With a lineage dating back to 1802, the District of Columbia National Guard has a rich heritage of notable leaders, who have responded to major conflicts throughout their service.
One former Guardsman who was mobilized on 9/11 continues to serve at the highest levels of the federal government. Former District of Columbia National Guardsman Dr. Mark T. Esper became the 27th Secretary of Defense in July, and he previously served as the 23rd Secretary of the Army.
Secretary Esper served in the DCNG from October 1998 until transferring to the U.S. Army Reserve in October 2005.
First established in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson, the DCNG is a unique organization in that it falls under the President of the United States. President Harry S. Truman delegated administration and control of the DCNG to the Secretary of Defense with Executive Order 10030 in Jan. 26, 1949.
Serving as the SecArmy, Defense Secretary and as a former member of the DCNG, Secretary Esper has in-depth insight into the unique command structure and the important role of the DCNG Capital Guardians in the District area.
During his time with the DCNG, Secretary Esper was assigned to what was then called the Mobilization Augmentation Command Detachment 4, or MAC. DCNG Commanding General Maj. Gen. William J. Walker remembers being mobilized with Secretary Esper after the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, which occurred 18 years ago today.
On that tragic day, the MAC was immediately activated, becoming the first Reserve unit in the Department of Defense mobilized in response to the first direct attacks on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Task Force Capital Guardian, consisting of 100 Citizen Soldiers, was called upon by Congress to provide perimeter security on the Capitol grounds.
General Walker, who served in the MAC with Secretary Esper, describes his time working with Secretary Esper as extraordinary.
“He always had a plan and was incredibly disciplined,” he said.
Secretary Esper was the guest speaker at the DCNG’s Military Ball in 2018 held at the D.C. National Guard Armory. During his speech, he discussed his understanding of the strengths Citizen Soldiers bring to the table through their diverse backgrounds.
"I stand before you as a product of my experience, of service in all three components," Esper said. "It shaped me as I am sure it has shaped all of you."
In his speech, Esper recognized the DCNG for its contributions and participation in every major conflict since 1802, including responding after 9/11.
"Your mission, to protect the capital and defend the nation, as important as it was then, it is even more important today." Esper said. "Many of you know too well, having lived and worked in the District on that tragic day in September. The world has become a far more dangerous place since then. We face threats, both known and unknown, from foes whose capabilities and desires to increase their global influence, to undermine our way of life and to harm us, continues to grow."
Based in the heart of the District, the DCNG is poised and prepared to rapidly deploy where directed, and confidently execute the orders of the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Air Force in times of peace and war.
The nation’s Capital Guardians are a highly disciplined, motivated and focused professional force that is well led and optimally manned, trained and equipped to meet the expectations of the Department of Defense, our federal and District of Columbia government partners, and the needs of our fellow citizens.