Monday, July 13, 2009

I am a member of the American Legion. Subsequent to reviewing some articles about Hurricane Katrina and the roles of several state guard organizations in providing support I came across this article in the American Legion Magazine. The author identifies the need for greater implementation of the huge manpower and material resources that are available from American companies, local governments and citizen volunteers that are not being tapped in this time of increasing peril.

Magazine Story

A well-regulated militia

At a time of extended National Guard war deployments, state defense forces cannot be forgotten. In fact, they should be strengthened.


When America's founding fathers authored the documents that gave birth to the new republic, they strongly held that few institutions are more important than a well-regulated militia. Large-standing armies, they believed, could become instruments of tyranny. According to consensus, it would be better to rely on volunteer citizen-soldiers to take up arms in times of crisis. Signers of the Constitution enshrined the right of individual states to raise and maintain their own home guards, and local militia became one part of the bedrock of good governance and a vital instrument for the preservation of American liberty.

Since then, the concept of a citizen militia has grown and adapted to suit the needs of a changing nation. One of the first U.S. laws, the Militia Act of 1792, required all free white males between 18 and 45 to arm themselves and attend local musters. The law was never seriously enforced, and over the course of the century, militias consisted mostly of local volunteer military organizations that varied widely in scope and character. While the militia never evolved quite as Congress intended, citizen service became ingrained in American culture. During the Civil War, for example, Union volunteer forces dwarfed the numbers of the regular Army. The citizen-soldier concept became more formalized in the wake of the Spanish-American War, and by the outbreak of World War I, the American militia system was much more regularized, as it is today in the form of the Army and Air National Guard.

One element of a well-regulated volunteer militia, state defense forces, doesn't get much attention but could play a vital role in keeping the nation safe, free and prosperous in the 21st century, especially during a time of extended war-zone deployments by National Guard units. U.S. law allows states to raise and maintain SDFs. As the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, they can be an important supplement to the National Guard, particularly during disasters. When trained, disciplined and well-organized, local responders can provide immediate aid and security. Congress and the Bush administration should encourage states to better organize, train and equip these volunteer units. State to state, the levels of interest and support for SDFs vary greatly, from the vital and strong to the nonexistent.

Prominence to Passé and Back Again. State defense forces first rose to prominence during World War I, when most National Guard troops were federalized and shipped overseas. A few states, mostly in the Northeast, organized formal "home guards" made up of local volunteers. About 100,000 armed and trained SDF volunteers guarded key infrastructures and secured the coastlines and land frontiers during the war.

During World War II, about 200,000 of these home-guard volunteers, with U.S. War Department support, replaced the mobilized National Guard. California, for example, was so concerned with the threat of Japanese sneak attack that it spent $40 million on its guard during the course of the war. After Pearl Harbor, the California State Guard expanded to 20,000 members. During the Cold War, many states relied on their defense forces to support civil-defense missions.

The Special Defense Force program was revived in 1980, on the premise that SDF personnel would have to replace the National Guard on the home front if troops were mobilized to fight in Europe. The total number across the nation peaked at about 20,000.

As the Cold War wound down, interest in the state forces lapsed. With the implementation of the total-force concept at the Pentagon and the success of the all-volunteer military, Washington increasingly emphasized the National Guard, increasing its funding, training, modernization and professionalism. As a result, states were content to rely on the Guard. Also at the time, concerns over civil defense had waned. Many state adjutant generals cut funding, ignored or even disbanded their SDF units. Post-Cold War SDFs throughout the United States soon became loosely organized volunteer organizations serving mostly in ceremonial capacities, along with a few small but effective state organizations. Currently, 23 states maintain state defense forces of some kind, with a nationwide total of about 14,000 personnel.

Now, however, with increasing worries over homeland security and natural disasters - along with the frequent and extended deployment of National Guard units - some states have renewed their interest in the SDF concept. One of the greatest values of the program is that it requires absolutely no new legal framework. States can build robust, practical, efficient organizations under existing authorities. The Constitution and U.S. Code Title 32, Sec. 309, authorize state defense forces. An SDF is under the command of the governor and reports to the state's adjutant general. The state's constitution and laws prescribe the force's duties and responsibilities.

