Arizona Muster showcases modern-day Minutemen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith
  • 162nd Wing Public Affairs
After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto purportedly stated the empire had just "awoken a sleeping giant."

And while Dec. 7 is etched in the minds of all Americans as a somber occasion of observance, the state of Arizona proudly showcased another kind of giant at Sun Devil Stadium on that day; the Arizona National Guard. Few things can symbolize readiness and accountability to citizens statewide than a Muster, the time-honored tradition that assembles the warriors of a military force.

The day started early for Guardsmen as pre-formation activities took place just north of the stadium. Though it's impossible to measure the emotions of others, I just had a sense that every Soldier and Airman wanted to be there for the event; the first of its kind in more than a century. The laughs I heard, the sounds of comrades greeting each other - it was more than apparent this Muster was long overdue.

When the four Army brigades and two Air Force wings finally made their way to Frank Kush field, it truly felt like this was straight out of a movie, and I mean that literally: a boom operator panned a camera across the Muster participants, adding a little Hollywood flare to the occasion as it was streamed onto the stadium's jumbo screens.

And for some reason, while looking at the 4,000 or-so Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen on the grounds, the term "weekend warrior" came to my mind.

All of a sudden, I hated that label, however harmless its intentions may be.

For this "sea of green" uniforms - which was probably visible from planes departing Sky Harbor International on that clear day - was worn by men and women who, as the Arizona Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire said, are deeply "embedded in the community."

Thus, it is just impossible that such commitment to the uniform, and to fellow Arizonans, could be limited to just one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year. We all know that commitment demands so much more.

In a very real sense, this Muster might have looked familiar to the members of the first colonial militia; the military forefathers of today's National Guard. Obviously, the hardware has changed significantly since 1636 in Salem, Massachusetts, but not the spirit of such an occasion.

Just as Army aviation Soldiers explained the capabilities of an AH-64 Apache helicopter on display to curious spectators, who's to say that a New England Minuteman never showed off his musket to a neighbor? And instead of militia members firing shots into the air in a symbolic show of might, our Muster had two F-16 Fighting Falcons fly over the stadium. Finally, replacing fifes and drums, our Muster featured the 108th Army Band with their trombones and trumpets and keyboards, complemented by the choral magic of our friends from the USO.

The men and women of our armed forces often hear the words "thank you for your service" from those we serve. Those words, of course, always mean a lot. To see that appreciation on full display at the many exhibition booths from civilian organizations reinforced the notion that our service is truly valued.

Those vendors, and all other exhibitors, truly epitomized the old saying that "action speaks louder than words."

Now with "strength through truth" being the creed of an Air National Guard public affairs specialist such as myself, I would be remiss if I didn't disclose that I've never seen so many Soldiers assembled in one area and that I was honored to be on the same field with the oldest military branch in America. The Army National Guard is the forerunner of all American service branches and clearly an institution that helped shape our nation. As an Airman, I truly hope I get to serve with Soldiers in the future.

Finally, lets us never forget the seven Arizona Army National Guardsmen who gave their lives while supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Simply put, the Arizona National Guard Muster and Expo was a day to visually assert to all who attended that what was important in 17th century Massachusetts is just as important here in 21st century Arizona;  a force of able-bodied local citizens - loyal to the creed "always ready, always there" - is eager to serve under their oaths, secure peace and order in their community, and ultimately respond to their nation's call when asked.

I am sure I am not alone when I say that joining the Arizona National Guard will remain the best career decision I've made. I was confident in that fact before Dec. 7, 2014. The Muster just helped me find a new level of pride in service that I never knew existed. Thank you to my brothers and sisters in arms for a day we will always remember and are proud to call our own.