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 NationalGuard.mil.

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Leading the Double Life of a Citizen-Soldier®

Fresh out of high school, Reanna Alvarez didn’t go off to college the following fall like the rest of her friends after graduation. If she wanted to pursue a degree, she was going to have to find a way to pay for it herself.

A friend mentioned that he was getting his school paid for through the Army National Guard, a branch of the military Alvarez hadn’t heard of, where Soldiers serve one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

The fact that Guard service was a part-time commitment carried a lot of appeal for Alvarez while she was mulling her options at age 19.

“You could be in the military, choose an MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] that you’re interested in, and then on the civilian side, you could do the same thing,” explains Alvarez. “You have the experience from the military that you could utilize as a civilian. Then, while you’re a civilian, you can be going to school.”

Now a specialist with the Maryland Army National Guard for the past five years, Alvarez’s MOS is 92A Automated Logistical Specialist. In her Engineering Unit, she is responsible mainly for vehicle dispatch, keeping track of keys and personnel paperwork. She also tests her Unit’s equipment, like gas masks, to make sure they are working properly. On the civilian side, SPC Alvarez says the job is comparable to working at a distribution center.

SPC Reanna Alvarez

SPC Reanna Alvarez

When she’s not at drill, at home with her two kids, or doing homework for college, where she studies psychology, SPC Alvarez is a waitress, where her co-workers marvel at her ability to stay calm in any situation.

“The Guard gives you so many traits you can use as a civilian,” she explains. “I’ve gone through Basic [Training], where you have so much going on, there’s people yelling, and so much thrown at you that it makes civilian life look like a piece of cake.”

SPC Alvarez had a harder time at Basic Training than others might. She was battling an eating disorder, and a Drill Sergeant had found out. That led to a meeting with the Commander who could have easily sent her home.

Instead, she received encouragement.

“He told me he saw a lot of potential in me and that I shouldn’t let [the eating disorder] define me, and he really wanted me to push myself.”

Part of the reason she’s chosen psychology for a major is because of her struggle with the eating disorder that started when she was 16, and partly because she wants to be able to help veterans someday.

In the meantime, she’s helped out at two major events close to home in her capacity as a Guard Soldier – the Baltimore riots, which took place in spring 2015, and more recently, the Presidential Inauguration last month.

“I think it’s very cool knowing that I’m going to be able to tell my kids someday, whenever they can understand, that I was part of that experience … not only at the inauguration, but pulling security for the inauguration.”

Another cool thing she can tell her kids is that she was in a National Guard commercial that tied in to the 2013 “Man of Steel” Superman movie. SPC Alvarez was one of about 20 Soldiers who were chosen out of thousands of applicants to fly out to Hollywood to shoot the commercial and meet the director of the film. You can spot SPC Alvarez walking on the sidewalk in a gray and black striped sweater at the 6-second mark:

SPC Alvarez says the connection between Superman and the National Guard is, that like Clark Kent/Superman, the Guard Soldier also leads a double life as part-time citizen/part-time Soldier.

Even in stressful circumstances, like the Baltimore riots that lasted for several days, SPC Alvarez says people were grateful to have Soldiers on hand.

“People were constantly telling us, ‘thank you for being here. Thank you for making us feel safe.’ At the end of the day, that’s all we try to do.”

So if you’re interested in keeping your community and the Nation safe, consider joining the National Guard, where you can train in one of 150 different career fields and take advantage of great benefits like money for college. Search our job board for descriptions of each career, or contact a recruiter for personalized attention. 

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7,500 National Guard Soldiers Serve at Presidential Inauguration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 7,500 National Guard members from 44 States, Territories, and the District of Columbia were on hand to support the 58th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20.

“This is the Super Bowl event for the District of Columbia National Guard,” said LTC Nicole L. Brugato, a personnel officer at the National Guard Bureau who was part of the joint task force supporting the event. “Everybody from a private first class to [our] chief of staff is energized, and this is our opportunity to truly be the President’s Guard.”

Soldiers provided security, crowd control, traffic management, and logistics and communications capabilities while working with the Secret Service, United States Capitol Police, and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, among other agencies.

SPC Shaleek Blackman, left, with the Delaware Army National Guard's 153rd Military Police Company, and SSG Eric Stunkard, with the Delaware Army Guard's 262nd Component Repair Company, keep an eye out as crowds make their way to the National Mall for the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo by Tech. SGT Erich B. Smith).

“[The inaugural event] took so many integral parts, so many pieces for it to come out smoothly,” said PFC Michael Arthur, a military police officer with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 239th Military Police Company, who worked with officers from the Transportation Security Administration at a checkpoint along the inaugural parade route.

While boots on the ground played a key role in ensuring safety and security, Guard members could be found underground as well. SGT John Garnett of the Tennessee National Guard’s 251st Military Police Company worked with officers from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Police in providing added security in subway stations near the Capitol building.

For Garnett, the day was an exercise in being “vigilant and resilient, and dedicated to keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

In addition to providing support to local authorities, about 100 Guard members provided traditional ceremonial support, including marching in the inaugural parade.

The National Guard’s presence in the Presidential Inauguration dates to 1789, when local militia units and members of the regular Army took part in George Washington’s inaugural events in New York City.

CSM Wayne L. Bowser, the senior enlisted advisor of the District of Columbia National Guard, said he hoped young Soldiers left with a sense of fulfillment and pride from taking part in the inauguration.

“There is a small percentage of folks who wear the uniform,” he said. “There is a smaller [percentage] who will get a chance to be a part of this type of event.”

As part of its dual mission to serve the Nation and the community, the Army National Guard can be called up for other stateside events, too, like natural disasters. So, if you’re dependable and looking to make a difference in your community, check out the Guard as a career option. Service is typically part-time and close to home. You’ll train in one of 150 career fields and be eligible for fantastic benefits like money for college.

Visit our job board where you can search by job category, like medical or logistics. You can also search by keyword or location. And for personalized attention, contact a recruiter.

From an original article by Technical  SGT Erich B. Smith, which appeared in January 2017 in the news section of NationalGuard.mil.

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