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State defense force


State defense force

State defense forces: army units highlighted in red, naval units in blue, those with both in green, inactive in purple

State defense forces (SDF; also known as state guards, state military reserves, or state militias) in the United States are military units that operate under the sole authority of a state government; they are partially regulated by the National Guard Bureau but they are not a part of the Army National Guard of the United States.[1] State defense forces are authorized by state and federal law and are under the command of the governor of each state.

State defense forces are distinct from their state's National Guard in that they cannot become federal entities. All state National Guard personnel (to include the National Guard of the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands) can be federalized under the National Defense Act of 1933 with the creation of the National Guard of the United States. This provides the basis for integrating units and personnel of the Army National Guard into the U.S. Army and, since 1947, units and personnel of the Air National Guard into the U.S. Air Force.[2]

The federal government recognizes state defense forces under 32 U.S.C. § 109 which provides that state defense forces as a whole may not be called, ordered, or drafted into the armed forces of the United States, thus preserving their separation from the National Guard. However, under the same law, individual members serving in the state defense force are not exempt from service in the armed forces (i.e., they are not excluded from the draft). Under 32 USC § 109(e), "A person may not become a member of a defense force ... if he is a member of a reserve component of the armed forces."

Nearly every state has laws authorizing state defense forces, and 22 states, plus the Commonwealth of

  • National Guard Regulation 10-4, "National Guard Interaction With State Defense Forces", 2011.
  • U.S. Army War College Paper "State Defense Forces and Homeland Security"; Arthus Tulak, Robert Kraft, and Don Silbaugh, 2004.
  • DoD Report to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees on Homeland Defense Force for Homeland Defense and Homeland Security Missions, November 2005 HR Report 108-491.
  • American Legion Magazine "A well-regulated militia," 2008.

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  5. ^ , "When the Korean War broke out and the California National Guard was federalized, it (the California State Military Reserve, then called the California Defense and Security Corps) was renamed the California National Guard Reserves and again filled some of its World War II roles (guarding 'bridges, defense plants, armories and other facilities after the California National Guard was drawn into federal service')."
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  7. ^ 32 Stat. 775 (1903)
  8. ^ 40 Stat. 181 (1917)
  9. ^ 54 Stat. 1206 (1940)
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See also

Notable historical state defense force members

Notable state defense force members

Some States have state defense forces which are not recognized by their state or the State Guard Association of the United States, but are attempting to receive recognition. These include: the Pennsylvania Guard Reserve Force, which is attempting to reactivate the Pennsylvania State Guard; the North Carolina State Guard Association, [138] which is the SGAUS North Carolina Chapter attempting to reactivate the former North Carolina State Defense Militia; the Florida State Defense Force Reactivation Group, which is attempting to reactivate the inactive Florida State Guard;[139] and the District of Columbia Military Reserve [140] which operates in Washington D.C. and is currently working with the DC National Guard and the DC GOV to finalize and receive official recognition.

Non-recognized state defense force

* Colorado does not operate an active state defense force, but rather has a statutory state defense force staffed by one individual appointed by the governor.

