National Guard February 2011 : Page 34

G UARD R OOTS : M AJ . G EN . A LBERT L. M ILLS Standards Bearer Charles Dick may be the father of the modern National Guard, but a Regular Army officer was the force’s early disciplinarian By Charles J. Gross BOUT 100 YEARS ago, as the organized state militias began their transformation into the National Guard, one man set the force on a path from which it has never strayed. Maj. Gen. Albert L. Mills, who served as chief of the Division of Militia Affairs, the forerunner to the Militia Bureau (later the National Guard Bureau), from 1912 until his death four years later, did more than any other officer to turn a rag-tag collection of state militias into a modern reserve of the Army. Mills, however, was not a Guardsman. Until Congress mandated in 1921 that the Militia Bureau would be run by a Guardsman, its leaders were Regular Army officers, and he brought the most glittering military record to the post. Mills graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1879, and distinguished himself during the Indian Wars as a cavalry officer. Mills later lost an eye in combat and earned the Medal of Honor for his leadership in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. After the war, he served as the superintendant at West Point for eight years and was the president of the Army War College before taking over the DMA. A Writing in his diary, the chief’s executive officer, Col. George W. McIver, observed that “in ability, character and temperament, [Mills] stood head and shoulders above most of the general officers of his time.” He arrived in Washington, D.C., as militia reform was flourishing. Legislation authored by Charles Dick, a U.S. senator, Ohio Guard major general and NGAUS president, had given the state militias federal status and more funding. In exchange, militia training and organization came under greater Regular Army control. It was Mills’ job to enforce Regular Army standards on the militia—or National Guard, as an increasing number of states were calling their military organizations. He asked the states to organize their militia units like the Army, provide improved education and training of officers, and create balanced divisions of combined arms and support units needed to wage modern war. It was an uphill battle. Most states preferred infantry units to balanced divisions. The former were cheaper and more useful in dealing with civil disorder and natu-ral disasters than the latter. Initially, only New York and Pennsylvania complied with Mills’ 1912 plan. 34 | Na tional Guard

