The Nebraska National Guard began with the official organization of the Nebraska militia by an act of the territorial Legislature in 1856. That’s the kind of heritage the National Guard has with Nebraska. The Guard is a perennial favorite at Husker Harvest Days.
The 16th annual Nebraska National Guard exhibit will be near the southwest entrance of HHD.
According to Staff Sgt. Dustin Schlote, who has organized the Guard’s annual displays at HHD over the past four years, the Guard is stepping it up again this year.
Tactical maneuvers from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Sept. 12 will feature Guard soldiers jumping out of a tandem-rotor Chinook helicopter. This will be part of a tactical exercise that will include a drop of equipment and soldiers to showcase the training of the National Guard.
Along with the Chinook, the Guard display will include other helicopters, such as the UH-72 Lakota medical transport helicopter displayed last year. The Guard exhibit also includes transportation vehicles and up-armored personnel carriers.
“The Nebraska National Guard has responded to many different places, helping local communities in time of need,” Schlote says. “We have helped out with tornadoes, floods and wildfires,” he says. “When people are in need, it is refreshing to see a friendly face in National Guard soldiers serving families and communities that need help.”
“We will have an information booth set up to promote the Nebraska National Guard. We will also be bringing out our pedal cars for visitors to play around,” he says. For Schlote, the best part of exhibiting at HHD is talking with youth. “I enjoy hearing their stories,” he says. “You also get to visit with so many people from all parts of Nebraska, from Omaha to Scottsbluff, plus visitors from all the states around us.”
In the early years of existence, the companies of the militia had to furnish their own arms and equipment. Although many of those early units were more social organizations, volunteer soldiers from several militia units answered the call to arms when the Civil War broke out in 1861, making up the bulk of more than 3,000 Union soldiers serving from Nebraska Territory at that time on battlefields like Shiloh, Fort Donelson and in Dakota Territory.
The Nebraska National Guard became an active part of the state militia in 1881 when a military code was established for the state. Nebraska furnished three infantry units during the Spanish-American War in 1898-99. Then, federal legislation in 1903 established the basis for the Guard’s unique dual state and federal roles.
Schlote notes that in World War I a century ago, most Nebraska units were assigned to the new 34th Infantry Division, serving in France. In World War II, the 134th Infantry and two other Nebraska units were assigned to the 35th Division, eventually playing a key role in repelling the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge.
Schlote says that it is important for the Nebraska National Guard to be present at HHD every year, because the interaction with visitors helps share the proud heritage of the Guard and the benefits Guardsmen and -women provide to the state and their communities. This year’s tactical training exercise will also put the professionalism of the Nebraska National Guard on display.