Commentary by: Staff Sgt. John Gately
From the volunteer units who fought for Texas Independence and the Travis Guards who provided home protection and campaigns against the Indians for the citizens of Texas in the newly formed Texas Republic, to the civil affairs work that we do today, the Texas State Guard has a long and proud history of serving the citizens of Texas; we are “Texans serving Texas.”
The Texas State Guard was founded in 1871. However, federal authorization for state guards did not come until World War II. In October 1950, as the National Guard was mobilized to assist in the war effort, states were authorized to organize forces to work in the state while the National Guard was active with federal service. In accordance with the “State Guard Amendment” of the National Defense Act authorized by Congress, Oct. 21, 1940, the Texas Legislature signed into law the Texas Defense Guard Act (H.B. #45),Feb. 10, 1941. The Texas Defense Guard was formed and had 17,497 members sign up, in contrast to the 11,633 who joined the National Guard around the same time period.
Like today, the volunteers had to provide their own uniforms. They were given rifles by the War Department, but those were returned less than a year later due to army shortages. They were also given a small amount of money for munitions and supplies and looked to civic clubs and sponsorships to provide financial support for other necessary items.
The Texas Defense Guard became the Texas State Guard, May 12, 1943, and the current shoulder patch was approved the following July..
The State Guard was activated only one month later, during the Beaumont Riot, June 1943. Following the rioting, assaults and property destruction, Beaumont Mayor George Gary mobilized the Texas State Guard’s 18th Battalion and acting Texas Governor A. M. Aiken, Jr, instituted martial law. State Police, Texas Rangers and 1,800 State guardsmen arrived in Beaumont to handle the situation.
Although interest decreased after the end of World War II, a disaster on April 16, 1947 created another tour of duty for the State Guard. Guardsman were called into action when martial law was declared due to a fire aboard a French freighter, Grandcamp, at port in Texas City. Carrying ammonium nitrate and other explosive materials, the fire caused an explosion that destroyed much of the city, and as nearby chemical plants exploded, fire spread throughout the area. The next day another freighter, High Flyer, also carrying nitrates, exploded causing new explosions and fires. In total more than 600 people were killed and another 3,000 were wounded. The State Guard stepped in and provided much needed support to local law enforcement and triage to the wounded
On Aug. 28, 1947, the Texas State Guard disbanded, colors cased, and its members were placed on an inactive list. Even though the federal legislation authorizing the Texas State Guard had expired, the Texas State Legislature authorized the activation of the Texas State Guard Reserve Corps in January 1948. In 1955, federal legislators also reauthorized state guards, and in 1965, the Texas State Guard took the place of the Texas State Guard Reserve Corp.
At one time, the State Guard included the First Naval Battalion with Sterling Hogan and his 60-foot yacht, the Sumoria, being the first vessel. That yacht and the retired U.S.S. Texas were used for training purposes.
In the early 1970s, the Texas State Guard were used as infantry and security units. The State Guard had six Military Police Groups that followed closely with the boundaries of the Texas Department of Public Safety command districts, being located in Fort Worth, Houston, Rio Grande Valley, Midland, Lubbock and Austin. In 1979, a 7th military police group was formed for east Texas, and in 1980, groups were formed in San Antonio and Dallas.
In 1993, the groups were changed into regiments located in San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, Dallas and Lubbock. These regiments had new colors and distinctive unit insignia. In 1995, a 7th regiment was formed in El Paso from the 39th Unit in Lubbock. However, this unit was returned to the 39th in 1999.
On July 1, 1993, the Texas State Guard was designated into six regiments:
The 1st Regiment, the Alamo Guards, began their formation in 1885 as part of the Texas Volunteer Guard, and has the motto “Fidelis et constans” which means faithful and constant.
The 2nd Regiment, the Austin Greys, started in 1860 as Co A of the 2nd Regiment, Infantry, Texas Volunteer Guard. Their motto is “Opus Perficere,” which means work to achieve.
The 4th Regiment, the Panther City Fencibles, began in 1883 as descendants of the Loyd Rifles and the Fort Worth Fencibles. Their motto is “Sempre Caveo,” or always be aware.
The 8th Cavalry Regiment, Terry’s Texas Rangers, began in 1861 as part of the Confederate States of America Army. Their motto is “In Ardius Fidelis,” meaning faithful in hardship.
The 19th Cavalry Regiment, Parson’s Brigade, also began as part of the Confederate States of America, in 1862, and was formed by Col. Nathanial M. Burford from Dallas. During the reorganization in 1993, parts of the 7th & 9th Military Police Groups formed the 19th Regiment. Their motto is “Parson’s Brigade” in memory of former units
The 39Th Regiment, the Roughnecks, was composed of members of the former 9th regiment (the Buffalo Soldiers which began in 1871) and the 5th Military Police group, Texas State Guard. Their motto is “Semper Defenders” meaning always to defend
The State Guard started to grow and it became clear there should be other types of services. As a result, in 1996, the 4th Air Wing was created, and in November 2003, the Medical Brigade formed. The Air Division and 5th Air Wings were established in October 2006, along with the Maritime Regiment in November of that same year.
The Texas State Guard continues to provide Texas with support in state missions, from hurricanes to border security. No matter what the needs of Texas are, the Texas State Guard continues to stand ready to serve; they are “Texans Serving Texas.”