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New WSU Press book
Grad students contribute to National Guard history
Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011
By Caryn Lawton, WSU Press
PULLMAN - As their primary assignment for a graduate-level public history course, 14 students spent a week in Montana delving into National Guard materials housed at a variety of repositories. The culmination of their work is the book "Splendid Service: The Montana National Guard, 1867-2006," released recently by WSU Press.
The group of students met every evening to discuss the dayís discoveries and pertinent research concerns. They returned home to chronicle their portions as book contributors.
Orlan J. Svingen, professor of history, provided editorial guidance. The book includes forewords by two retired brigadier generals, Bill Yaeger and Hal Stearns, and an epilogue by retired Col. Raymond K. Read.
During natural disasters and domestic emergencies, guard members have provided vital assistance to communities and government agencies - support considered indispensible in the geographically vast state.
Deployment of 1,593 Montana troops to Iraq and Afghanistan in June 2005 depleted more than 40 percent of the force, causing grave concern about a potential shortage of firefighters and equipment in what was predicted to be a particularly dry and dangerous fire season. Gov. Brian Schweitzer asked the Pentagon to allow some troops to return temporarily, but his request was denied.
The 6 x 9-inch, 544-page paperback recounts the proud moments and achievements of the Montana National Guard, as well as its sacrifices and setbacks. It describes key individuals from all ranks and outlines the organizationís frequent restructuring, wartime activations, and mobilization during natural disasters.
Other aspects of military life, such as daily camp routines, drills and training, competitions, and advances in equipment are detailed.
It was 1867 when a politically ambitious acting governor organized frontiersmen against Plains Indian incursions. The group established posts on the upper Missouri. Some skirmishes with Indian warriors occurred, as did mutiny in the ranks, excessive punishment of horse thieves, and disputes over provisions. Within a few months, the unruly volunteers were disbanded.
Despite that flawed beginning, a worthy band of soldiers arose, serving honorably in numerous conflicts, including the Spanish-American War, the 1916 Mexican border crisis, both World Wars, Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Most recently, in August-September 2010, 900 troops from the 219th and 819th Red Horse squadrons and the 1-163rd Cavalry Regiment were called to federal service.
The book, list price $29.95, is available at bookstores and can be ordered from WSU Press at 800-354-7360 or http://wsupress.wsu.edu.
WSU Press publishes scholarly books with a cultural or historical relationship to the Pacific Northwest.