State or Territory Status Military Division Naval Division Air Wing State Law Weapons Training
Alabama Inactive Alabama State Defense Force[36] [73] not currently
Alaska Active Alaska State Defense Force[37] Alaska Naval Militia[74] [75] yes
Arizona Not Established [76]
Arkansas Inactive Arkansas State Guard [77]
California Active California State Military Reserve[38] California Naval Militia[78] [79] yes[80]
Colorado Not Established* [81]
Connecticut Active Connecticut State Militia Units[82] Connecticut Naval Militia [83] yes[80]
Delaware Inactive Delaware State Guard [84]
District of Columbia Not Established [85]
Florida Inactive Florida State Guard Florida Naval Militia [86]
Georgia Active [87] Georgia Naval Militia [88] yes
Hawai'i Inactive Hawaii Territorial Guard [89]
Idaho Not Established [90]
Illinois Dissolved Illinois Naval Militia[91] [92] ?
Indiana Active Indiana Guard Reserve[40] Indiana Naval Militia [93] yes[80]
Iowa Inactive Iowa State Guard [94]
Kansas Inactive Kansas State Guard [95]
Kentucky Not Established [96]
Louisiana Inactive Louisiana State Guard [97] ?
Maine Inactive Maine State Guard [98]
Maryland Active Maryland Defense Force[41] [99] not currently
Massachusetts Inactive Massachusetts State Defense Force[42] [100] not currently
Michigan Active Michigan Volunteer Defense Force[101] [102] ?
Minnesota Inactive Minnesota State Guard [103]
Mississippi Active Mississippi State Guard[45] [104] ?
Missouri Active Missouri Reserve Military Force [105]
Montana Not Established [106]
Nebraska Inactive Nebraska State Guard [107]
Nevada Not Established [108] ?
New Hampshire Inactive New Hampshire State Guard [109]
New Jersey Dissolved New Jersey Naval Militia[110][111] [112] ?
New Mexico Active New Mexico State Guard[113] [114] ?
New York Active New York Guard[46] New York Naval Militia[115] [116] yes
North Carolina Inactive North Carolina State Defense Militia[117] [118]
North Dakota Not Established [119]
Ohio Active Ohio Military Reserve[48] Ohio Naval Militia[4] [120] not currently
Oklahoma Inactive Oklahoma State Guard [121] ?
Oregon Temporarily suspended Oregon State Defense Force[122] [123] ?
Pennsylvania Inactive Pennsylvania State Guard [124]
Puerto Rico Active Puerto Rico State Guard[50] yes yes
Rhode Island Inactive Rhode Island State Guard [125]
South Carolina Active South Carolina State Guard[51] South Carolina Naval Militia [126] yes[80]
South Dakota Inactive South Dakota State Guard [127]
Tennessee Active Tennessee State Guard[52] [128] ?
Texas Active Texas State Guard[3] Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment[53] yes [129] yes
Utah Inactive Utah State Defense Force [130]
Vermont Active Vermont State Guard[131] yes [132] ?
Virginia Active Virginia Defense Force[55] inactive [133] no
Washington Active Washington State Guard[56] [134] not currently
West Virginia Not Established [135]
Wisconsin Inactive Wisconsin State Defense Force Wisconsin Naval Militia [136]
Wyoming Not Established [137]
Members of the Virginia Defense Force, Shelter Augmentation Liaison Team.
California State Military Reserve guardsmen provide security for Air Force Two.
A member of the Oregon State Defense Force helps a child try on body armor.
Members of the California State Military Reserve perform squad drills.
The Texas State Guard Medical Brigade deployed in Galveston, Texas.
California State Military Reserve troops undergo Base Security Training.
South Carolina State Guard members during pack training.
California State Military Reserve members during annual training.
Georgia State Defense Force members help recertify Georgia Army National Guard medics in CPR/AED.

The following is a list of active SDFs in the United States and Puerto Rico:

The Texas State Guard's Air Component Command supports the Texas Air National Guard and provides Defense Support to Civil Authorities, (DSCA).[72]

The Puerto Rico State Guard includes an air support component., the 1st Air Base Group, that support the operations of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.

There are currently 21 active state defense forces. A 2005 Department of Defense report reported twenty-three active SDFs in the United States and Puerto Rico.[70] Since this time, New Jersey has suspended its State Defense Force.[71] Per National Guard Regulation 10-4: "Any State, Territory, or District of Columbia, that creates a SDF under 32 USC §109 is solely responsible for the establishment, organization, training, equipping, funding, management and employment of that SDF in accordance with (IAW) its laws"[1]

Active state defense forces

The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both, or by any other means, shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it -
(1) so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

(2) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

In any situation covered by clause (1), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.

10 USC 333 – "Interference with State and Federal law"

Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.

10 USC 332 – "Use of militia and armed forces to enforce Federal authority"

Whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened, call into Federal service such of the militia of the other States, in the number requested by that State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to suppress the insurrection.

10 USC 331 – "Federal aid for State governments"

The Perpich v. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334 (1990)). The Court, however, explicitly noted that it was not deciding this issue.[69] The following is an extract of the laws which the Court cited as possibly giving the federal government authority to activate the state defense forces:

Federal activation

SDFs include a variety of special units including medical, aviation, and ceremonial units. The following are examples:

