November 1, 2011: The purpose of State Defense Forces (SDF) in the United States is to have an organized and disciplined force to take up the peacetime roles of a state's National Guard especially in the responsibility of emergency response. The National Guard (originally the colonial militias) has gradually become a form of reserve force for the Department of Defense, and can be "federalized" (mobilized for service with the regular military) on short notice. This leaves states short of forces. For non-Americans, it's important to remember that the fifty states in the United States retain many powers and structures of sovereign states. It's not called the United "States" for nothing.
Meanwhile, the combat and military police roles of several SDFs have been eliminated or reduced. There are several reasons for this. One is tactical; there is a perceived need for emergency response forces, not back up for the police. The other is pragmatic; the high cost of insurance for an authorized armed force.
By statue or by simple preference, state defense forces are open mostly to retired soldiers, sailors and airmen. Some state forces are holding units of specialists and professionals who are activated to be advisers to local and state authorities in times of emergency and have no tactical formations. In that instance prior military service is not an issue. Some SDF have aviation units with the aircraft provided by the members. They are trained in performing emergency support missions.
While these state forces cannot come under the command of Federal authorities, they have to be certified by the Office of Military Support in the National Guard Bureau so that they can purchase surplus military equipment. The SDFs are heavily involved in creating Civil Emergency Response Teams and they are a major tool for gaining recruits for state defense forces. Typically most state defense forces are authorized at manning levels that are cadre level. Most SDFs do not have any pay for its members and are purely voluntary.
The major SDFs in the United States are;
Alabama State Defense Force is under the command of the Adjutant General of Alabama. The troop strength is determined by the Governor through executive order. The current level is 1,000. Originally it was to be a force of four infantry brigades. That was revised. It is currently three brigades of four battalions with four companies in each battalion. However not all companies are active. The infantry designation is not used because the force is principally dedicated and trained to provide emergency services to civil authorities in the event of disasters. There is a small training command that provides instructions in basic military skills but no combat training is provided. It is not necessary to have previous military service in order to enlist
Alaska State Defense Force is primarily a civil affairs brigade (originally a military police brigade) plus several search and rescue detachments. Some of these detachments were formerly a part of the now defunct Alaska Naval Militia. Most ASDF members are certified police officers with full arrest powers when on duty and are qualified in small arms.
California State Military Reserve's principal units are attached to large Army and Air National Guard forces. It consists of the following;
40th Aviation Brigade Support Battalion
100th Troop Command Support Brigade
Battle Simulation Center Support Detachments
Small Arms Training Team
115th Area Support Group
128th Rescue Wing Support Detachments
California Center for Military History
Southern Regional Support Command Task Force
1st Brigade Support Detachments
2nd Brigade, 185th Armor, 40th Infantry Division
196th Airlift Wing Support Unit
Connecticut Organized Militia. When the Connecticut National Guard was formed in the latter half of the 19th century, existing militia units were either transferred to it or were abolished. Only four units remained within the Organized Militia; the 1st Company Governor's Foot Guards, the 2nd Company Governor's Foot Guards, the 1st Company Governor's Horse Guards and 2nd Company Governor's Horse Guards. The units are at platoon strength and have only ceremonial missions
Georgia State Defense Force currently has 800 members. The force consists of two brigades of four battalions each, two medical companies and a small support force all at the cadre level. Though trained primarily as a first response organization it can perform basic security. All members receive training in basic military skills. The force reports to the Adjutant General of Georgia.
Indiana Guard Reserve is one of the oldest SDFs. Founded in 1916 as the Liberty Guard, the force is trained primarily in emergency response skills plus basic military skills. It is currently organized in four brigades, a training command and a support command which has military police, medical and engineer elements.
Louisiana State Guard is not a military force by any conventional definition. Instead key state employees are members of the force so they can be mobilized more effectively in order to deal with emergencies. In addition the Sheriff of Bossier Parish in the state has created what he calls a citizen militia named Operation Exodus. It is intended to counter 'terrorist ' threats. The legal status of the force is not clear.
Maryland Defense Force is an organization of 410 professionals and other specialists. Primarily it provides medical, engineering and legal advice to local and state authorities in time of emergencies. Its health service professional are grouped in a medical regiment and its engineering professionals are grouped in a 'corps'. MDF chaplains are assigned to MD National Guard units. It has a small horse cavalry troop that performs ceremonial duties but it also is tasked with urban search and rescue missions.
