The war in the Philippines meanwhile gave the regular army its first experience of foreign service but unfortunately the lessons learned there were too much like our own old cam paigns in the Florida and other Indian Wars. A number of special service volunteer regiments were raised to augment the regulars in the Philippines and these regiments carefully trained to regular army standards gave excellent service.
The punitive expedition into Mexico in 1916 was in the nature of a cavalry reconnaissance by a strong regular column against guerilla forces and provided little experience of value for the great conflict in Europe. The mobilization of the National Guard taught the States many lessons of value and helped elimi nate a great deal of useless dead wood which had been carried for years in the State organ izations.
Since the Revolution the American armies had never been called upon to face a great conflict with a foreign power and the only experience of hard fighting with modern weapons had been that of the Civil War.
Several times in recent years serious diffi culties have arisen along the Mexican frontier and in 1916 the prospect of war with Mexico seemed so imminent that the President mobilized the National Guard on the Mexican border. No fighting developed but the guard from every State in the Union had the benefit of their first experience in distant service under cam paign conditions for many years. The condi tions were peculiar.
In 1792 Congress enacted the first militia law which was until 1903 the only law relating to the militia. Having become largely a dead letter Congress in 1903 passed the Dick bill de signed to promote the efficiency of the militia. Under this law the National Guard was recog nized by the National Government as those organizations in the States whose officers and men had taken the Federal oath provided in the National Defense Act. Until this Federal oath was taken the State forces were known as the organized militia.
The National Defense Act finally became a law on 3 June 1916 and the mobilization of the National Guard was ordered only 15 days later before either the War Department or the State authorities had become sufficiently familiar with its requirements to formulate a clear and prac tical course of procedure.
The State forces went to the Rio Grande with great enthusiasm but as the months passed i and t became evident that there was to be no warlike service for them over the border large numbers of both officers and men demanded their release in order to return to their business and their families. Nothing else in recent years
has so clearly illustrated the essential difference between regular and National Guard troops. The regular troops were ready to march out of their various posts wherever they might be and entrain for the border within a few hours after the receipt of telegraphic orders. Once there they were as contented to settle down to the monotony of border patrol duty as they had been to remain in barracks elsewhere. In short they proved to be exactly what the country expected them to be — professional soldiers without any other interest in life than the performance of military duty. At the end of 1916 the War Department issued a book of 169 closely printed pages reciting the history of this mobilization and bearing throughout evi dence of the unvarying antipathy of the whole commissioned personnel of the regular army to the National Guard. The burden of the criticisms would have formed an overwhelming indictment of regular troops raised and main tained at government expense in a State of constant readiness for field service. The diffi culty lies in the inability of the regular estab lishment to appreciate the view point of the nation at large. The people of the United States do not expect these State auxiliary forces to be ready at a moment's notice to step out of home and civil occupation and display a degree of readiness for war equal to that of the regulars. They do expect and are increasingly providing the means for them to so far perfect themselves in organization, drill and rifle practice as to be a valuable first auxiliary to the regular army ready after a few months training in the field to face an organized enemy. Back of the Na tional Guard the nation relies upon a great national force of volunteer or draft troops whose organization and training must neces sarily require a much longer period. From the view point of the professional soldier it would appear desirable that the nation should consent to his advice and maintain at all times a great standing army. The fact is, however, that no argument from Washington's time down to the present has ever induced any considerable part of our people to agree to this. The settled determination of the country has always re mained steadfast in adherence to the scheme of the founders for a small regular army and as large and as efficient a force of State troops as will be supported and recruited by the people of the various States.