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Army National Guard

The armed forces have been supplemented and supported by reservists for many years. The Army National Guard and the Air National Guard (part of the US Air Force) have performed this function, serving overseas and acting for civil defense at home in the US. The same ranking applies as in the regular armed forces and guardsmen are given the same military decorations.

Due to recent conflicts and events, the number of guardsmen sent abroad on active duty has increased and the length of overseas service has risen from a maximum of six months to two years. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the terrorism on September 11th 2001 has stretched the armed forces and the Army National Guard has been called upon more and more. They number 325,000 soldiers at present, all trained and equipped by the US Army. Guardsmen must be between 17 and 45 years of age.

Guardsmen are not officially allowed to be mobilized on an individual basis, although this has happened occasionally and has caused controversy. Normally, the Army National guard will be mobilized by order of the President in support of the army regulars. State governors can also mobilize in their home state if there is a formal state of emergency in place there. Guardsmen have seen action in many major wars, including both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1991. They have also supported in conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo and Somalia.

Home defense is also part of their brief. This is to include natural disasters and civil unrest. The Army National Guard has been present at strikes, riots and has been part of the security at Olympic Games hosted in America. Guardsmen were on hand to help with the damage done by Hurricane Katrina 2005. Their presence has sometimes caused controversy, particularly when they shot four students dead in 1970. They had been sent to disperse an anti-Vietnam War protest at Kent State University and they shot into the crowd. This event incensed opponents of the war and the bombing of Cambodia, putting further pressure on President Richard Nixon.

It has been something of a tradition for American Presidents to serve in the National Guard. These have included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and George W. Bush.

The National Guard tends to blend into the rest of the armed forces when they are serving overseas as far as the public is concerned. Their activities on American streets and campuses gets more notice and has damaged their reputation, something which they would want to resolve.

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