By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith, National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2017 — A new exhibit honoring the National Guard and its 380-year history opened Sept. 29 at the Pentagon.
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, and retired Army Gen. Frank Grass, the 27th chief of the NGB, together cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the exhibit space.
“What a magnificent piece of work, telling a magnificent story about our nation and our military and about the continually evolving piece of who we are as the National Guard,” Lengyel said during the ceremony.
Grass echoed Lengyel’s sentiments about the importance and relevance of what the exhibit conveys.
“This tells our story since the first militia mustered in 1636, and you have to keep telling that story,” Grass said.
In the Works Since 2013
The idea for an exhibit began in 2013, said Army Lt. Col. Jeff Larrabee, chief historian with the Guard Bureau and principal historical advisor for the exhibit’s planning committee. After Pentagon officials approved the basic concept, committee members started expanding on ideas, drawing sketches and selecting appropriate visual media.
Larrabee said the group’s collaborative effort focused on one thing: “What did we want people to leave with?”
Eventually, the committee established a goal of creating an exhibit that reflected the Guard’s mission while highlighting key moments and campaigns in which the Guard has participated, Larrabee said. The group wanted to represent the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia in a fair manner, he added/
Past and Current Missions
The exhibit space features 17 reproductions of Guard heritage paintings and more than 60 photographs strategically placed throughout the corridor. One side of the hall, titled “Foundation,” captures Guard participation in past conflicts in chronological order. The other side sheds light on the Guard’s current missions and can be updated as needed, Larrabee said.
“We tried to keep it simple so that if you’re focused on one side, you’re going follow it from start to finish, ensuring that it makes sense and the history of the Guard flows to its current operations,” he added.
Lengyel lauded the effort to secure a prime exhibition space that will be viewed by an estimated 121,000 visitors annually through the Pentagon’s public tours.
He added that while the exhibit masterfully captured both the Guard’s heritage and current operations, it also highlights its flexibility as an operational force.
Lengyel also noted the Guard’s role in a constantly changing national and global environment.
“I know that in the future we will adapt and change,” he said. “We are a warfighting reserve in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force and we are America’s domestic crisis response force, and we are very proud of that.”