Standards Bearer

Charles J. Gross

GUARD ROOTS: MAJ. GEN. ALBERT L. MILLS<br /> <br /> Charles Dick may be the father of the modern National Guard, but a Regular Army officer was the force's early disciplinarian<br /> <br /> ABOUT 100 YEARS ago, as the organized state militias began their transformation into the National Guard, one man set the force on a path from which it has never strayed.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Albert L. Mills, who served as chief of the Division of Militia Affairs, the forerunner to the Militia Bureau (later the National Guard Bureau), from 1912 until his death four years later, did more than any other officer to turn a rag-tag collection of state militias into a modern reserve of the Army.<br /> <br /> Mills, however, was not a Guardsman. Until Congress mandated in 1921 that the Militia Bureau would be run by a Guardsman, its leaders were Regular Army officers, and he brought the most glittering military record to the post.<br /> <br /> Mills graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1879, and distinguished himself during the Indian Wars as a cavalry officer. Mills later lost an eye in combat and earned the Medal of Honor for his leadership in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.<br /> <br /> After the war, he served as the superintendant at West Point for eight years and was the president of the Army War College before taking over the DMA.<br /> <br /> Writing in his diary, the chief's executive officer, Col. George W. McIver, observed that "in ability, character and temperament, [Mills] stood head and shoulders above most of the general officers of his time."<br /> <br /> He arrived in Washington, D.C., as militia reform was flourishing. Legislation authored by Charles Dick, a U.S. senator, Ohio Guard major general and NGAUS president, had given the state militias federal status and more funding. In exchange, militia training and organization came under greater Regular Army control.<br /> <br /> It was Mills' job to enforce Regular Army standards on the militia – or National Guard, as an increasing number of states were calling their military organizations.<br /> <br /> He asked the states to organize their militia units like the Army, provide improved education and training of officers, and create balanced divisions of combined arms and support units needed to wage modern war.<br /> <br /> It was an uphill battle. Most states preferred infantry units to balanced divisions. The former were cheaper and more useful in dealing with civil disorder and natural disasters than the latter. Initially, only New York and Pennsylvania complied with Mills' 1912 plan.<br /> <br /> Early Chief Mills, a West Point graduate and Medal of Honor recipient during the Spanish-American War, was chief of the Division of Militia Affairs from 1912 to 1916.<br /> NGEF<br /> <br /> But Mills was undaunted. He dispatched Army officers to inspect armories and annual-training encampments. He also sent a blizzard of policy letters to the adjutants general detailing how they should conduct militia training and a host of other matters.<br /> <br /> Mills admitted the powers of the War Department under the militia acts of 1903 and 1908 were largely advisory, but he could threaten to withhold federal funds from states that did not comply with the law or were unable to properly account for federal property and funds.<br /> <br /> Under his energetic leadership – and the very real threat of eliminating federal funding – National Guard military efficiency steadily improved.<br /> <br /> EYES IN THE STATES<br /> <br /> Mills pressured the state militias to start conforming to the organizational arrangements prescribed for the Regular Army, noting that "uniformity in organization did not exist [prior to 1913]; the number of companies in a regiment varied from 8 to 12; in some States a brigade consisted of two regiments, in others of three. In most States, a headquarters staff was maintained out of all proportion in numbers and rank with the troops in service and entailing on the Federal government an undue expense for the payment of salaries."<br /> <br /> In 1915, Mills forced the states to adopt 12-company regiments. This forced them to keep only those units they could properly man. Coupled with more federal resources, it contributed greatly to unit stability and effectiveness.<br /> <br /> Mills also began to implement the provisions of the 1903 and 1908 militia laws he could enforce through inspections by Army officers. The "inspections verified manning rosters, assessed the general physical health of the men and their level of training, and ascertained whether federal property was on hand and was properly stored and cared for."<br /> <br /> Those inspections ended the practice of some states taking federal funds and then failing to purchase or distribute uniforms and equipment to their units.<br /> <br /> Mills also worked hard to educate the public and Washington officials about the DMA's responsibilities.<br /> <br /> In a January 1914 newspaper interview, he explained that his organization was "the machinery through which the War Department exercises its supervision over and its responsibilities to the organized militia. . . . Its duties are comprehensive. They fall naturally into two classes. One is administrative and the other instructional. . . . Administrative embraces all of the details connected with the supervision of disbursements of federal funds, the organization of the National Guard in the various states, and their equipment with arms, ammunition, uniforms and camp equipment generally.<br /> <br /> "The aim of the instructional effort is to assist the states in securing a trained and efficient field force. . . . There are assigned to each state specially qualified and selected officers to do duty as inspector-instructors, assisting the states in this practical way, and enabling them in matters of training to keep in touch with the most modern methods pursued in the Army."<br /> <br /> Mills advocated legislation to strengthen the federal government's role in dealing with the militia and to provide monthly drill pay for Guardsmen. While lauding the militia's progress and emphasizing its importance to the nation's defense, he also was concerned that its military efficiency remained far below required Army standards.<br /> <br /> He catalogued some of the National Guard's most glaring deficiencies to delegates attending the NGAUS convention in Chicago in October 1913.<br /> <br /> Mills noted only 60 percent of Guardsmen had fired their weapons for record. And of those, only 25 percent scored even the lowest level of proficiency. Also many armories, which were purely a state responsibility at the time, remained inadequate. Only nine states met federal standards for care of federal property.<br /> <br /> At another venue, Mills characterized the Guard as "48 little state armies energized by a love of states' rights."<br /> <br /> That independent streak sometimes took an extreme form. In January 1915, South Carolina Gov. Coleman Livingston Blease disbanded his entire 3,000-man National Guard after two years of friction between he and the War Department.<br /> <br /> The problems involved $100,000 in unaccounted for federal property and about 600 South Carolina Guardsmen in "inefficient" units that Blease refused to disband on Mills' orders. The governor also refused permission for his troops to attend the 1914 summer camp ordered by the War Department.<br /> <br /> Blease resigned Jan. 14, 1915, five days before his term expired. His successor reinstated and reorganized the South Carolina Guard along the lines suggested by Mills.<br /> <br /> Although an extreme example, Blease's action reflected the era's tensions between the states and Mills over the War Department's authority to reshape the militia into the modern Guard.<br /> <br /> During Mills' tenure, Congress furthered militia reform by passing the National Defense Act in 1916. The law made the militia the Army's first-line reserve force, renamed the DMA and made mandatory the use of the term National Guard.<br /> <br /> It also increased the federal government's power over the Guard, doubling the number of required yearly drill periods to 48 and tripling the mandatory length of annual summer camps to 15 days.<br /> <br /> And the bureau was given broader powers to enforce federal standards and cut off funds from states unwilling or unable to adhere to them. And like its officers, Guard units had to meet those standards for federal recognition.<br /> <br /> But, again, greater expectations of the Guard came with additional resources, much of it at the behest of NGAUS. The federal government assumed responsibility for all Guard weapons, equipment and training expenses, leaving for the states only administrative costs. In addition, pay for drill periods was authorized for the first time.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Pancho Villa, a Mexican bandit, staged a cross-border raid against Columbus, N.M., in March 1916, killing 17 Americans.<br /> <br /> In response, President Woodrow Wilson ordered Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing to enter Mexico with a force of 10,000 regulars. Wilson also called nearly every soldier in the National Guard to federal service to protect the border.<br /> <br /> But instead of winning glory chasing Mexican bandits, the disappointed citizen-soldiers spent most of their time training in the hot and dusty Southwest.<br /> <br /> The bureau's normal volume of work had increased exponentially during the border crisis. Vacations were cancelled and Sunday work became the norm.<br /> <br /> McIver recorded in his diary that Mills nearly had a nervous breakdown during the summer of 1916 because of work pressures and the absence of physical exercise.<br /> <br /> BIG DIVIDENDS IN COMBAT<br /> <br /> The chief had conferred at length with Secretary of War Newton Baker and senior Army officers on the readiness of Guard units before the Mexican border mobilization.<br /> <br /> By default, responsibility for planning most of the details of the Guard's mobilization passed to the bureau because the War Department was overwhelmed by Regular Army requirements during the crisis.<br /> <br /> Although the Guard's performance was spotty due to uneven planning, equipment shortages and scattered discipline problems, it represented a vast improvement over the Spanish-American War call-up fiasco in 1898, when the same issues were significantly worse.<br /> <br /> While Guardsmen were deployed along the Southwest border, the exhausted Mills suddenly died Sept. 18, 1916, after a short bout with pneumonia.<br /> <br /> Although he did not live to see it, Mills' leadership and the Guard's hard training along the border paid huge dividends when the United States declared war on Germany in 1917.<br /> <br /> The Guard furnished 12 of the 29 divisions that engaged in combat. Of the eight American divisions rated superior or excellent during the war by the German general staff, six were Guard units.<br /> <br /> Although many challenges lay ahead, the National Guard had proven that it could function effectively as the Army's combat reserve in a modern war against a major adversary.<br /> <br /> Mills had done more than any other officer to make that possible.<br /> <br /> Charles J. Gross is the chief Air Guard historian at the National Guard Bureau. He can be reached via magazine@ngaus.org.<br /> <br />

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