Watch CBS News

Ready for anything: A day in the life of the Massachusetts National Guard

What it takes to be a member of the Massachusetts National Guard
What it takes to be a member of the Massachusetts National Guard 07:15

BUZZARDS BAY – The Massachusetts National Guard has filled critical roles for centuries. So just what does it take to be a member of the country's oldest unit?

WBZ-TV's Anna Meiler and Jacob Wycoff went to Joint Base Cape Cod to get a first-hand look at what it's like to be a member.

The Massachusetts National Guard was founded in the 1630s. They've seen combats from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Exercises at Joint Base Cape Cod include running, pulling weights, lugging kettle balls, plenty of pushups and running some more. But it isn't just about being physically tough. It's about being mentally tough as well.

Jacob Wycoff does pushups as part of National Guard training. CBS Boston

About 6,000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard train at armories across the state once a month, with many reporting to Cape Cod for annual training.

They have to pass a fitness test twice a year to be ready to respond to anything.

"We're your neighbors, your teachers at school ready to hang up chalk and put on uniforms to serve the community," Master Sgt. Geoffrey Allen said.

And for those brave enough to rappel out of Black Hawk helicopter, there is the Air Assault School. That includes 10 days of intense training that starts with an obstacle course.

"People come here from all over New England. The units will identify their top people who are motivated and physically fit and they'll send them here for this class," Allen said.

The Massachusetts National Guard meals include pizza that can last for three years. CBS Boston

After a day of rigorous training, Wycoff and Meiler sat down to dig into MREs, which stands for Meals Ready to Eat. They are also jokingly referred to as "meals rarely edible."

The MREs are developed at Natick Labs. Scientists worked for about two decades to come up with a high demand menu item – pizza that can last for three years. The meals are what keep soldiers fueled up in the field.

For more than 380 years, members have served in every major conflict. They were on the ground through the final days of the war in Afghanistan. They also deployed to Washington, D.C. after the January 6 attack on the Capitol. But the majority of their missions are here in Massachusetts.

"We work more directly for the governor and we have a very heavy domestic mission," Allen said.

WBZ-TV's Anna Meiler undergoes Massachusetts National Guard firearm training. CBS Boston

That has meant responding to unexpected tasks throughout the COVID pandemic such as standing up field hospitals and COVID testing sites, driving school buses, and helping with staff shortages at nursing homes and hospitals.

Staff Sgt. Alexandria Richards was among those to answer the call.

"It was a little bit scary at first not knowing what we're getting into being in the front line of being exposed to COVID and stuff knowing I had to go home to my family," Richards said.

There are great benefits to becoming a member of the National Guard, like fully covered tuition to state schools. But at the core, it is desire to help others that pushes members through the toughest moments.

"Even with those benefits you have to have a desire to serve your community. You have to have that empathetic side that you want to be there for your citizens and your neighbors when we get those hurricanes and floods, it's your neighbor you are helping," Allen said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.