Camp Murray honors the National Guard's 377th birthday with a chili cook-off

By Gary Lott on December 16, 2013

The National Guard celebrates 377 years.

This may just seem like another number, but when you think about the year 1636 being well before the Civil War, when the states were colonies and many years before the Army, Air Force, Marines or Navy were even around, the significance becomes evident.

Friday, Dec. 13, the Washington National Guard celebrated the National Guard's 377th birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony and chili cook-off at Building 33 on Camp Murray. Assistant Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Wallace Turner led the ceremony.

"This was a great event to celebrate the dedication and commitment that our Washington National Guardsmen have consistently provided," Turner said. "It's a perfect time for our service members to enjoy chili, all while meeting their fellow Guard members and giving our command structure an informal and fun environment to say thank you."

Although this was a chance to show-off one's "chili-master" ability and take the first-place prize for the year's best chili, it was also an opportunity to reflect on the service members who have served in the past centuries.

"To be able to celebrate the National Guard's birthday means I have the honor of belonging to two families with long histories," said the event's point of contact, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Huyck. "I belong to the oldest military force in the United States, and I also belong to the family of American citizens. This family has always pulled together in times of crisis, and I'm proud to be a citizen-soldier."

>>> Washington National Guard Birthday Chili Cook-Off point of contact Sgt. 1st Class Richard Huyck serves a sampling of his chili to Washington Air and Army National Guard Youth program manager, Robbin Seeberger, right. Photo credit: Gary Lott

The Washington National Guard kept its annual cake-cutting tradition going this year, with the youngest, oldest and most senior members present to cut the National Guard birthday cake.

Col. John Tuohy and Turner (the most senior) joined Spec. Ruben Toldeo (the youngest) and retired Col. Ron Weaver (the oldest) in cutting the guard birthday cake.

With an opportunity to build morale, learn a little National Guard history, sample a variety of different chili recipes and mingle with their fellow Washington National Guard members and command members, this birthday celebration of 377 years was in no way just another number.

>>> Washington National Guardsmen Spc. Medford is all smiles after winning the coveted 2013 chili-master title for his Smokey Pork Chili. Photo credit: Gary Lott

For centuries, the National Guard has protected American communities and served the country by living an "Always Ready, Always There" line of defense in times of need - Hurricane Katrina, countless wildfires and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Citizen-soldiers were serving (officially volunteering at that time) on United States soil before it was even officially U.S. soil.

>>> Sgt. Jennika Cardenas, right, of the Joint Services Support Directorate enjoys a Southwestern chili at the Washington National Guard Birthday Chili Cook-Off. Photo credit: Gary Lott

The National Guard doesn't just serve on U.S. soil, though. More recently, it offered substantial assistance in the Afghanistan war, and it has provided almost 30 percent of the deployed combat force in the last decade.

In fact, although some states this year are finally fortunate to have no deployed units during the holiday season, states such as Washington still have multiple units deployed in places such as Afghanistan and Kuwait.

The Washington National Guard will not only serve the country during the holiday season, but will also have families left behind who are responsible for managing and celebrating the holidays without their spouse.

>>> Col. Daniel Dent, the J3 for the state, takes a break in between the chili cook-off line to try a sampling.  Photo credit: Gary Lott