Spotlight on: African-American History Month

Three Decorated Guard Regiments Helped Win World War I

ARLINGTON, Va.—Each February, during African-American History Month, the Nation remembers the important contributions African-Americans have made throughout U.S. history.

The National Guard’s history is also replete with examples of African-Americans who served with distinction. A notable example existed within the three National Guard regiments that fought in World War I under the U.S. Army’s 93rd Division: the 369th, 370th, and 372nd Infantry Regiments. 

Although organized as an all-Black division for the war, these regiments did not fight as one. Instead, each was assigned to French divisions, as the French requested the immediate use of American divisions to reinforce the French army. Each of the regiments took part in major combat operations and received battlefield accolades for its service with the French army.

The 369th ‘Harlem Hellfighters’

Probably one of the most famous American Units to emerge from World War I was the 369th Infantry, or “Harlem Hellfighters.”

Organized in the summer of 1916 as a result of State legislation authorizing the formation of a Black National Guard regiment, the 15th Infantry, New York National Guard, was called into Federal service in July 1917 and ordered to France. After three attempts to cross the Atlantic, the 15th landed in France in December 1917 and discovered it had been redesignated as the 369th Infantry Regiment. After being attached to the French army for training, it was assigned to the 161st Infantry Division of the French army.

The regiment took part in major operations in the Champagne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne, Champagne, and Alsace campaigns – campaigns where front lines were retaken or German attacks were thwarted.

Overall, the regiment spent 191 days in the front-line trenches. For its actions, the 369th was cited 11 times for bravery and was decorated with the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star for service during the Meuse-Argonne campaign.

In addition to having the unique distinction of receiving three nicknames: “Harlem Hellfighters,” “Men of Bronze,” and the “Black Watch,” the 369th’s regimental band was well known throughout Europe for its concerts and is credited with introducing American jazz to Europe.

Since World War I, the 369th underwent several reorganizations and is known today as New York National Guard’s Headquarters Company, 369th Sustainment Brigade.

The 370th ‘Black Devils’

Although redesignated as the 370th Infantry Regiment during World War I, the Unit’s history begins nearly 20 years before entry into the war. Initially organized in 1895 as the 9th Battalion Infantry, the all-Black National Guard Unit was redesignated as the 8th Illinois Infantry in 1898. After Federal service in the Spanish-American war, the Unit was called again in 1916 for service on the Mexican Border.

As the 370th was assigned to the 93rd Division in 1917, the regiment arrived in France in April 1918. It was ultimately assigned to the French 59th Division, which took part in the Oise-Aisne offensive where the Germans abandoned their defensive lines.

The 370th had the distinction of being the only Black regiment completely staffed with Black officers. For its actions during the war, members received 21 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1 Distinguished Service Medal, and 68 Croix de Guerre.

After World War I, the regiment reorganized and is known today as the Illinois National Guard’s 178th Infantry.

The 372nd Infantry

National Guard units from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia that had been organized in the 1880s made up the 372nd Infantry Regiment, which was organized in 1917.

Upon its arrival in France, the 372nd was similarly attached to French army divisions for training before being assigned to a division – the well-known French 157th “Red Hand” Infantry Division – and took part in the Meuse-Argonne, Lorraine, and Alsace campaigns.

Members of the regiment had the distinguished record of never surrendering or retreating, and their participation in the Meuse-Argonne advance was decisive in ending the war after members of the 372nd were credited with taking nearly 600 prisoners and securing large quantities of engineering supplies and artillery ammunition.

For its actions during the Meuse-Argonne, the regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm.

Although the regiment was deactivated after World War II, the 372nd is perpetuated by the Ohio National Guard’s 237th Support Battalion and the District of Columbia’s 372nd Military Police Battalion.

The National Guard, 100 years later

Almost 100 years after World War I, the Guard is still deploying overseas to protect and defend America and her allies. But the mission doesn’t end there for this part-time branch of the military. The Guard also serves the community, responding to domestic emergencies like hurricanes and wildfires, and protecting citizens during high-profile events like the recent Presidential Inauguration.

National Guard Soldiers train for a career in one of more than 150 fields, including intelligence, military police, logistics, infantry, and more. Soldiers can build on that training by attending college or vocational school using the Guard’s education benefits.

So if you’re interested in a job that makes a difference, visit our job board for details on each career field and contact a recruiter today.

From an original article by SSG Michelle Gonzalez, National Guard Bureau, which appeared in the special features section of

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Guard Spotlight: Illinois

Guard Soldier’s Invention Has Army-Wide Impact

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A Soldier with the Illinois Army National Guard has invented a device that improves Soldier safety and equipment longevity, and has recently been adopted Army-wide.

Sergeant (SGT) Wesley Todd, a machinist with the Illinois Army National Guard’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop at North Riverside Armory in North Riverside, Ill., has designed and fabricated a tool that makes removing a seized howitzer muzzle brake easier and safer for Soldiers when they make repairs or perform maintenance tasks on the guns.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Steve Murphy, armament supervisor at the maintenance shop, said SGT Todd took it upon himself to create the device when he saw Soldiers struggling to remove a seized muzzle brake on a light howitzer.

“It can be very difficult to remove the muzzle brake,” said CW2 Murphy. “They sometimes seize up in varying weather conditions.”

