The impact, mission, and presence of the Missouri Army National Guard.
photos by Charles Machon, Museum of Military History, and DVIDS
Around 10,000 visitors pass through the doors of the Museum of Missouri Military History each year. Located at the Missouri National Guard’s Ike Skelton Training Center, the museum, which is free and open to the public, is dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of Missouri’s military history. Inside, the museum showcases every National Guard mission from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts. Outside, visitors can see aircraft and military vehicles — like the F-15 Eagle fighter, F-4 Phantom II fighter, Sherman tank, Sheridan Tank, and C-130 Hercules — up close.
According to Captain John Quin, public affairs officer, museum director Charles Machon also hosts several special events there each year, including reenactments, symposiums on specific historical events, and militaria identification days, when visitors can bring military memorabilia from home to learn more about its origins and significance.
“We hope the people of Jefferson City will use our museum as a place to learn about their state’s military history as well as a place where they can begin to learn about their own families’ service,” says Quin.
The National Guard
Around Jefferson City and throughout Missouri, the National Guard has a large presence, as it accounts for about 30 percent of all military enlistments, says Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Wilde, commander of Missouri National Guard recruiting and retention.
As the oldest component of the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard is unique because it has a dual state and federal mission, which means it reports to both President Donald Trump and Governor Mike Parson. Wilde says the federal mission includes overseas deployments like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. As part of the state mission, they respond to major emergencies in Missouri and around the U.S. on the order of the governor of Missouri.
“For many Guardsmen, the state mission is a huge draw to service,” Wilde says. “This is because we are true citizen–soldiers and citizen–airmen. When a major flood or tornado occurs, the people you see in uniform responding are oftentimes people who live in those same communities.”
While the Missouri National Guard’s recruiting operations are headquartered in Jefferson City, the state is divided into eight geographic regions, and 102 recruiters cover every zip code in Missouri, Wilde says. The National Guard offers many outstanding opportunities from training, experience, and camaraderie to furthering civilian education and skills. Most recruits are between 17 and 24, and because one of the benefits includes full in-state college tuition, Wilde says the Guard attracts many high school and college students.
“Additionally, many active duty service members from all branches who want to continue to serve in a part-time capacity join the National Guard,” says Wilde.
Guard in Flight
Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph is home to an aviation flight facility charged with providing full-time aviation support to the units of the Missouri National Guard. Captain Adam Rackers, supervisory aircraft flight instructor with the Missouri National Guard, says the flight facility supports safety, maintenance, standardization, and training. In fact, Missouri is one of only five locations in the U.S. with the capability to perform depot-level aviation maintenance.
Rackers says the Jefferson City aviation facility is also the only one that operates the newest aircraft to the Army’s fleet, the UH-72 Lakota, and it houses the C-12 Huron, the state’s only fixed-wing aircraft.
“Additionally, the facility supports counter-drug aviation and facilitates training members of the Missouri helicopter search and rescue team comprised of members of Missouri Task Force 1,” says Rackers.
Though the flight facility is not generally open to the public, Rackers says exceptions are made for deployment ceremonies and approved civic organizations.
Captain Mitchell Woodrum joined the National Guard directly out of high school and served five years enlisted before commissioning as an officer in 2013. For the past six years, he has lived in Jefferson City while working at the Missouri National Guard headquarters as the resource manager for the department of logistics. As a reservist, he also serves as the company commander of the 1251st Transportation Company.
“I’ve had an outstanding career, and I’ve had experiences I wouldn’t have had in civilian life,” Woodrum says. “I’ve gotten to serve in a lot of amazing capacities, including state emergency duties and in the disturbance in Ferguson, and I deployed to Iraq for a year.”
Woodrum says the National Guard strongly supports education. In addition to his undergraduate degree from the Washington University ROTC program, he is currently pursuing an MBA in management leadership.
“That is something the National Guard is both supporting and paying for,” Woodrum says. “Through the National Guard, I’ve learned the importance of education and how to be a good leader, and I’ve learned to be a better man overall.”
As he reflects on his past 10 years with the National Guard, Woodrum says he is humbled by his varied experiences.
“I had outstanding leaders while I was enlisted that encouraged and inspired me to be a leader,” Woodrum says. “Now, being a company commander is an incredible experience. I have a company of 171 soldiers, and leading those soldiers and that company is a pretty incredible thing to do. I’m honored to do it, I’m honored to lead and serve with those soldiers.”