The All-Volunteer Force
Vietnam marked the first major conflict in which U.S. armed forces were involved without including any significant call-up of the National Guard. The end of the Vietnam conflict and the introduction of the all-volunteer military combined with Defense Department policy changes to have a significant impact on the National Guard.
During the Vietnam conflict, National Guard units enjoyed excellent strength. Draft-related enlistments kept the units at top strength, but enlistments dropped sharply when the draft ended. The Guard had to increase its recruiting staff. The Guard also underwent some reorganization to place units with civilian-marketable skills in some communities. The Michigan National Guard never dipped to a point where it was unable to serve the citizens of the nation or state and drops in unit strengths were turned around by the end of the 1970s. Strength began to climb back up, reaching an all-time high for the Michigan Army National Guard of 11,928 in 1986.
Total Force Policy
Some of the unit reorganizations were driven by a new Department of Defense policy. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird instituted the Total Force Policy in 1973. Total Force meant the active Army, the U.S. Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard would share in world-wide missions, resource allocations, and force structure. As part of this process, each active Army headquarters had their warfighting partners identified and became involved in their training. Michigan National Guard units knew who they would report to if they were federalized.
As a result of the Total Force Policy, training standards were increased and active Army evaluators ensured Michigan National Guard units met the requirements. The Michigan Guard benefited from new equipment, increased training time and realism, and opportunities to deploy and train overseas. Michigan Guard units have trained in over 42 foreign countries.
Floods, Fire, Snow, and Tornadoes
Statewide flooding, snowstorms, and forest fires in the 1970s and 1980s necessitated many Michigan National Guard state mobilizations. Some of the more memorable events were the flooding of the Grand, Flint, and Red Cedar rivers in April 1975. Four-hundred Guard members were on state actual duty from April 19-24.
The Seney Forest Fire in the Upper Peninsula in the summer of 1976 required 450 Guard members from the 107th Engineer Battalion to be placed on duty from August 25 through October 15.
In the winter of 1977, a gigantic snow storm paralyzed southern Michigan. One-hundred Guard members were ordered out and served from January 28 to February 7, 1976. Those who served were awarded the Humanitarian Services Medal for their actions.
On May 14, 1980, a tornado destroyed large portions of Kalamazoo. The Michigan National Guard responded with 150 members and equipment from the 156th Signal Battalion and the 207th Engineer Battalion. Aviation support was also provided. The Guard members worked from May 15-23 to restore essential services to Kalamazoo residents.