Special units

State Defense Force Utility Uniforms
Force Branch Tape Reads Branch & Name Tape colors Insignia Head Covering Uniform Type
Alabama State Defense Force[36] ALABAMA[35] White on red[35] Subdued[35] Patrol cap with unsubdued insignia[35]
None, optional baseball cap[35]
BDU & TRU[35]
Navy blue tactical shirt, khaki tactical pants[35]
Alaska State Defense Force[37] ALASKA Black on ACU Black on ACU ACU patrol cap ACU
California State Military Reserve[38] CALIFORNIA[33] Black on ACU
Blue on ABU
Black on ACU ACU patrol cap
ABU patrol cap
[39] GEORGIA Black on ACU Black on ACU ACU patrol cap
Black beret with red flash for special occasions
Indiana Guard Reserve[40] INDIANA Black on ACU Black on ACU Black patrol cap ACU
Maryland Defense Force[41] MARYLAND Black on ACU Black on ACU ACU patrol cap with "Maryland" on back ACU
Massachusetts State Defense Force[42] Massachusetts[43] Black on ACU Black on ACU ACU patrol cap ACU
Michigan Volunteer Defense Force[44] MICHIGAN Black on ACU Black on ACU ACU patrol cap ACU
Mississippi State Guard[45] MISSISSIPPI Black on ACU Black on ACU Patrol cap & subdued insignia
Black beret w/red flash
New York Guard[46] N.Y. GUARD Black on grey (ACU)
Black on olive drab (BDU)
Black on grey (ACU)
Black on olive drab (BDU)
Black patrol cap w/bright rank insignia
Black beret w/ gray flash (Dress Blues Only)
(BDU authorized until 30 September 2013)[47]
Ohio Military Reserve[48] OHIO Black on olive drab Black on olive drab Patrol cap BDU/TRU
Ohio Naval Militia[4] OHIO NAVY Gold/silver on navy blue Gold/silver on navy blue (E-4 & up) Naval style 8-point cover NWU
Oregon State Defense Force[49] OREGON Black on ACU Black on ACU ACU patrol cap with subdued insignia ACU
Puerto Rico State Guard[50] PRSG ARMY
Black on ACU Black on ACU Black beret with yellow & red flash reminiscent of Spanish heraldry ACU
South Carolina State Guard[51] S.C. STATE GUARD Black on ACU Black on ACU ACU Patrol Cap ACU
Tennessee State Guard[52] TN ST GUARD Black on olive drab Black on olive drab Black beret with red flash TRU
Texas State Guard[3] TEXAS STATE GUARD Black on olive drab/ACU (Army) Black on olive drab/ACU Patrol cap ACU
Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment[53] TEXAS STATE GUARD Black on MARPAT Black on MARPAT Eight-point naval cover DDCUU
Vermont State Guard[54] VT STATE GUARD Black on olive drab Black on olive drab patrol cap BDU
Virginia Defense Force[55] VA. DEF. FORCE Black on olive drab Black on olive drab patrol cap BDU/TRU
Washington State Guard[56] WASHINGTON Black on ACU Black on ACU patrol cap or beret with green flash ACU
Missouri Reserve Military Force swearing in ceremony.
Texas State Guard during a Land Navigation joint training exercise.
Georgia Defense Force members unload water and ice in anticipation of incoming Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
Texas State Guardsmen pass out free water after flooding contaminated a local water supply.
Maryland Defense Forces and Maryland Army National Guard participate in a multi-agency disaster exercise at Towson University.

In all cases, the state adjutant general has final say on uniforms worn by state defense forces, though federal service regulations generally shape the policies of each state.

The few states with both SDF air and naval units wear modified USAF and USN/USMC uniforms. Currently, only Ohio, Alaska and New York have uniformed naval militias. Only California, Texas, Vermont, and Puerto Rico have an air wing, though Indiana formerly had an Air Guard Reserve.

Where berets are worn, some state defense forces use a beret flash similar to the one the U.S. Army uses, but in bright red thread instead of the Army's blue. Other states have beret flashes based on the state flag. State soldiers in the New York Guard formerly wore a grey beret flash. (Wear of the beret by New York Guard soldiers has been discontinued, replaced by a black patrol cap.)[32] Uniforms vary from state to state and tend to have only subtle differences. For example, the Texas State Guard wears standard U.S. Army camouflage uniforms (but do not wear a beret unless in dress uniform), a state guard unit patch, and the "U.S. Army" name tape replaced with one reading "Texas State Guard." Similarly, the [34] in the Woodland pattern but whose cut and accouterments match the ACU but cannot mix pieces. The Alabama State Defense Force has also recently introduced a new "Standard Service Uniform" composed of a blue "tactical" shirt, and khaki "tactical" pants.[35]

SDF beret flash used by several states.

As a general rule, state defense forces wear standard U.S. military uniforms with insignia closely matching those of their federal counterparts. SDF units generally wear red name tags on service uniforms (as specifically prescribed by AR 670-1[31] for SDF units when adopting the Army Service Uniform or Battle Dress Uniform (BDU), and name tapes on Army Combat Uniform (ACU) or BDU uniforms use the state defense force name or state name rather than "U.S. Army." Standard U.S. Army branch insignia are often used or a unique "state guard" branch insignia consisting of a crossed musket and sword is alternatively used.

SDF Branch Insignia


While in the past, many state defense forces were organized as military police brigades or infantry brigades, the experiences of recent events such as battalion may have less than 100 members, and a state defense force brigade may have less than 300 soldiers.

