NEWINGTON — Several hundred members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing National Guard applauded Wednesday morning when a Minuteman statue was unveiled in honor of their citizen solider tradition.

Guard Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Heiman stated that Guardsmen “relate to and identify with” their role as minutemen or citizen soldiers.

“There’s a lot of members in our organization that recognize that this is long overdue for many of us,” Heiman said, shortly before the 6-foot tall Minuteman statue that sits on a 4-foot granite base was unveiled.

The statue is located at the entrance to the guard base at the Pease International Tradeport, formerly home of the Pease Air Force Base.

It depicts a Minuteman solider holding a plow in his left hand a musket in his right.

Guard Captain Michael Petrin said after the ceremony the plow and musket “symbolizes the farmer in the field who in a minute’s notice becomes a soldier.”

Heiman noted that the state’s history of fielding its local militia “goes back as far as 1680 and they were referred to as minutemen.”

“They trained quickly and they were able to respond in a minute’s notice,” Heiman said Wednesday. “Many years after, New Hampshire designated our militia as the New Hampshire National Guard.”

“During that time local citizens and farmers would put down their plows and would take up arms in an effort to establish freedom and defend the homeland,” he added.

Nearly 70 percent of the 157th Air National Guard force members are part-time soldiers who serve as “traditional citizen soldiers,” he said.

The statue will also feature a plaque that is not yet finished and will be lighted passersby can see it.

Brig. Gen. Laurie M. Farris, the commander of the N.H. Air National Guard, recalled driving into the base and seeing the sign identifying the wing.

But then an airman came up to her and said, “What about the Minuteman?”

“They were absolutely correct,” she said during Wednesday’s ceremony. “I want everybody who drives through this gate to realize we are the militia, we are the New Hampshire Air National Guard … and we deserve the Minuteman. I’m glad you guys made this happen.”

She praised the Guardsmen who attended Wednesday’s ceremony for their work, telling them “we’re right there with the active duty, we’re just as good as the active duty but we’re better because we cost a lot less.”

She noted the fact the Air Force’s new tanker plane -- the KC-46A Pegasus – is coming to the 157th wing “at the exact same time” it goes to an active duty base, shows how well the Guardsmen are thought of.

“That shows all the work this organization has done,” she said. “I can’t wait till August drills when everybody drives through and they all see this.”

Airman Igor Nunes helped pull the cover off the statue during Wednesday’s ceremony.

He was chosen in part, Heiman said, to applause, because he became an American citizen on July 4. After the ceremony, Nunes said becoming a citizen was “a requirement for me to continue my service in the military.”

“So it was a big thing for me and it feels fantastic,” he said.

Nunes, who came to America from Brazil when he was 10, said he initially didn’t think his naturalization ceremony was going to be “a big deal.”

“When it started all those feelings started to come together and we had the governor there speaking and the two senators, it was great,” he said. “I’m very proud.”