LATHAM, NY (12/14/2017) New York Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Michael Blake, a Ballston Spa resident, was one of two New York National Guard members selected to participate in a celebration of the National Guard's 381st Birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at New York National Guard Headquarters here.
Traditionally a young Soldier and oldest Soldier present join the presiding officer in cutting the National Guard birthday cake during commemorative ceremonies.
The old Soldier represents the history and traditions of the National Guard, while the young Soldier represents the future.
Blake, age 58, was the older Soldier in the ceremony, while New York Army National Guard Specialist Jade Richards, age 19, a Watervliet resident, represented young soldiers.
Major General Ray Shields, the commander of the New York Army National Guard, Blake and Richards, in cutting a National Guard Birthday cake.
"This ceremony is a great way to remember the history of the National Guard and to mark the sacrifices that have been made during that history," Shields explained.
For Blake, who has 39 years of military service under his belt, it was "a little disconcerting being recognized as one of the oldest members of the Guard."
Blake served in the Marine Corps from 1977 to 1985. He joined the New York Air National Guard in 1986 to help pay for college.
Since 1987 he's worked as a full time military technician at the 109th Airlift Wing, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, N.Y. A resident of Ballston Spa, N.Y., Blake currently serves as maintenance group superintendent.
He'll retire from his technician job in January, 2018, but intends on staying on as a traditional Guardsman, training part-time, until he turns 60 in 2019.
"It's been a great run," Blake said.
The National Guard traces its official foundation back to Dec. 13, 1636 when General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law establishing formal militia companies in the colony. These companies were made up of all adult males older than 16 and were expected to meet and train in military skills regularly.
The New York National Guard can trace its history back to 1640 when the Dutch East Indian Company, which then controlled what would become New York, created a force of citizen soldiers known as the Burgher Guard, or citizen's guard.
The members of the Burgher Guard were expected to assist the regular Soldiers employed by the East Indian Company to defend New Amsterdam from hostile natives or the English who were settling in Massachusetts and Virginia.
Members of the Burgher Guard were expected to maintain a firelock musket and report to the fort at the tip of Manhattan Island if a cannon sounded. They could also be fined for speaking badly about a fellow militia member.
After New Amsterdam became the English colony of New York in 1665, a militia modeled on the system used in Massachusetts and other English colonies was put in place.
New York gave the country the term National Guard for its militia forces when the 2nd Battalion, 11th Regiment of the New York Militia renamed themselves the National Guard to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War.
Lafayette had commanded a force of French citizen soldiers called "Guard de National" in the early days of the French Revolution.
He was visiting Manhattan in 1824 and the name change was made for the day to honor the hero.
During the Civil War, New York officially changed the name of the New York State Militia to the New York National Guard.
Today there are 10,300 members of the New York Army National Guard and 5,800 Airmen in the New York Air National Guard.
As part of the ceremony shields congratulated four new Army National Guard recruits on their enlistment and presented them with a coin.
"These young men and women, and all of our Soldiers and Airmen and civilians are the most valuable resource we have in the National Guard," Shields said.