Unlike the National Guard, SDFs are state-only and not funded by the federal government. In order to use armories, train at military installations and receive in-kind support, states have to comply with federal standards for the National Guard in matters of accession, training, uniforms and discipline. SDF personnel receive no pay for training but may be paid for active duty under state control.

Called to Duty. Hurricane Katrina revived public awareness of SDFs. Several thousand home-guard personnel from at least eight states helped in the aftermath of the 2005 disaster along the Gulf Coast. Louisiana activated all of its SDF units. About 150 members were used in support of the Louisiana National Guard. Mississippi also activated all of its state guard personnel, principally in support of the Army National Guard, to provide security and to operate shelters. Under the direction of the adjutant general, Alabama SDF personnel assisted in providing security and supporting operations of the Alabama National Guard.

The Texas State Guard activated more than 1,000 members to paid active duty. Medical and military police units received evacuees at Kelly Air Force Base and supported operations at the Houston Astrodome, and at shelters in four other locations within Texas. Georgia SDF personnel were activated on unpaid status to process evacuees through Dobbins Air Reserve Base, and to provide medical and administrative support and security for shelters. Virginia used about 100 unpaid volunteers as part of the Katrina response operation. This allowed additional members of the Virginia National Guard to deploy to the Gulf Coast. Members of the Virginia defense force assisted in the deployment of National Guard units and provided security for armories. The Tennessee State Guard was alerted Sept. 1 and activated 150 volunteers to secure and support shelter operations at several locations.

The Maryland Defense Force Medical Command made one of the most notable and interesting deployments. Within five days of the storm, the command had organized and was ready to send in 22 medical and support personnel to help with relief efforts. The team was linked with 68 volunteers drawn from health and mental-hygiene offices across the state. It was a unique mix that combined desperately needed medical services with a military-like command-and-control headquarters that could arrange transportation and support. In effect, the medical volunteers instantly became a temporary SDF team. The new unit was virtually created on the tarmac before two Maryland Air National Guard C-130 crews flew the volunteers straight into the disaster area. The command set up six treatment stations and provided care for more than 6,000 victims.

A Renewed Role. Katrina demonstrated the difference between a normal disaster and a catastrophe. Normal disasters call for a cascading response: local community resources have primary responsibility and, when their resources are overwhelmed, they seek aid from the state. When state assets are exhausted, the federal government steps in. The process usually takes days.

In catastrophic disasters, state and local responders are stressed from the start. In these situations, it is vital to draw on volunteer groups to help until federal authorities can mobilize.

State governors have great responsibility for preparedness and response to catastrophic emergencies, but they have few resources available to them other than their National Guards. SDFs provide a low-cost way for states to increase capability and to organize other volunteer groups during times of crisis. However, they have received hit-and-miss attention. Some state adjutant generals want strong and effective SDFs as part of their state military departments. Others resist SDFs because of the additional burden of managing them. Historically, the Pentagon has offered little support or advice to states about SDFs. While the Department of Homeland Security promotes volunteer participation in national preparedness and response programs, it, too, has paid scant attention to SDFs.

Neglecting this kind of service is a mistake. With National Guard forces being called to active duty more frequently than at any time since the Korean War, the need for SDFs to provide backup support to the states is not only apparent - it's obvious.

Making It Work. A special defense force should be at the core of any state's volunteer services in times of crisis. SDFs, according to some estimates, could muster up to 250,000 volunteers throughout the country to help handle disasters anywhere, providing a plethora of services from medical aid to rebuilding infrastructure.

Congress can help by establishing a legislative framework to require appropriate cooperation between DoD, Homeland Security and state governments on SDF matters. One bill, the State Defense Force Improvement Act, was introduced by U.S. Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn. The act seeks congressional recognition of state defense forces as "an integral military component of the nation's homeland security effort" under state control, and for use at the state level in accordance with state laws. The measure would also authorize the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to provide limited support for SDF at no direct cost to the federal government.

States do not have to wait for Washington. Texas, Maryland and others offer a number of models and best practices that can be adopted right now to make local SDF units more robust and effective. State officials and local leaders can achieve a great deal at little cost if they invest only a modest amount of effort in establishing, organizing or revitalizing their SDF capabilities.

