The Virgin Islands National Guard (VING) was federally recognized on October 19, 1973 in a ceremony officiated by Major General Lavern Weber, Director of the United States Army National Guard. Major Leayle Galiber was appointed acting Adjutant General and took command of the first two units to be activated, a Headquarters Detachment and the 661st Military Police Company both on St. Croix.
Although the Virgin Islands National Guard received its federal recognition in October 1973, it took a lot of hard work by many people for two years prior to that date to organize and fulfill the necessary requirements before that goal could be achieved. It was by an Act of Congress, sponsored by Ron de Lugo, the territory’s first representative to Congress, that the Virgin Islands National Guard was created. The nucleus of the newly formed Virgin Islands National Guard was former members of the United Sates Army Reserve.
February 1974 saw the formation of the 662nd Military Police Company on St. Thomas. In October, the 666th Army Band was established on St. Croix. In November, The VING received its first call to duty by Governor Melvin H. Evan, when torrential rains resulted in widespread flooding throughout the islands.
By September of 1976, Army Guard strength doubled and the first reorganization occurred. The Guard expanded its force with the 666th Army Band and the 666th Military Police Battalion on St. Thomas. The newly structured Combat Service Support organization was subordinate to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment.
By 1977, the Army Aviation Operating Facility received the U3 and UH-1H helicopters. Captain David Luska commanded the element.
A second major reorganization occurred in August 1978. With the addition of the Heavy Equipment Maintenance Company and a Signal Support Activity Company, the V. I. Army National Guard was at battalion level.
On May 7, 1980, the 285th Combat Communication Flight was activated on St. Croix. 1st Lt. John V. Watley was its first commander.
VING’s first leadership class was held at the Florida Military Academy at Camp Blanding, Florida in July 1981. The Virgin Islands Military Academy (VIMA) was established in the fall of 1981. Today, it is the 210th Regiment, Regional Training Institute (RTI) in Estate Bethlehem.
On April 1, 1984, reorganization occurred again, placing all of the Military Police units under the command of the 666th Military Police Battalion. The remainder of the Combat Support Service units was placed under Troop Command.
On October 16, 1985, Major General Ernest R. Morgan, the Adjutant General, became the first Major General in VING history. In October 1987, Major General Robert L. Moorhead, a Virgin Islander, became the Adjutant General.
In September 1989, the 666th Military Police Battalion and the 662nd Military Police Company were deactivated. In addition, the 786th Service Support Battalion was activated. This reorganization returned control of all units to their respective island command.
Over the years, the V. I. National Guard excelled in its disaster response. Dating back to Hurricane David and Frederick in 1979, it responded to Hurricanes Hugo in 1989, Luis and Marilyn in 1995, Bertha and Hortense in 1996, Georges in 1998, and Lenny in 1999.
Two readiness centers opened its doors. In early 1991, Lt. Col. Lionel A. Jackson Armory opened on St. Croix and the Sgt. 1st Class Leonard B. Francis Armory in 1992 on St. Thomas.
The VING’s first call to federal duty came in December 1995, when the 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment deployed to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor.
In July 1996, the 285th Combat Communications Flight became the 285th Combat Communications Squadron. In 1997, the Air National Guard station expanded.
In response to the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, V. I. Guardsmen deployed to missions worldwide including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kosovo, Haiti and Cuba. Throughout its 40-year history, about 85% of the VING has mobilized for missions and disaster response.
On June 1, 2009, the 23rd Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team was certified as fully mission capable. The unit has been an asset to the VING since 1997.
On March 1, 2012, the 285th Combat Communication Squadron was converted to the 285th Civil Engineering Squadron taking on a new mission to serve the territory.
On September 30, 2012, the VING added the 1/114th Aviation Detachment, a new rotary wing medical evacuation unit with enhanced capabilities to support disaster response.
Today, the original 113 soldiers of 1973 have grown to a force of almost 1,000. While training to perform its federal mission has been its number one priority, the Virgin Islands National Guard has not neglected its territorial mission. From its inception, the Soldiers and Airmen of the Virgin Islands National Guard have lived up to the National Guard’s motto, “Always Ready, Always There,” and the Virgin Islands National Guard remains “The Guardians of the Eastern Front”
Abbreviated version – 13 SEP 2013