Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi Government’s development of its National Guard dates back to the father of Modern-day Saudi Arabia King Abdulaziz leading up to the late King Fahd, which saw it expand into a strong and advanced military operation. The National Guard has a rich history of development and prosperity, as well as significant cultural and intellectual contributions that are admired and appreciated by citizens, intellectuals, and writers at home and abroad.
In 1954, the kingdom’s leadership decided to develop the office of Jihad and Mujahidin into a new modern form, to coincide with changing times and new challenges the kingdom was facing. A royal decree was issued to form the National Guard, an independent budget was allocated for it, and the decrees, and laws were issued to regulate its work.
After its formation, the Saudi National Guard went through an initiation stage, which extended until 1962 and during which an elite group of fighters armed with rifles and small arms and light weapons were formed.
The year 1962 represents a milestone in the history of the National Guard. During that year the National Guard evolved from a mere group of consisting of traditional desert warriors to a fully functional military establishment. That same year a royal decree appointing the then Prince Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz as commander of the National Guard was issued.
The appointment of King Abdullah as a commander of the National Guard helped him realize his famous statement that the National Guard was not only a military or civil institution, but rather a sophisticated institution that had an effective and influential role in all fields of security, development, and progress. This statement was strengthened further by the choice of Prince Bandar Bin-Abdulaziz as deputy commander of the National Guard in 1967.
In 1999, the International Council for Adult Education in Canada awarded its highest honor to King Abdullah in recognition of his leading role in the field of education and human development, because his command of the National Guard for 38 years had made it a humanitarian and cultural institution first and a military force second.
The fighting and tactical abilities of the National Guard came to into play in 1991 during the temporary occupation of the Saudi town of Al-Khafji by Iraqi forces; units of the National Guard were able to evict the invading forces, and to protect the town during the first Gulf War.
In 1974, King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz signed an agreement with the US army to further advance the National Guard.
The agreement turned the Saudi National Guard from traditional forces and formations into developed highly skilled military troops, incorporating the latest military concepts in organization, armament, and training. The National Guard was then able to include modern brigades of mechanized infantry, armor, artillery, rockets, and radar, military communications networks, military engineering units, supply and provision units, and all the requirements of a modern army.
Since the signing of the development agreement, the National Guard has performed military exercises to demonstrate their newly acquired skills. These Military drills are considered a real test of the guard’s abilities and a means for finding any possible shortcomings. The exercises are carried out with live ammunition under conditions designed to be similar to realistic field conditions. The exercises vary every year in format and location.
King Abdullah is keen to attend these exercises accompanied by the commanders of the National Guard. Many military experts also attend the exercises as spectators and advisors. Intellectuals, writers, a large number of state officials, and journalists from the kingdom and abroad are invited to witness the final stages of the military exercises.
Since 1979, the National Guard Forces has carried out a number of military exercises: Fatih Khayr, Shuruq al-Shams, Saqr al-Jazirah, Al-Dar’iyah, Al-Yamamah, Najd, Al-Arin, Al-Tawhid, Asad al-Jazirah, Al-Majd, Al-Nasr Min Allah, and Mi’awiyat al-Tawhid which was carried out on the occasion of the centennial of establishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
To further the development of the military corps of the National Guard, the duties of the office of the chief of staff of the military corps of the National Guard were transferred to a number of principal units represented by the personnel, operations, supply, provision, and the intelligence corps. These units present the concepts and plans for developing the military corps and the preparedness requirements of the National Guard Forces under all circumstances.
The National Guard has been working to develop its signal corps. Recently a memorandum of understanding was signed with a specialized British corporation to implement a plan to modernize and develop a complete communications network for the National Guard. This eight year project, includes drawing up, implementing, and administering the plan to modernize the communications network, which was constructed more than 15 years ago. The plan will be put into practice in a number of stages, including the drawing up of precise specifications for the National Guard systems and machines, securing them, operating them, constructing the necessary installations, and providing the necessary supplies and administrative support. This will take place with special attention to the training of the national cadres in various fields and specialties and raising the standard of their scientific and practical qualifications in order to carry out the administration and operation of all stages of the project.
In 1978, King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz signed an agreement with the British Government that included the provision of the latest telecommunications machines and equipment, the training of the National Guard technicians to operate and maintain them, and the preparation of the domestic communications and telecommunications networks for operating via satellites.
The National Guard includes the supply and provision corps, which is a developed support unit that includes hundreds of qualified Saudi technicians and advanced machines and equipment enabling it to perform its duties in the best possible way across vast areas of the kingdom.
From the establishment of the National Guard schools in 1965 till today, King Abdullah has been keen to develop these learning institutions in order to provide the necessary training to the officers and soldiers of the National Guard in all military aspects. In 1966, an agreement to develop the efficiency of the mechanized infantry battalions was signed, and LAF vehicles were introduced into the service of the National Guard units.
In 1994 the noncommissioned officers school was approved and incorporated into the military schools of the National Guard in order to attract qualified Saudi youths. In the same year, the chemical defense wing was approved and incorporated into the joint forces school in order to undertake the task of raising the training standards of direct firing squads. The military and technical schools have kept in step with the development of the National Guard units in armament, organization, and training, and have worked relentlessly to prepare and develop a suitable training curriculum that satisfy the training needs of the National Guard. The National Guard schools consist of the schools command, the training department, the supply and provision school, the physical education school, the schools battalion, the English language school, the joint forces school, the school of support and fighting services and the Koran school and the music and noncommissioned officers school.
The National Guard military college is provided with the latest equipment and is built in the latest architectural designs. Its commander is Staff Lt Gen Mitib Bin-Abdulaziz, who is also the deputy commander of the military corps. The college supervises the training of officers and their scientific, cultural, and military qualifications. Graduations started in 1984.
Despite the fact that the effective strike force of the National Guard is represented by modern joint forces and their support units, the National Guard has kept the Mujahidin (warriors) groups with their special uniform, armaments, and mission as a sign of loyalty to the Guard’s ancestral roots and as a symbol of the Mujahidin generation that united the kingdom.
A cavalry corps has been established to preserve the original Arab heritage represented by chivalry, preparedness, and protection and preservation of Arab stallions. This unit participates in the celebration of official festivities and occasions, in official receptions, and in supporting the National Guard units when necessary.
While the National Guard, within the framework of its military mission, focuses on building its armed forces and consolidating its military defense capabilities in the fields of armaments, administration, and training, it has not neglected its (cultural) mission. The two missions continue in parallel to implement a comprehensive civilized vision within the framework of the correct creed and the eternal Islamic Shariaa. For this purpose, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz established a guidance program, health programs, housing and new cities programs, education and cultural programs, an administrative development program, a media and cultural program, and sports programs. This is in addition to the programs of social participation in the pilgrimage season to serve God’s guests, in the environment and tree-planting week, during cultural conferences and seminars, in awareness programs, and in reviving the heritage by sponsoring the annual national festival of heritage and culture.