Massachusetts Organized Militia consists of three units and they are all ceremonial. These are; the National Lancers, which is a company sized horse cavalry unit that reports to the State Director of Militia Affairs. Same with the 26th Division Band. The commander of the third unit, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston reports directly to the Governor. The more recent Massachusetts State Defense Force is in the process of being created. Currently the plan is to raise two battalions for emergency duty service. A third battalion is to be a holding unit for retired officers who would be activated to serve as advisers to authorities during a crisis. When activated it is embedded in the Joint Force HQ of the state National Guard.
Michigan Volunteer Defense Force is organized as a brigade of seven battalions each of four companies. The force is trained as an emergency response organization with no combat capability. It trains its members to be Community Emergency Response Team members as well as having several CERT's within each battalion. It has an authorized strength of 1,560.
Mississippi State Guard apparently only exists on paper.
New Jersey Naval Militia is comprised primarily of professionals whose skills may be needed by state and local authorities in emergency situation.
New Mexico State Guard does not release any figures about the strength or tactical organization of the force. However, it is apparently an emergency response force. It has at least one medical detachment. There are companies or detachments based at every National Guard armory in the state. There is probably the equivalent of a quartermaster truck company in its inventory.
New York Guard is currently it is an emergency response force of five brigades (10th, 14th, 56th, 65th, 88th), a medical clinic and a training institute. There are plans to restructure the force. The New York Air Guard was merged into it several years ago but there no aviation elements in its structure. The separate New York Naval Militia performs duties normally associated with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Ohio Military Reserve was once an organization of four understrength military police brigades. The force is now in the process of being streamlined into a single brigade of two battalions tasked with emergency response and support missions rather than military security. The plan is to expand the OMR's size and create new units primarily for the emergency response role. There is also a Ohio Naval Militia which performs missions associated with the Coast Guard Auxiliary. It is a force of one company.
Oregon State Defense Force is trained for internal security missions. The force is divided into two brigade equivalent forces (the 41st and the 82nd Regimental Groups). Their battalions are called Regimental Operation Teams. The 41st has four teams and the 82nd has three. In addition the OSDF musters a support detachment, a military history detachment/military museum, a pipe band and a small auxiliary.
Puerto Rico State Defense Force's primary role is to provide expert assistance to Commonwealth and local authorities in cases of emergencies. However it also has a search and rescue company that distinguished itself in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.
Rhode Island Militia consists of the Artillery Company of Newport, which is a strictly ceremonial unit. The Company is organized into three batteries.
South Carolina State Guard has both counter-insurgency and emergency management responsibilities. Theoretically it is supposed to be structured like a light infantry division but it has a current authorized strength of only 1,010. Thus all units are at cadre level. It currently has two brigades though it is supposed to have three. In addition it has an aviation detachment, a schools detachment and a provost marshal detachment consisting of a MP company and three staff sections.
Tennessee State Guard has both conventional military and emergency response missions. It has three regiments consisting of one infantry and three MP battalions and one regiment of five MP battalions. It also has a medical command of 21 detachments and a forward support battalion.
Texas State Guard is primarily an emergency response organization though among its stated duties is border surveillance. It has six civil affairs regiments each of 3 battalions a headquarters detachment and a QRT (Quick Response Team) detachment. Each regiment has both a numerical designation and an official nickname honoring a historic Texan unit; 1st (Alamo Guards) ,2nd ( Austin Greys), 4th (Panther City Fencibles), 8th (Terry's Texas Rangers), 19th (Parson's Brigade) and 39th (Roughnecks). In addition there is an Air Division of three wings, a medical brigade of eight companies and area response groups (popularly known as the Texas Medical Rangers) and a Maritime Regiment of three battalions for maritime, coastal and riverine emergencies.
Vermont State Guard is an internal security force. It has five battalions of varying strengths, the 1st with 3 companies, the 2nd with 6 companies, the 3rd with 4 companies, the 4th with 4 companies and the 5th with two companies. In addition there is a medical battalion of two companies and an aviation detachment with the aircraft provided by its members.
Virginia Defense Force is currently limited by law to 1,200 members. It has internal security and emergency response missions plus a specific mission in drug law enforcement. It has three brigades, the Blackhorse with 3 battalions, the Highland with 3 battalions and the Lafayette with one battalion. In addition it has an aviation battalion with the aircraft provided by members, a military police battalion with one company and a troop support command.
Washington State Guard has two infantry brigades with authorized troop strength at the cadre level. -- Scott E. Green