News: Florida National Guard celebrates 447 years of history
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The Florida National Guard opened up its headquarters in St. Augustine to the local community, Sept. 14, 2012, to celebrate 447 years of the militia tradition in Florida. The St. Francis Barracks, headquarters for the Florida Army and Air National Guard, was open to the public for tours of the historic facility and military museum.
According to the Florida National Guard State Historian’s Office, the “first muster” took place Sept. 16, 1565, when Pedro Menendez de Aviles gathered around him the soldiers of his small Spanish army, as well as the civilian settlers who had accompanied him to the newly established presidio town of St. Augustine. He was about to march north to the French settlement of Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River.
“While the English militia tradition in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is credited with giving the modern National Guard its earliest organized regiments,” explained Greg Moore, the Florida National Guard command historian, “the Spanish first brought the European tradition of militia – men liable for short terms of military service in time of war or domestic turmoil – to the new world; first in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and then to the continent at St. Augustine.”
Today, the Florida National Guard takes great pride in tracing its roots to those men who mustered under Pedro Menendez de Aviles. Florida National Guardsmen continue the volunteer militia tradition started long ago by supporting domestic operations at home and combat and peacekeeping missions abroad.
Soldiers, airmen and community members were present at the historic St. Francis Barracks Friday to mark the event with a military retreat ceremony. The ceremony included a historic weapons demonstration by re-enactors from the Florida Living History educational group, dressed in period clothing firing several replica 16th century weapons including crossbows, swords, halberds and primitive firearms.
Just as those Spanish citizen-soldiers were ready 447 years ago to defend their homeland from attack, Florida National Guardsmen stand ready today and every day to leave their homes and take up arms to defend the State of Florida and the United State of America; proving the National Guard is truly ‘always ready, always there.’