The Indiana Army National Guard:
A Legacy of Service and Sacrifice
Introduction: The NAFC Education Foundation has multiple goals, and one of those is to envision our “future history” In the coming century. The decisions that we make now will impact the students of today and tomorrow, the ever-changing community they will help to forge and the role our schools will play.
This supplemental blog posting has been prepared as part of our November 2023 Legacy Ledger edition, shared as a “deeper dive into a history of the past” for a few events and exceptional Americans, chosen from centuries of stories. In that context, this is a personal note from yours truly, as the principal contributor to this newsletter feature for the past 38 months. There are so many ways to learn American history and enjoy it (a lot). I want to share with you two books, my personal favorites. Each brings to life some of the amazing people who defined the early history of America, its “western frontier” (the Northwest Territory) and Indiana, in particular.
Both were written by the late historian, David McCullough 1933-2022: “1776” (written in 2005) and “The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West” (written in 2019). History doesn’t get any better than this.
Q: What is the Indiana National Guard and what were its origins?
A: The Indiana National Guard (INNG) is a component of the United States Armed Forces, the United States National Guard and the Military Department of Indiana (MDI). It consists of the Indiana Army National Guard, the Indiana Air National Guard, and the Adjutant General’s Office. This opening sentence is taken verbatim from the Wikipedia entry, Indiana National Guard. Their entry is well-written and highly recommended for those who would like a more general overview.
Scott Ham’s career has been entirely in the Indiana Army National Guard (IARNG), so this blog post will only refer to a part of its history, omitting the Indiana Air National Guard and the Adjutant General’s Office. Generally speaking, the history of the IARNG fits neatly into two halves: the 19th century up through the National Defense Act of 1916 and the 100-plus years since.
In the colonies that made up the original thirteen United States, militia units were the forerunners of what was eventually standardized to become the Army National Guard. This was equally true for the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the next thirty-seven states admitted to the union, including Indiana.
Colonial pioneers, living in what would become the Indiana Territory, showed loyalty in support of the Continental Army with the creation of the “George Rogers Clark flag”. That flag flew over a British fort in 1779. After it was seized by southern Indiana militia led by Clark. In a gesture of ”historic throwback” a replica of the GRC flag was flown by Indiana National Guard Units in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
After 1781, the new U.S. Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, creating the Northwest Territory in 1800. The Indiana Territory was carved out in 1801 with General William Henry Harrison as its first governor. Its first territorial government was, located in Vincennes. Harrison formed the Indiana Legion that same year, and since 1801, there has never been a disbandment of Hoosier “armed forces” through a continuing series of re-organizations and renaming. Harrison’s Indiana Legion was tasked with the military defense of settlers from conflicts with natives. A separate unit called the Indiana Rangers (primarily on horseback) was founded in 1807, patterned after a similar unit of Ohio’s General Anthony Wayne. Its primary duties were to protect the Buffalo Trace, the main “road” between Louisville and Vincennes.
Indiana troops went to battle twice in the early 1800s: in the War of 1812, especially in the Battle of Tippecanoe against Tecumseh (before Indiana became the 19th state), and in the Mexican-American War of 1845 after statehood. During the Civil War, over 200,000 Indiana soldiers were assigned to roughly a dozen well-described Union Army brigades. The best known was Colonel Eli Lilly’s 18th Indiana Battery of Light Artillery, which saw extensive involvement in the Second Battle of Chattanooga and the Battle of Chickamauga. Indiana’s 14th governor, Oliver Morton was considered one of Lincoln’s “war generals”. With so many Indiana soldiers located out of state, the Battle of Corydon prompted the re-establishment of the Indiana Legion for a short period in 1863.
The modern era began with the Spanish-American War in 1898. The militia units who went to the Philippines were now known by a new name: the Indiana National Guard. The Militia Act of 1903 organized various state militias into the present National Guard system. Fort Benjamin Harrison was established north of Indianapolis in 1906 as both a regular Army post and the headquarters of the Indiana Army National Guard. For the remainder of the twentieth century and beyond, the history of the IARNG is the story of the specific regiments it encompassed.
Q: What is the “1-151st” and what are its origins?
A: In the buildup to World War I, Congress approved the formation of seventeen new National Guard divisions, numbered 26 through 42. The states of Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia were chosen to provide units for the 38th Infantry Division. Within each Division, there were brigades: newly designated, the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (also called “Nighthawks”) was made up of battalions. They included Indiana’s 151st and 152nd Infantry regiments or squadrons for cavalry regiments.
The 151st Infantry Regiment considers itself a direct descendant of the Indiana Rangers who earned the motto of “Wide Awake! Wide Awake!” during the (one-day) Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. From time to time, it has been split into a 1st Battalion and a 2nd Battalion. Tradition has always been a core component of the 151st and in 2011, the two battalions were re-united to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Tippecanoe. There have been 16 occurrences of re-organization or re-designation over its 200-plus years of existence in one form or another. Highlights in the history of the 151st have included:
- In the South Pacific theater of WWII, the 151st Regiment earned three battle streamers (New Guinea, Leyte and Luzon) helping the 38th Infantry Division win the nickname “Avengers of Bataan”.
- In Vietnam, Elements of the 151st Regiment served as Company D (Ranger), also known as “Delta Company”. It was the only National Guard Infantry unit to serve intact and earned more medals in 1969 than any other Army infantry company during a 1-year period.
- Master Sergeant Ham’s career in the 151st chronicles much of the regiment’s deployment in this century: in Bosnia (2002) as part of the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR), in Afghanistan (2004) in a combined forces deployment with three other units as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and in Iraq together with the 152nd Cavalry as part of the 2007 Iraq troop surge. Ham has missed only the most recent deployments with Operation Spartan Shield in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other undisclosed locations, conducting “capacity building” operations.
- As of 2020, 133 Indiana Guardsmen were known to have been killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq. As recently as July 2023, Indiana Guard units returned from deployment in Kosovo.
Q: What are the other regiments of the Indiana Army National Guard?
A: Master Sgt. Ham was re-aligned with the B troop of the 152nd Cavalry, a separate squadron from the 1st (and 2nd) Battalions of the 152nd Infantry Regiment. There are only two Cavalry units in the IARNG: one in New Albany and one in Connersville.
Just like the 1-151st, the 152nd Infantry was one of six units responsible for recapturing the Bataan peninsula in early 1945. After World War II the unit would undergo a major restructuring in 1963, with its headquarters in New Albany. At least a dozen additional reorganizations since then have occurred over four decades. These changes culminated in the largest series of deployments in the post 9/11 era for the IARNG.
Operating as “Team Gator”, the regiment played a support role in extensive operations from Kuwait to much of the Al-Akbar province in western Iraq, receiving 34 Purple Hearts, 27 Bronze Star Medals and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. The current structure of the (2nd Battalion), 152nd Infantry is headquartered in Columbus (IN), with four companies across the state.
In addition to the 151st and 152nd Infantry regiments, the IARNG is also known for the 150th field artillery regiment. It’s a direct descendant of the 18th Indiana Battery of Light Artillery, led by Colonel Eli Lilly during the Civil War. The 150th, with their counterparts from the 151st and 152nd, also took part in the recapturing of Bataan.
Contributed by Rex Bickers, Floyd Central class of ‘70