California National Guard Unit Histories
79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
By Lieutenant Colonel Danny M. Johnson, USA-Ret.

The 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) is one of the newest brigade size units within the California Army National Guard. The 79th, whose history encompasses two wars on two different continents, inherits a colorful history dating back to 12 October 1881 in the city of San Diego. An application to form a military company by the citizens and residents of San Diego was approved by the Adjutant General, Brigadier General James D. Boyer, commander of the California National Guard's First Brigade. He issued the orders necessary and appointed a resident of the county to organize the company according to the provisions of the militia code. On 12 October the company was designated as the San Diego City Guard. It was mustered in as an unattached company of the First Brigade. The unit consisted of eighty-seven members who unanimously elected Douglas Gunn as captain and Marvin Lacy as first lieutenant.

The company was reorganized and redesignated on 22 July 1885 as Company B, 7th Infantry Battalion. Three years later, in May 1888, it was reorganized and redesignated as Company B, 7th Infantry Regiment. On 8 February 1890, it was redesignated once again, this time as Company B, 9th Infantry Regiment. The San Diego Rifles, which was organized on 7 September 1889, was concurrently reorganized and redesignated and brought into the regiment as Company A, 9th Infantry. Companies A and B, 9th Infantry, were consolidated, reorganized, and redesignated on 7 December 1895 as Company B, 7th Infantry.

On 9 May 1898, Company B was mustered into federal service during the Spanish-American War at the Presidio of San Francisco as Company B, 7th California Volunteer Infantry. It was ordered to Camp Merritt in San Francisco on 25 May and returned to Camp Merriam at the Presidio in August, where it remained until 13 October. The 7th Infantry Regiment was then ordered to Los Angeles the next day where it was furloughed until 12 November. It reported for duty in Los Angeles where it established Camp Pratt and by 2 December 1898, the regiment was mustered out of service at Los Angeles and never saw overseas service.

The early 1900s ushered in a new era for the company as it was converted, reorganized, and redesignated in June 1909 as the 5th Company, 1st Coast Defense Command, Coast Artillery Corps, at San Diego. Due to World War I in Europe, the unit was called into state service in April 1917 and drafted into federal service in August 1917. It was reorganized and redesignated in August 1917 as 5th Company, Coast Defenses of San Diego, at Fort Rosecrans.

While mobilized, the unit was once again reorganized and redesignated in January 1918 as Battery B, 2d Antiaircraft Battalion, at Fort MacArthur, California. In June 1918, the battery moved to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, and later the same month, moved to the Hoboken Port of Embarkation for shipment to France. The 2d Antiaircraft Battalion served in France from June until December 1918, and participated in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. The battalion returned to Camp Merritt in December 1918 and was demobilized at Camp Dix, New Jersey, in January 1919.

The former 5th and 8th Companies, 1st Coast Defense Command, Coast Artillery Corps, were reconstituted in the California National Guard, and expanded and reorganized in early 1921 at San Diego as the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Companies, 1st Coast Defense Command, Coast Artillery Corps. In January 1922, the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Companies were reorganized and expanded to form the San Diego Fort Command, 1st Coast Defense Command, Coast Artillery Corps, with the 463d, 464th 465th, and 466th Companies assigned. The next year, in October 1923, another reorganization and redesignation occurred which resulted in the creation of the 2d Battalion, 250th Coast Artillery. In November 1924, a consolidation occurred with Batteries I and K, 250th Coast Artillery, which expanded, reorganized, and redesignated the unit as the 251st Coast Artillery Regiment, with Headquarters at San Diego. The 251st was reorganized on 1 January 1930 from harbor defense to antiaircraft artillery.

The 251st Coast Artillery Regiment (Antiaircraft) (Semimobile) was inducted into federal service on 16 September 1940 at San Diego. It was reassigned to Ventura on 22 September and on 17 November 1940, departed the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation for the Territory of Hawaii. The 251st became the first National Guard unit to leave the continental United States for overseas duty in World War II. The 251st arrived at Fort Shafter in late November 1940 and was assigned to the Hawaiian Coast Artillery Command. It was later reassigned moved to Camp Malakole in January 1941.

The 251st trained in Hawaii before departing in June 1942. As part of a lonely two ship convoy (SS Mormac Star and the SS Mormac Sea), it sailed for Viti Levo, Fiji Islands. Upon arriving, the 251st established the anti-aircraft defense for the islands' single critical airfield. All weapons and the housing of troops were artfully hidden under thatched native huts, called bures. The regiment conducted additional training before being assigned to Guadalcanal in the Solomons in November 1943. A month later, the 251st was deployed to Torlkina, Bougainville, and assigned to XIV Corps. The 251st Regiment would earn campaign streamers for Central Pacific and Northern Solomons.

