Wartime found them racing toward the Rio Grande in the Mexican-American conflict, storming the beaches of Normandy and confronting Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.
In peace, the Maryland National Guard's 1229th Transportation Company has rescued flood victims, delivered hay to drought-stricken farmers and even played host to weekend basketball games for local kids.
But yesterday Uncle Sam told the Crisfield unit its services were no longer needed. The same message was delivered to the Guard's 1729th Maintenance Company in Havre de Grace -- decisions that mean Maryland will lose $5.2 million annually, most of it in salaries to the 355 citizen-soldiers currently serving with the two outfits.
The word came from the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed reports that had been circulating in Army and National Guard circles for the past year.
If Congress approves, 830 units in 50 states will be cut, eliminating 139,488 slots in 1992 and 1993, with an estimated savings of $2.1 billion. Through 1997, cuts would total 234,000 for a savings of $20 billion.
"That's the only way we can preserve a quality force," Mr. Cheney said yesterday.
But Maryland officials say it won't be the last word.
"General Powell has a tough job downsizing the Department of Defense, but he's dead wrong on how he wants to reduce the National Guard and reserves," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said through a spokesman yesterday.
"I've been working with the head of the National Guard to keep the units in Havre de Grace and Crisfield open. These two units have proven invaluable to our national defense and our ability to respond quickly to disasters here in Maryland," she said.
The two Guard units are authorized for 425 positions, though only 355 are filled. Besides those units, 10 Army Reserve units in Maryland -- from Baltimore to Rockville to Cumberland -- and one small Navy Reserve outfit were scheduled to be disbanded, cuts that will take money out of the pockets of many other Marylanders.
About 1,500 National Guard and military reserve jobs in Maryland were targeted by Mr. Cheney as part of an effort to cut the nation's part-time military forces over the next five years. The cuts must be approved by Congress.