CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The first militia regiments in North America were organized in the Massachusetts Bay colony on December 13th, 1636.

The offspring of those regiments formed in 1636 are now the Army National Guard. On Thursday, the West Virginia National Guard celebrated National Guard’s 382nd birthday on its base in Charleston.

“Today (Thursday) is important for us to make sure we pause and understand that these folks that do this, to include the civilians that support us, are a pretty unique group of people,” Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the West Virginia Adjutant General, said.

History of the National Guard in West Virginia runs deep, as the West Virginia National Guard was founded in 1735 by Morgan Morgan in the western portion of the Virginia colony, which was referred to then as West Augusta.

Birthday cake commemorating West Virginia’s history with the National Guard.

“That first militia company fought with then Major George Washington in 1755 during French and Indian War and was called to Cambridge by Gen. Washington specifically to help form the Continental Army in 1755.

“We weren’t a state until 1863 but we the people of this region, in what is now West Virginia, has been defending the nation before we were even a state.”

Maj. Gen. Hoyer noted that less than half a percent of the population in the United States serves in a military uniform and the National Guard makes up half the combat force of the Army and Air Force. He also added that 85-percent of the West Virginia National Guard is what they would call, “traditional guardsmen,” meaning they have a civilian job and also serve in the guard.

“There’s a very small percentage of people doing a lot of great work,” Hoyer said. “Citizen soldiers and airman have been protecting the rest of the population for a significant period of time. You fast forward to today and the Guard in West Virginia has been engaged in the flood recovery, helping corrections when they needed assistance and helping the mine rescue teams.”

During the celebration events, Hoyer made remarks to the couple hundred people on the West Virginia National Guard base celebrating. He stated how important it is for the young people of the Guard to remember what they represent.

Jake Flatley/

The West Virginia National Guard band plays a tune during the celebration.

“You always have to remember your lineage and the building blocks and foundation of what made your organization successful,” he said. “For our young people in the force, they need to understand the tradition and lineage that they now represent today.

“When they hear me talk about living the Army and Air Force values, duty, honor, and integrity, selfless service, and those things. It’s important to understand there are a bunch of people that came before them that did this mission as well.”