The 251st Coast Artillery Regiment was broken up in March 1944. Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (HHB) was reorganized and redesignated as HHB, 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Group. The regimental band was relieved from the regiment and designated as the 288th Army Band. HHB, 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Group, left Bougainville in December 1944 and traveled to Lae, New Guinea, and Manus, Admiralty Islands, before arriving at Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, in January 1945. The group moved to Manila in March 1945 to provide air defense in the Manila area and earned a campaign streamer for Luzon. The group finally left the Pacific Theater in December 1945 and was inactivated at Camp Stoneman, California, on 7 December 1945.

Also in March 1944, the 1st Battalion, 251st Coast Artillery, was reorganized and redesignated as the 746th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion (Semimobile). The battalion participated in the Northern Solomons, Leyte, and Southern Philippines campaigns. The 746th was inactivated in January 1946 at Camp Stoneman. The 2d Battalion was reorganized and redesignated in March 1944 as the 951st Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion (Semimobile). The 951st, which maintains a separate lineage, earned campaign streamers for Northern Solomons and Luzon before being inactivated at Camp Stoneman on 29 December 1945.

After World War II, HHB, 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Group, was reorganized and federally recognized in the California National Guard on 24 February 1947 at San Diego as HHB, 114th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade. HHB, 746th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion, was reorganized and federally recognized on 24 February 1947 at San Diego as HHB, 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Group. The remainder of the 746th maintains a separate lineage.

The 288th Army Band was reorganized and redesignated in June 1944 as the 288th Army Ground Forces Band and went on to earn campaign credit for Northern Solomons, Bismarck Archipelago, Leyte. It was inactivated in January 1946 on Luzon, Philippine Islands. The 288th reverted to the California National Guard in November 1947 when it was reorganized and federally recognized in November 1947 as the 93d Army Band at San Diego. It was ordered into federal service in October 1950 at San Diego and released from federal service in February 1955 and reverted to state control. The unit did not deploy while on active duty.

In 1959, several significant organizational changes took place with these units. HHB, 114th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade; HHB, 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Group; and the 93d Army Band were consolidated with the 183d Antiaircraft Artillery Detachment, which itself was organized and federally recognized 12 April 1956 at San Diego. The consolidated unit was reorganized and was redesignated as HHB, 114th Artillery Brigade. The 114th was converted to armor in March 1963 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 3d Brigade, 40th Armored Division. In January 1968, the 3d Brigade was reorganized and redesignated again, this time as HHC, 111th Armor Group, and relieved from assignment to the 40th Armored Division.

In November 1971, the 111th Armor Group became the 111th Area Headquarters. In April 1972, it was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 111th Area Headquarters. In January 1974, the detachment was reorganized and redesignated as the HHC, 2d Brigade, 40th Infantry Division (Mechanized), and moved to Los Alamitos. The headquarters relocated to San Diego in January 1981. The unit was federalized for the Los Angeles riots on 1 May 1992 and released to state control eight days later.

HHC, 2nd Brigade, was mobilized from 2003 to 2004. During this period, the brigade commander served as the commander of Task Force Guardian, a 7,500-soldier brigade in support of Operation Noble Eagle III at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, providing additional force protection personnel for eighty-eight Army and Air Force installations across twenty-one states. During August 2005, some eighty soldiers of the unit were ordered again into active federal service for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit reverted back to state control in February 2006.

Elements of the 2d Brigade were mobilized at different times in 2006-2007. The last mechanized organizational structure of the brigade prior to converting to an IBCT was HHC, 2d Brigade, 40th Infantry Division; 1st Battalion, 185th Armor; 2d Battalion, 185th Armor; and 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry.

The advent of Army transformation and transition brought about the creation of brigade combat teams within the Regular Army and Army National Guard. As a result, HHC, 2d Brigade, 40th Infantry Division, was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters, 40th IBCT, in September 2007. The 40th IBCT wore the former insignia of the 40th Armored Brigade. A year later in September 2008, the brigade was redesignated, bringing back the 79th Infantry Brigade designation first used in World War I when the brigade was assigned to the 40th Division (later 40th Infantry Division).

Today, 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is the California Army National Guard's largest combat formation. The 79th is organized under the Army's new modular brigade structure. The IBCT is the Army's lightest brigade combat team (BCT) and has a personnel strength of approximately 3,400 soldiers. The role of the BCT is to serve as the Army's basic tactical maneuver unit, and as the smallest combined arms units that can be committed independently. The BCT is designed to conduct offensive, defensive, and stability operations. The core mission is to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver to destroy or capture enemy forces, or to repel their attacks by fire, close combat, and counterattack. The BCT can fight without augmentation, but it also can be tailored to meet the precise needs of its mission.

The 79th IBCT also has a state mission. In times of emergency, the governor may call the National Guard to perform defense support to civil authorities. The self-contained and modular structure of the 79th IBCT makes it well suited to provide this support.

Posted 18 May 2008

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