Maryland's aerial militia celebrates 100 years

Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford chats with Lt. Col. Jeffery Woolford of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Medical Group at Martin State Airport, on Tuesday, June 29 for the air brigade’s 100th anniversary.

MIDDLE RIVER — The Maryland Air National Guard celebrated its 100th anniversary at its headquarters in Martin State Airport Tuesday, June 29.

The flying militia, which was initially federally recognized as a National Guard unit on June 29, 1921, predates the U.S. Air Force, now its parent, by over 26 years.

“In 1921, a handful of aviators had nothing more than a good idea to form a flying unit,” Brigadier General Paul Johnson, who leads the unit, told the wing in a hangar at the Warfield Air National Guard base on Tuesday.

The wing traces its roots back to the American Flying Club of Baltimore, which was based out of Logan Field, a former airfield in Dundalk. Logan Field was taken over by the military during World War II and remained closed afterwards.

The aviators from the American Flying Club of Baltimore met with state officials in 1921 to form a reserve unit, the 104th Observation Squadron. While it was not the first aerial reserve unit, it was the first to have aircraft, which were stationed at Logan Field.

“You all have a highly trained, highly experienced, highly proficient force,” Lieutenant Gov. Boyd Rutherford said at the celebration.

Rutherford commended the troops on their recent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, calling their work “instrumental” in the fight against the virus.

The Maryland Air National Guard works under both state and federal control. It also trains for federal operations abroad and domestic missions in Maryland, according to Johnson.

“We train, and we’re ready to go overseas to do our federal operations,” Johnson said.

The wing responds in the state during emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where guardsmen moved supplies and worked on vaccine administration.

Guardsmen also assisted in locking down the Maryland State House during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

But in recent years, the militia has been working on cyber surety operations, protecting sensitive electronics at home.

Regarding the formation of the unit in 1921, Johnson told troops that the “situation today is not entirely a resemblance” of the militia’s initial mission, now that cybersecurity is a major focus.

“We were the first state to have a full-spectrum cyber-squad,” he said.

The centennial celebration on Tuesday was set to kick off a year of events, spokesperson Benjamin Hughes said.

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