ‘An act concerning the District of Columbia’,” approved 3 May 1802, 2 Statutes at Large 195.
  6. ^ “An act more effectively to provide for the organization of the militia of the District of Columbia,” approved 3 March 1803, 2 Statues at Large 215.
  7. ^ "The Acts of Congress, in Relation to the District of Columbia". U.S. Government. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  8. ^ Compendium, 1986, unpublished, District of Columbia Militia & National Guard: Organized and Volunteer Units, 1789 through 1917, B. Michael Berger & Charles A. Shaughnessy.
  9. ^ "National Guard to support inauguration". U.S. Air Force. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  10. ^ Charles Pomeroy Stone, "Washington on the Eve of the War", in Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel (1887), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, reprint, Secaucus, NJ: Castle, pp. 12, ISBN 0-89009-569-8.
  11. ^ "Memorandum for Record LtCol Marc H Saseville" (PDF). The National Archives. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  12. ^ Earle Wheeler

External links[edit]