By Willie M. Calhoun, MSG, USAR, ret
Since graduating from U. S. Army Infantry Officer Candidate School at Camp Beauregard (Class 22), I’ve been invited to the Louisiana Army National Guard Post twice. The first invitation was formal as the Louisiana Military Academy commemorated graduating it’s 50th class since first beginning. All OCS graduates who could be reached were invited. I received a second invitation via the Alexanderia Daily Town Talk Newspaper. According to a Town Talk article dated 5 September 2022, Headquarters, Louisiana Army and Air National Guard rendered a command decision to rename Camp Beauregard. The Louisiana National Guard apparently decided to remove confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard’s name from the Post in response to the Federal Renaming Commission’s mandate. The Commission mandated all federal installations remove all names that had a “nexus to confederate generals”. The Town Talk’s article also stated there would be a town hall type meeting at the Post theater at 6:00 p. m. 8 September, 2022 to discuss possible replacement names for the Post. An online survey had gathered about 95 proposed replacement names for the Louisiana National Guard Post. A final decision on the replacement name would be made by Governor Edwards not later than October 2023.
As reported in the 11 September 2022 edition of the Town Talk, the town hall’s audience wanted the answer to a fair-minded question-why the name change? According to the town talk, the Post Commander offered multiple reasons for the name change. What appeared as the original reason for the name change (the federal mandate) seemed to lose some traction as it was revealed the mandate only applied to Federal installations. Camp Beauregard is a state owned installation. The Post Commander seem to concede the Federal Mandate didn’t directly apply to Camp Beauregard, but he reasoned not following the Commission’s recommendation could at some point affect the Post’s Federal funding thereby effecting the Louisiana National Guard’s ability to execute both federal and state missions. To reinforce the federal funding rationale, he added the Post was 75 to 80 percent Federally funded. He also reassured the audience that presently no danger of losing federal funds exist, but the future appeared somewhat uncertain. Finally, the Post Commander inferred the decision to rename Camp Beauregard was made only after considerable deliberation. In the end, the Louisiana National Guard decided to” err on the side of caution”. The town hall audience and residents of Louisiana were given food for thought.
Somewhat overshadowed by the audience’s historical and political concerns were comments on the state owned post operating with up to 80 percent federal funds. Also, seemingly overlooked were the Post’s Commander’s referencing of both Federal and State missions of the National Guard. This dual mission obligation of the National Guard is unique among America’s military organizations. Neverthe less, the possibility of losing some federal funds which could effect the Louisiana National Guard unit’s readiness were considered major factors in arriving at it’s decision to rename Camp Beauregard.
Federal funding of the National Guard began with passage of the militia act of 1903. Under this law, according to a book called The National Guard, a history of America’s citizen soldiers, “guard units received increased funding and equipment, and in return, they were to confirm to federal standards for training and organization. The law recognized two classes of militia; the national Guard under federal-state control and the unorganized militia”. The federalization of the National Guard began before World War II as did America’s first peacetime draft. After the draft stopped being used and the Viet Nam war ended, Active Duty components (AKA the Army) were forced to depend upon it’s National Guard and Reserves to compensate for it’s conscript manpower loss. Many positive changes were made in the Louisiana National Guard since the draft days. These changes would not have been possible without an increase in Federal funding.
On Veterans day of 2022, I ask readers to consider the day is meant to honor all veterans. This includes members of the National Guard and Reserves. They too are veterans. In fact, these citizen soldiers are just as likely as their Active duty comrades to deploy to combat zones. As afore mentioned, Guardspersons can be called up by the President or the state Governor. In Louisiana we depend upon the National Guard as first responders for natural disasters and as support for our vast system of engineered waterways. We all hope the total Army Concept continue to prove it works much better than the peacetime draft.