In 1870, five years after Cheyenne was founded, the Wyoming National Guard was authorized to protect and safeguard the people of the Wyoming Territory.
Flash forward to today, as the city celebrates the 150th anniversary of Cheyenne’s birth, the Wyoming National Guard, with multiple Army and Air Guard units assigned here, continue the legacy started so many years ago.
When the Guard was authorized by Gov. John A. Campbell, Wyoming had yet to become a state. The militia used in Cheyenne and surrounding areas was of an ad hoc nature. Newfound efforts were made in 1888 to have a more organized and dedicated guard, and an infantry company, Company B, First Wyoming Regiment, mustered in Cheyenne. At the end of the decade, an artillery unit would call the city home – much like it does today with the 115th Field Artillery Brigade headquarters.
In 1898, the United States would enter into the Spanish-American War and the federal government enlisted volunteer units from the states. Wyoming’s efforts did not include a unit from Cheyenne, but the troops assembled in the capital as the 1st Battalion of the Wyoming Volunteer Infantry. The trains that ran through the rail town would take them west to California and then on to the Philippines.
Wyoming Guardsmen again mustered near Cheyenne, at Fort D.A. Russell in 1916 to take part in the expedition that secured the border during Pancho Villa’s raids that affected that area. One company that assembled for the mission was Company G, from Cheyenne. The fort, just outside of the capital, would be a common place for guardsmen to organize, as they did in the Spanish American-War. The fort would eventually become Fort Warren, then in 1947, F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
In 1917, war would finally come to the United States with an April declaration against Germany. One of the first units called up into federal service from the guard was the company out of Cheyenne. After a dedicated recruiting campaign that helped stand up the Third Regiment Infantry in June, units from around the state boarded trains to Cheyenne, to the now-routine stop at Fort D.A. Russell and then onto training camps on the east coast. Wyoming’s troops wouldn’t return until June 24, 1919, returning home via the way they entered service – Russell and the trains in Cheyenne.
The post-World War I era would see the guard expand into other communities, but the presence in the capital remained. Units would be reorganized through the pre- and post-World War II era, with artillery becoming a more prominent unit in town.
In 1946, a new branch of the guard was established with the birth of the Wyoming Air National Guard, at the Cheyenne airfield. That unit, which started as a fighter unit, eventually transitioned to aerial cargo transport planes. Since that time, P-51 Mustangs, C-119 Flying Boxcars, C-121 Super Constellations, and now C-130 Hercules aircraft, at one time filled the skies above Cheyenne.
Today, Cheyenne boasts a strong National Guard presence, with the Air Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, 115th Field Artillery Brigade headquarters, a helicopter unit and the headquarters for the guard itself. Cheyenne turns 150 years old, and the Wyoming guard isn’t far behind.
(Information courtesy of research by Wyoming Veterans and National Guard Museum staff and volunteers)