National center focused on National Guard established in Mississippi

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) signed an agreement on Jan. 23 to establish the Center for the Study of the National Guard on USM’s Hattiesburg, Miss., campus.

USM President Dr. Joseph S. Paul and Richard Clark, Director of the NGB History Office, signed the formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) during a ceremony at the National Guard Memorial, the NGAUS headquarters, in Washington, D.C.

The collaboration between USM and NGB will establish a central repository for archival materials and oral histories to function as an international-level resource for the center for the study of the Guard’s past, present and future.

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“For this National Center to be at The University of Southern Mississippi and at home in Mississippi is of profound significance to Southern Miss and the great State of Mississippi,” said Dr. Paul. “The Center complements our renown Dale Center for the Study of War and Society and the Quinlan Hammond Hall for the support of veterans and families at USM.”

The MOU states collected materials will be housed within the University’s Dale Center for the Study of War and Society, which serves as a resource for the study of the history of warfare and its influence on soldiers and civilians.

Dr. Andrew Wiest serves as Distinguished Professor of History; The General Buford “Buff” Blount Professor of Military History, 2023-2025; and Founding Director, Dale Center at USM. As co-director of the Center of the Study of the National Guard, Wiest said the facility will fill a need for a central repository, or “beehive archive,” for research materials centers like those the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force have.

“The Guard’s documents are out there,” Wiest said, “but they’re scattered to museums, archives, armories and attics all over the country.”

Wiest said he and fellow co-director Kevin Greene felt the Dale Center would be the best place to help centralize these materials.

“We want to make USM an academic home for past and present National Guard service personnel and their families,” Greene said. “A place where their stories of service and sacrifice can be preserved and can be told.”

Per the MOU, the NGB will provide “histories and documents of historical significance to USM as determined to be appropriate by the NGB Historian,” plus facilitate contact between USM and the Guard organizations of the 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia.

USM will preserve the documents and provide public and academic access to the materials. Paul acknowledged the importance of the Guard to Mississippi, calling the force a “hidden giant” in the state’s history.

“The Guard has enabled [men and women] to develop their skills,” he said, “not only changing their lives but those of their families for generations to come, all the while protecting and serving the state of Mississippi in times of hurricanes and tornadoes and defending the security of our nation. Some even made the ultimate sacrifice. I can assure all of you that the curation and development of this history is in good hands at Southern Miss. Professors Weist and Greene are deeply committed to this initiative.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among those who attended the ceremony. Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, a USM graduate and the outgoing NGAUS president, presided over the event.

In addition to University leadership, representatives from the USM Foundation Board of Directors, Southern Miss Alumni Association, Dale Center for the Study of War and Society, Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families, and the City of Hattiesburg were present for the ceremony.