Following World War II, National Guard aviation units, some of them dating back to World War I, became the Air National Guard. The Guard stood on the frontiers of freedom during the Cold War, sending soldiers and airmen to fight in Korea and to reinforce NATO during the Berlin crisis of 1961-1962. During the Vietnam War, almost 23,000 Army and Air Guardsmen were called up for a year of active duty; some 8,700 personnel were deployed to Vietnam.
Over 75,000 Army and Air Guardsmen were called upon to help bring a swift end to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The National Guard saw the nature of its federal mission change through the 1990s, with more frequent call ups in response to crises in Haiti and the skies over Iraq. The National Guard has also served in peacekeeping efforts in Sinai, Bosnia, and Kosovo into the 2000s, providing a flexible response to regional conflicts on a rotational basis.
Most recently, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, over 650,000 Guardmembers were called up by both their States and the Federal government to provide security at home and combat terrorism abroad. Tens of thousands of Soldiers and Airmen have served in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the War on Terror in what has been the largest mobilization and deployment since the Korean War. Their contributions have effectively transformed the Guard from a strategic reserve force into a combat-ready operational force.
Domestic operations continue to require the Guard's unique and special skills. In the largest and swiftest response to a natural disaster in history, the Guard deployed more than 50,000 troops in just over two weeks to support the Gulf States following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hundreds of smaller operations continued to require attention as well. The National Guard continues its historic dual mission, providing trained and equipped units to the states to protect life and property and to the nation in order to defend the United States and its interests worldwide. Simply put, the National Guard is a critical element in the nation's defense. – less