In the national debate over how the United States can best respond to major disasters such as Katrina, Washington does not have all the answers. Strong community response through volunteer groups, such as state defense forces, is an essential part of preparedness and is not too far from what the founding fathers had in mind.

James Jay Carafano, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, is an expert in military defense and
homeland security at The Heritage Foundation.
A former assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he is the author of many books and studies.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vermont State Guard

TheVermont State Guard appears to be larger, or at least more diverse and geographically extensive than most such. From the web site:


The Vermont State Guard (VSG) is authorized under Title 32, Section 109(C) United States Code; Title 20, Part 3, Chapter 61, Vermont State Statues. Executive Order Number 67, dated 26 April 1982 signed by Richard A. Snelling, Governor of Vermont established the Vermont State Guard. The Vermont State Guard is recognized as a State Defense Force by the National Guard Bureau by NGB regulation 10-4.

In accordance with the Vermont State Statutes Title 20, the Vermont State Guard is to, in the long-term, establish an Emergency Corps for the purpose of providing Internal Security and Public Safety.

In order to be duly prepared in accordance with Executive Order 67, the Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) utilizes three classifications of membership participation as follows:

Cadre: member participation in excess of 75% annually.

Reserve Cadre: member participation in excess of 50% annually.

Emergency: member participates in excess of 5% annually.


The mission of the Vermont State Guard is to be duly prepared to perform tasks of Internal Security and Public Safety, as ordered by the Governor of the State, under the direction of The Adjutant General State of Vermont

The Vermont State Guard is looking for dedicated men and women who are ready to volunteer to serve their state. Former military service members or experienced civilian career trained individuals, between the ages of 17 and 70 and possessing the skills, knowledge and commitment needed to perform organizational readiness and multi-tasking in an emergency, are desired by the Vermont State Guard.

17 to 70... now that is more like the traditional militia concept.

The Vermont State Guard is to be trained to perform multi-tasks for Internal Security and Public Safety operations. Areas of concentration are, but not limited to, the following:

-Safety traffic control
-Security patrol
-Shelter Management
-Emergency Medical Operations
-Mass care
-Support of the military community and their families
-Conduct emergency response training to VSG members and other individuals in the community.
The TOand E shows 4 general officers, 5 battalions composed of a total of 19 companies, an air wing (as in Air Force??), an army aviation unit, and a medical battalion spread across the state with some communities hosting units as small as the the squad level. Here is the application form. Could it be any simpler?

Print and complete the application below and submit to:

Vermont National Guard
Green Mountain Armory
Attn: Colonel S
uzanne Devoid
Vermont State Guard
Vermont National Guard Road
Colchester, VT 05446-3099

(Application Form - Web Download)

ZIP CODE: _____________

(VSG Use Only)

Name: Date of Birth: M q F q


E-mail Address:
Home Tel: Work Tel: Cell #: Fax: #:
Social Security Number:

Civilian Education Level:
ivilian occupation(s):
Special interest, talents, hobbies, avocations, licenses, etc.:

Have you ever been convicted of a felony: NO YES ___ (Explain):

Prior military service: YES NO , If yes what branch

Highest rank or grade attained: Job title(s):

Insert years of service as applicable (YY - YY):

Nat'l Guard
Active Duty
■ Army ......................................................................

■ Air Force ...............................................................

■ Marines Corps .....................................................
■ Navy ........................................................................

■ Coast Guard .........................................................

■ US Public Health Service ...................................................................................................

■ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commission Corps ..............

q I certify that I am of good health and would be available to serve if asked by proper authority.
q I am interested in being considered for current membership CADRE STATUS in the VSG.
q I am interested in being placed on the waiting list for future consideration RESERVE STATUS in the VSG.
I am interested in being placed on the waiting list for future consideration EMERGENCY STATUS in the VSG.

Applicant Signature: Date:
Position(s) considered:
Recruiter Signature: Date:
Recruiter's Unit:

VSG Use Only:
Assigned to: Roster No. BN Co Assigned Position # Co Attached

VTSG Pam 600-1 (June 24, 2002)