It's the 381st birthday of the National Guard -- inspiring photos show how they protect the US at home and abroad

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Caleb VanceAn Airman with the 130th Airlift Wing returns from an overseas deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve to McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, Charleston, W.Va. on Nov. 4, 2017.

On this day in 1636, the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law that officially organised the colony’s various militias into three militia regiments – the first units that would eventually become the National Guard.

Three hundred eighty one years later, the descendants of these first regiments – the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard – make up just a small part of hundreds of thousands of guardsman across all 50 states, 16 territories, and the District of Columbia.

National Guardsmen have fought in every US war since 1637, and are even deployed today in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been the go-to units for rescue operations and emergency situations like hurricanes, earthquakes, and riots.

We collected a number of photos to show what they do:

Guardsmen from the National Guard have fought in every American war and have been deployed across the world.

Here, a unit from the Vermont Army National Guard and Afghan National Army soldiers watch as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter lands in Paktika, Afghanistan.

US Department of Defence

Tennessee National Guardsman, Sgt. Joshua Dumont, waits on patrol outside of Forward Operating Base Caldwell, in Iraq. Note the Tennessee National Guard patch on his shoulder.

US Department of Defence

At home, the National Guard is among the first to respond to natural disasters.

Here, Soldiers of Puerto Rico’s national guard distribute relief items to people, after Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A large part of the National Guard’s response is search and rescue, like during this scene in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas.

The National Guard also assists in combating forest fires.

US Department of Defence

Here, a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helps fight wildfires near Bastrop, Texas

US Department of Defence

The Air National Guard, founded in 1947, acts as the reserve component of the Air Force. They patrol airspace and sometimes respond to incursions from foreign aircraft.

US Department of Defence

In extreme cases, the National Guard will be called out during riots. Here, members of the Maryland National Guard patrol the harbour section of Baltimore, Maryland on April 28, 2015.

But sometimes they get to take on more fun tasks, like visiting as Santa Claus.

Here’s to another 300 years!

National Guard

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