Because many members of state defense forces are veterans who have retained ranks received from service in the armed forces, some state defense forces have an inflated grade structure. Advocates reply that the grades worn by state defense force members accurately reflect the many years of experience that veterans (often military or naval retirees) bring to the state forces. Some SDF soldiers use the two-letter state abbreviation in parenthesis after their rank to indicate the origin of their grade. For example, a major in the California State Military Reserve would give his or her rank as "MAJ (CA)." However, numerous states do not practice this notation because many senior commissioned and noncommissioned officers earned their rank while serving at the federal level. Moreover, Army regulations require the service branch title to appear after the rank and name (e.g., COL John S. Smith, CSMR).

Many states organize their state defense force parallel to their National Guard (both Air and Army), having them report to the governor through the state's adjutant general. State defense forces are not funded by the federal government, and in most states members are unpaid. Volunteers have to purchase their own uniforms and most, if not all, of their own equipment.


Weapons qualification and training is provided in some SDFs. However, most SDFs do not require weapons proficiency. A 2006 report by the U.S. Freedom Foundation, an organization affiliated with the State Guard Association of the United States,[30] recommended minimum standards for state defense forces, including weapons training, but the report has been largely ignored. Some SDFs have laws that in the event of deployment by order of the state legislature and/or governor, they will become armed.

State defense forces may incorporate New Mexico State Guard,[27] the 10th Medical Regiment of the Maryland Defense Force,[28] and the Medical Brigade of the Texas State Guard[29] receive training and recognition from the Medical Reserve Corps program sponsored by the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States through the Citizen Corps program, and are simultaneously organized as units of their respective state defense force.

Federal Emergency Management Agency's Citizen Corps. Some states follow the lead of the Army and offer a permanent tab (worn in a similar manner as the Army's Ranger and Sapper tabs) as an incentive to become certified as part of the local or unit CERT team.

The Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) qualification created by the State Guard Association of the United States has become a common training focal point among state defense forces. Alabama, California, Indiana, Texas, Ohio and others have adopted the MEMS Badge as a basic qualification required of all members desiring promotion. Training is conducted both online, and through MEMS academies in each state, and includes course material provided by FEMA and other agencies, as well as practical experience in local disaster planning and exercise management.[26]

Training standards vary widely, but usually require only 15 days of annual drill, compared to the absolute minimum of 38 days (if not more) required of most federal military reserve forces. Unlike the U.S. military, there is generally only a limited period of basic training, often as few as four days for persons with no prior military experience, significantly less than the ten weeks of basic training required, for instance, by the United States Army.

A Virginia National Guardsman speaks to a member of the Virginia Defense Force during the 2015 Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia.
. Absence Without LeaveMany state defense forces allow enlistment "at will" and personnel are under no termed service obligation, unlike most conventional military forces, meaning they can simply quit at any time without facing charges of desertion or

Some state defense forces have minimal enlistment requirements, permitting virtually any citizen under a prescribed age (usually 66) to join, even if they have no previous military experience, or don't meet conventional military physical standards (California, for instance, requires no physical fitness test prior to entry and has weight/height standards significantly more relaxed than the U.S. military).[24] Others, such as Tennessee, normally require personnel to have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military, or have a professional background in a critical skill such as engineering or medicine.[25]

Personnel and training


Several bills have been unsuccessfully introduced in Congress since the early 1990s seeking to improve the readiness of state defense forces. The most recent, H.R. 206, introduced in 2009 by Rep. Jim Marshall and Frank Wolf. Congress took no action on the measure before adjourning.[23]

A 2003 article in the United States Army War College's Parameters journal recommended that "United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM) should ensure that future contingency planning efforts for homeland security operations fully incorporate the valuable capabilities that State Defense Forces can provide." [22] In the decade following that article, however, no significant action has been taken on the recommendation.


Due to public fears over the Jade Helm 15 exercises held throughout a number of southwestern states, on April 28, 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas ordered a call-up of the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercises and facilitate communication between US special operations forces conducting training and the governor's office. [21]

