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State Defense Force

Over 20 US States Have Official Militaries Not Subject to the Jurisdiction or Command of the Federal Government. They are Known as State Defense Forces.

State Defense Forces are military units in the United States that operate solely under the authority of a state government. They are authorized by the state and federal law and are led by each state’s governor. But do you know how many State Defense Forces are in the US?

Over 20 US states have official militaries that are not subject to federal jurisdiction or command. They are referred to as a State Defense Force.

The History of State Defense

During colonial America, state defense forces were established. To protect colonists from attacks by Native Americans and, later, the French during the French and Indian War, the colonies would draft able-bodied men into the state militia. These state militias would supplement the Continental Army during the American Revolution. From its inception until 1903, the United States maintained a small full-time military, supplemented in times of War by volunteers from state militias.

On the other hand, the Dick Act of 1903 established the National Guard as a state militia that could also be called into war as an army reserve. In 1933, Congress clarified the law further by requiring all National Guard members to take a dual state and federal enlistment or commission. As a result, many states established state defense forces to fill the void left by the deployment of National Guard units.

This meant that states had to form their own forces during World War I and II to guard the now-empty National Guard bases, protect against sabotage, defend borders and coastlines, and respond to disasters. Around 100,000 state guard soldiers guarded key infrastructure during World War I alone.

They have been revitalized recently as states’ National Guard units have been called up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Modern state defense forces typically provide disaster relief and medical or legal specialists who may assist members of the state’s National Guard. (Source: Military History)

What Kind of Equipment Does the State Defense Force Have?

Federal law prohibits the federal government from funding state defense forces. While the state may pay for uniforms, vehicles, and training, state defense forces cannot use federal military or National Guard equipment because the federal government partially funds the National Guard.

However, because training facilities are not considered equipment, most state defense organizations hold drills on local National Guard bases. The 1st Regiment of the Tennessee State Guard is headquartered and drills at the Naval Support Activity Mid-South naval station, which is federal naval property. The individual soldier typically purchases uniforms, but they may be provided by the state defense force or ordered in bulk at a discount.

These uniforms are almost identical to those worn by regular military personnel, with either the BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) or the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) depending on the state, and are frequently adorned with a patch indicating the state defense force designation. 

Although most units supplement the National Guard by filling non-combat roles and thus remain unarmed, many state laws allow the governor to arm these forces in the event of an emergency.

(Source: Military History

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