SGT Wesley Todd of the Illinois Army National Guard checks the measurements on a device he invented that makes removing a seized howitzer muzzle brake easier and safer for Soldiers when they perform repairs or maintenance on the guns. The device has been adopted by the Army, and is scheduled to be manufactured and distributed to maintenance organizations Army-wide. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Adams)

SGT Todd’s device allows Soldiers to apply enough force to remove a seized muzzle brake, but in a way that doesn’t damage the gun tube or its rifling grooves.

Soldiers would normally use sledgehammers to free a seized muzzle brake, which often resulted in additional damage to the muzzle brake, and had the potential to damage other parts as well, said CW2 Murphy, adding that just the gun tube of a howitzer can cost more than $265,000.

“Using this device instead of a sledgehammer has and will continue to keep the Soldier safer when working on the equipment,” said CW2 Murphy. “The device has also made the process much faster.”

SGT Todd, who has worked as a machinist at the shop for three years, said he normally repairs damaged parts and makes new parts for military vehicles and equipment.

“It’s an honor to know I improved the Army in a small way,” he said.

After review of the device, it was approved and scheduled for Army-wide implementation by the end of the year.

“This Soldier’s invention will increase safety and save the entire Army hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment parts and repair time,” said Army Maj. Gen. (MG) Richard J. Hayes, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. “These are resources that will now be able to be devoted to other U.S. Army priorities.”

For MG Hayes, it serves as an example of leadership and initiative.  

“SGT Todd has shown how a single Illinois Army National Guard Soldier can improve a process for the entire Army, and his leadership has shown us a great example of how to listen to your Soldiers’ ideas and help them implement positive changes,” he said. 

Despite the invention’s big impact, Todd said it was just another day’s work. 

“Making things is a part of my job,” he said. “This is by far the most impactful thing I have ever made, though.”

So if you’re interested in making an impact as a Soldier, whether it’s to help your fellow Soldiers, help your country or your local community, learn more about Guard careers on our job board, where you will find more than 150 options. Contact your local recruiter for specifics on jobs that interest you, and find out about the benefits of this part-time service.

From original article by Staff Sgt. Robert Adams, Illinois Army National Guard, which appeared in September 2016 in the news section of


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Guard Spotlight: North Carolina

Editor’s note: Hurricane Matthew may have exited the country, but its No. 1 after-effect, namely flooding, is still causing problems in the Southeast. As of last week, parts of central North Carolina were still being evacuated because of rising rivers that hadn’t yet reached flood stage.

Fortunately, thousands of Army National Guard Soldiers were on hand to help their neighbors in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida as Matthew subsided. They went to work by providing supplies, clearing roadways, evacuating citizens from their homes, and saving lives by boat, helicopter, and high-water trucks. The following story is yet another example of how these Soldiers can be counted on to serve their communities when tragedies strike.

Soldiers’ Swift-Water Rescue Training Saves Stranded Nurse

WILSON, N.C. – Most Army National Guard Soldiers serve part-time in the military, drilling with their Units, located close to where they live, once a month. They also typically attend a two-week training in the summer.

For 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Wyatt Koch and Specialist (SPC) Robert Shook, their training in swift-water rescues at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, completed only months ago in June, could not have been timed better.

The Soldiers, both combat engineers from the 151st Engineer Battalion, rescued a local nurse, who had been stranded clinging to a tree for hours outside of Wilson, N.C., during severe flooding from Hurricane Matthew in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 9.

The nurse did not return home from work and was reported missing when the N.C. Emergency Management Central Branch was called to send out a search and rescue team. Capt. Bert Henderson from the Wilson Fire Department and the two National Guard Soldiers were part of a multi-agency rescue team that began looking for the missing woman early Sunday morning.

2LT Koch and his team began to drive down a flooded road outside of Wilson, when they heard over the radio that another team could hear a cry for help. SPC Shook cut the engine off to the team’s Humvee when he heard faint cries of “help!” The three men got on the hood of the Humvee and began to use searchlights to look for the person calling out.

SPC Robert Shook and 2LT Wyatt Koch. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Army National Guard.

Henderson was the first person to spot the flood victim, and SPC Shook threw his rescue rope first, but the current carried it away. 2LT Koch threw next, further upstream, and it was able to make it to the stranded woman. They began to pull her in, but she lost her grip, still yards away from the rescue team.

SPC Shook jumped into the floodwaters, quickly retrieving the woman, and began to buddy swim back to the Humvee. The current was too strong to fight, so SPC Shook began to tread water until another swift-water rescue boat pulled alongside the pair and pulled them into the boat. The team was able to bring her back safely to dry land.

“The [swift-water rescue] training worked tremendously,” SPC Shook said. “I never would have guessed that only a few months later I would be using it to save a life.”

The team continued to provide aid until paramedics arrived and took the woman to Wilson Medical Hospital. She had been in the water for more than four hours.

“I never thought that I would be jumping into floodwaters, but my training kicked in,” SPC Shook said. “All I knew was that I had to get to her and save her. This is what I signed up for, to serve my country and to help people.”

So, if you’d like to help your country, your neighbors and potentially save lives when disasters strike, contact a recruiter and check out our job board where you can find more information about Guard careers like combat engineer and others. There are more than 150 choices.

From original article by Capt. Matthew Boyle, 382nd Public Affairs Detachment, which appeared in October 2016 in the news section of


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