An April 2014 Department of Defense report by the Inspector General's office reported confusion and inconsistency among state adjutant generals as to the use and status of state defense forces. The IG's office reported an under-utilization of state defense force capabilities due to a lack of clarity in US code regarding the use of SDFs, fueling fear that using funds and assets acquired through the federal government for state defense forces could run afoul of regulations. (While the National Guard is operated by the states, most of their equipment and funding comes from the federal government.) This fear of violating regulations also inhibited their use and integration with their National Guard counterparts, preventing them from conducting joint operations alongside one another, and also from volunteering in support of federally-run missions. Other problems cited by the Inspector General's office were a lack of standardization in training and physical fitness, raising questions as to the ability of SDFs to work alongside their National Guard counterparts, and a lack of coordination with and support from the Department of Defense. During a survey conducted by the Inspector General of SDF commanders and adjutant generals, 18 of 19 considered their SDFs to be part of the organized militia and subject to the Code of Military Justice, 14 of 18 considered the members of SDFs to be "soldiers", 14 of 18 considered SDF personnel to be "lawful belligerents" under the rules of war, and only 4 of 19 authorized their personnel to conduct firearms training. Almost all of the missions reported to the IG's office were non-military in nature, including small-scale search and rescue, disaster management, and other unarmed, homeland security related-tasks.[20]

Further controversy was stoked by a New York Times report which found many senior officers in the New York Guard had little or no formal military training despite holding, in some cases, general officer ranks. The former commander of the force, Pierre David Lax, noted that, "if you are friendly with the governor and you always wanted to be a general, you ask the governor to make you a general, and poof, you are a brigadier general." Another former commander asserted he regularly awarded titles to members of the New York legislature in exchange for their support of budgetary allocations to the force. The report also noted that a majority of the unit's rare deployments involved providing ceremonial support, such as bands and color guards, to the state government.[19]

With the end of the Cold War came a general decrease of interest in state defense forces. The attacks of September 11, 2001, however, generated additional attention and, with it, greater scrutiny from some in the United States military who questioned the training and equipment of the units and whether they provided an outlet for "warrior wannabes" who would not otherwise qualify for service in the armed forces.[16] In 2008, Alaska disarmed its state defense force after an investigation concluded the lack of training intensity or standardization was a potential legal liability to the state.[17] By 2010 the status of the force had been downgraded even further, with the Adjutant-General of the Alaska National Guard informing volunteers that they would only be called upon as a "reserve of last resort to be used only in the most extreme emergencies.”[18]

Members of the Virginia Defense Force and the Virginia National Guard operate a mobile command post.

Modern era

By the late 1980s, however, a series of high-profile reports caused several states to shut down or significantly restructure their forces. In 1987, the governor of Utah removed all but 31 officers from its state defense force, the Utah State Guard, after a probe revealed that its ranks were "peppered with neo-Nazis, felons and mental patients."[14] Meanwhile, in 1990, the Virginia General Assembly launched an investigation and subsequent overhaul of its state's force after receiving tips that the volunteers were "saving money to buy a tank."[15]

In 1956, Congress finally revised the law and authorized "State defense forces" permanently under Title 32, Section 109, of the United States Code.[11] Two years later, Congress amended the law and changed the name from "State defense forces" to "defense forces."[12] Still, it was not until the early Ronald Reagan administration that many states developed their defense forces into elements that existed beyond paper, when the U.S. Department of Defense actively encouraged states to create and maintain SDF units.[13]

In 1950, with the outbreak of the Korean War and at the urging of the National Guard, Congress reauthorized the separate state military forces for a time period of two years. These state military forces were authorized military training at federal expense, as well as "arms, ammunition, clothing, and equipment," as deemed necessary by the Secretary of the Army.[10] At the end of the two years, however, they were not reauthorized under federal law.

Cold War

In 1933, Congress finalized the split between the National Guard and the traditional state militias by mandating that all federally funded soldiers take a dual enlistment/commission and thus enter both the state National Guard and the newly created National Guard of the United States, a federal reserve force. In 1940, with the onset of Army National Guard and a separate Air National Guard. The former would continue to be composed of traditional Army ground units and those aviation assets (certain helicopters and observation/liaison aircraft) unique to Army Aviation, while the latter would consist of those National Guard units that had heretofore been part of the former U.S. Army Air Forces and would now be operationally-gained by the newly established Air Force.

During World War I, Congress authorized the states to maintain Home Guards, which were reserve forces outside the National Guard forces that were then being deployed by the Federal Government as part of the National Army. The Secretary of War was authorized to furnish these Home Guard units with rifles, ammunition, and supplies.[8]

From its founding until the early 1900s, the United States maintained only a minimal army and relied on state [7]




  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Cold War 1.2
    • Modern era 1.3
    • Future 1.4
  • Structure 2
    • Personnel and training 2.1
    • Organization 2.2
    • Uniforms 2.3
    • Special units 2.4
    • Federal activation 2.5
  • Active state defense forces 3
  • Non-recognized state defense force 4
  • Notable state defense force members 5
  • Notable historical state defense force members 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

[5].National Guard Reserves As governors often use state defense forces to augment their state's Army National Guard and Air National Guard units, state defense forces have been both officially and informally called [4][3]

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