Ensuring Survival: How Mexican Border Service and World War I was Vital for the Survival of the National Guard System
Historians and military officials often consider the National Guard as the direct descendent of the colonial militia, and the transition between the two is described as natural. However, the Guard was not the only option available to replace the militia, and many Washington officials and prominent civilians supported European style replacements based on universal military training for all able bodied men. The National Guard maintained a successful lobby and Congress redefined and solidified the new National Guard system with a series of laws during the first two decades of the twentieth century. However, detractors continued to attack the new system and the Guard needed to prove its value. Mexican border duty and service in the First World War provided the Guard with this opportunity. The training the Guard received at the border provided the Guard with the skills necessary to perform in the trenches in France, and the Guard performed better than anticipated. The border duty proved vital for the overall survival of the Guard and it allowed the Guard to provide a quickly mobilized and highly trained force to aid in the American war effort.