Delaware County's tradition of citizen soldiers -- which began when volunteer units formed in the county for the War of 1812 -- continues at the Ohio Army National Guard Armory on Houk Road.

Adjacent to the Delaware YMCA, the armory houses Alpha Battery of 1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery, and the battalion headquarters.

Staff Sgt. Lancelot Seman, who works full time at the unit, said the National Guard has changed since he joined in 1996. Its readiness, he said, has been heightened significantly compared to past decades.

"It's become more and more professional and more and more dedicated to the service of the country," he said.

The Guard has always been prepared, he said, but between the Cold War and the War on Terror, things were "more low-intensity, low-key. A lot has changed since then."

Maj. Kevin Sullivan served in the Army from 2007-11. He said the National Guard's readiness and efficiency are comparable to that of the regular Army.

The Ohio National Guard's performance, he said, "is incredible given the fact that" its drills and annual training equal about a month's worth of time each year.

"You can see the dedication to the profession that these traditional Guardsmen have," he said. "They have to find that time between work and family to stay current on their tasks."

Members of the Ohio National Guard complete Army training, and the Guard is under the dual control of the state and federal government. It can be called up by the governor or the president, serving as a reserve component of the U.S. military and the modern equivalent of a state militia.

Guardsmen enlist for periods of three or six years, Seman said.

The unit holds monthly drills of two to four days each at the armory and participates in annual training lasting two weeks, normally at Camp Grayling, Michigan.

Grayling is a large facility, big enough for the unit to fire its 105mm M119A3 howitzers stored at the armory, Sullivan said. The unit also keeps a number of vehicles on hand, including trucks and Humvees.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the regiment has been on three overseas deployments, but Seman said the unit's artillery hasn't been deployed overseas since World War II.

The 134th Field Artillery Regiment was named in 1917 and was preceded by militia artillery organized in 1839, said Guard public information officer Stephanie Beougher. Delaware County volunteers were organized for the War of 1812, Mexican-American War and Civil War, she said, in the era preceding standing reservist units.

Balancing job, family and civilian life with military duty is a constant for Guardsmen, Seman said.

"That soldier is committing an awful lot to the Guard when he says, 'Hey, I'm going to do basically 24 days a year, two weeks a year and two days a month,' because it's affecting their career a little bit. ... I think it's a noble thing for an individual civilian to say, 'I'm going to keep maintaining my civilian life and try to maintain my family, and I'm going to provide myself to be available to the governor and president of the United States for my fellow citizens.'

"I think that's a pretty bold thing to do nowadays. That wasn't always the case," Seman said. "It's not that they have to. There's no draft and we're not in immediate danger of an attack on Ohio. It's something they want to do."

Most employers, he said, seem more than willing to cooperate when their workers need time off for Guard training.

"There's a lot of support from employers" who often understand military training has benefits that transfer over to the workplace, he said.

The 134th Field Artillery has performed different roles during its deployments, Sullivan and Seman said.

In 2004, the unit was deployed to Europe, where it helped protect air and missile bases in several countries.

During a 2008 deployment to Kuwait, it safeguarded ammunition supplies at a Navy base.

As part of a task force in Afghanistan in 2011-12, it provided security for convoys traveling to combat outposts.

When called to active duty, the unit spends several months preparing for its mission before heading overseas, Sullivan said.

That's a contrast to the unit's deployment to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Seman said, when the unit got a phone call saying it was needed in 24 hours.

"A lot of people were very happy to see our troops ... giving out food and water and just seeing that somebody cared enough to be there," he said.

The unit also was called up to assist law enforcement during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Beougher said no serious incidents occurred during the call-up, when the unit was given assignments by and maintained contact with local law enforcement.

Sullivan said the unit anticipates no deployments in the near future.

Delaware's previous National Guard armory stood at 79 W. William St. from 1915 until it was demolished in 2011. That armory housed Company C of 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry, in October 2001 when 100 of its members were called to active duty for operations associated with homeland defense.

Company C became the 585th Military Police Company and moved to Marysville in 2008. Delaware was without a Guard unit until Alpha Battery and the headquarters company moved to the new armory in 2015 from Marion and Columbus, respectively.

Today, Sullivan said, Alpha Battery has five officers and 80 enlisted men. Its members are from across Ohio, and the battalion's other units are at Piqua, Marysville and Mansfield. Fourteen full-time Guard employees work at the Delaware armory.

Guardsmen stay overnight during drills at the armory, which has a gym, a kitchen, a conference room and plenty of office space.

Sullivan said the Guard has a close working relationship with the YMCA, which often uses space in the armory for different events.

The YMCA "does a pretty good job of working with us," Seman said. "I think it's a good relationship."

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