World War II

The North Carolina State Guard was officially established as a state defense force on 27 February 1941 when the North Carolina National Guard was mobilized into federal service during World War II. The State Guard actually began organizing in early February with the appointment of officers, and the mustered strength reached a high of 2,128 by 1944. With the return of the National Guard, units began being inactivated in 1946, and the State Guard was completely disbanded by July 1947.


Joint Resolution 987 of the North Carolina General Assembly ratified 27 June 1995 honored the efforts and assistance of the members of the NCSDM and expressed appreciation for the service that the members rendered to their respective communities, counties, and to the State of North Carolina.[5]

Historical North Carolina militias

The North Carolina Provincial Congress authorized a militia in 1775 for the American Revolution. The militia continued after the war. In 1836, the North Carolina General Assembly of 1836–1837 passed a law establishing a permanent militia. The law enrolled all free white males between the ages of 18 and 45 in the State Militia. Exceptions were given for certain public officials and other occupations. Free black males could only be enrolled as musicians in the militia. The division, brigade, and regiment structure of the militia was prescribed and included each county.[8]

Historical State Defense Forces

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State Defense Forces

Federal law allows, but does not require, states to maintain their own defense forces, separate from the National Guard. Today, SDFs exist in 22 states and Puerto Rico. “State defense force” is a generic term; the official name is up to each governor. Forces are variously known as State Military Reserves, State Guards, State Military Forces, and, in Connecticut, the Governor’s Foot and Horse Guard Units. They range in size from ten members to 2,000; the New York Guard currently has about 550 members. Nationwide, some 14,000 men and women serve in SDFs—a modest but meaningful force to augment the 450,000 troops of the Army and Air National Guard.

State defense forces tend to attract former members of the National Guard or active-duty branches looking to extend their military service in a somewhat less demanding role. Not surprisingly, SDF membership skews old: in most states, the median age hovers between 45 and 60. But young recruits show up, too—like Lauren Guzman, a sergeant in the Texas State Guard who also happened to be crowned Miss Texas USA in 2014. State guard ranks also include doctors, lawyers, and engineers, for whom SDFs represent an attractive blend of pro bono service and patriotism. Training, drilling, and other routine tasks are all done on a volunteer basis. Members even buy their own uniforms. SDF troops get paid only when called into active duty by the governor—generally in cases of emergency.

New recruits typically must undergo introductory training—usually for one week, rather than the army’s nine-week basic training—and commit to a certain number of mandatory training days. New York mandates a weeklong training every summer, while in California, SDF members must attend one drill day per month. Training generally focuses on emergency-management skills—for example, establishing food distribution centers after a disaster. Equipment is minimal: SDFs may get surplus military equipment from the state, but more often, they use assets belonging to the National Guard or other state agencies. Notwithstanding their status as a militia with an inherent right to “bear arms,” most SDFs don’t authorize their members to carry weapons.

SDFs undertake a wide variety of missions. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the New York Guard’s 244th Medical Detachment treated 844 patients, mostly at or around Ground Zero, while the New Jersey Naval Militia ferried rescue workers and transported evidence. Not long afterward, lawyers in the New York Guard began drafting wills and related documents for National Guardsmen deploying to Afghanistan. State forces have helped protect vital infrastructure, including nuclear power plants and the Alaskan oil pipeline. During natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and the November 2014 blizzard in western New York, SDF troops set up food distribution centers, provided medical care, and assisted with other relief efforts.

SDFs, along with the National Guard, reflect the Constitution’s complicated solution to the problem of allocating military power in a federal republic. The Framers gave Congress power to raise a standing army—a power it lacked under the Articles of Confederation—but they also guaranteed to the states the right to maintain militias, as they had done since colonial times. Though militias were understood to be primarily state forces, Congress was given the power to “provide for the organizing, arming, and disciplining” of them. Moreover, the militia can be “called forth” into federal service, but for three purposes only: “to execute the laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions.”

The Militia Act of 1792 established a universal obligation for all able-bodied men aged 18 to 45 and suggested certain organizing principles for local forces, but it left implementation entirely to the states. Throughout the nineteenth century, militias were largely state-funded and frequently belittled by the regular army for their lack of professionalism. State militias eventually began calling themselves the “National Guard”—a moniker first adopted by New York’s militia in 1824. The National Guard Association was formed in 1878 to lobby for recognition of the Guard as the nation’s official “second line of defense.” The Dick Act of 1903—named for Ohio congressman Charles W. Dick—provided for vastly increased federal funding for each state’s “organized militia,” which was officially designated as the “National Guard.” For the first time, the federal government took an active role in organizing the militia, but the Guard remained available only for homeland missions.

Nationwide, some 14,000 men and women serve in SDFs—a modest but meaningful force.

World War I fundamentally changed the National Guard—and created the need for SDFs. After war broke out in Europe, Congress amended the Dick Act to allow the president to draft guardsmen directly into the federal army. When the U.S. joined the war in the summer of 1917, President Woodrow Wilson immediately called the entire National Guard into federal service, using authority that Congress had granted him the previous year. In 1933, the National Guard gained permanent “dual status,” meaning that all incoming guardsmen were (and still are) required to enlist simultaneously in their state guard and in the “National Guard of the United States,” a reserve component of the U.S. Army.

With the entire National Guard mobilized for World War I, states were left with no internal security force except local police. Armories, bridges, reservoirs, and other infrastructure were left defenseless against the German saboteurs, who loomed large in the public imagination. Moreover, states no longer had additional manpower to assist in times of natural disaster. Some states created “Home Guards” to replace the departed National Guard units, a phenomenon that Congress quickly recognized in the Home Guard Act of 1917.

The Home Guards were disbanded after World War I but revived as “State Guards” in 1940, as the U.S. began preparing for another all-out war. Some 35 states would create such units. The California and Hawaii Guards remained on active coastal defense throughout World War II. After the war, the State Guards were again disbanded, but demand for them soon resurfaced as the Korean War got under way. After some legislative twists and turns, Congress finally gave permanent approval to state defense forces in 1956.

For much of the Cold War, military officials ignored SDFs. In the 1980s, however, the Pentagon initiated a revival of state defense forces to assure domestic preparedness in the event of another mass mobilization of the National Guard. In 1987, the Department of Defense’s National Guard Bureau issued regulation NGR 10-4 governing DoD interaction with state forces. The regulation called for the “highest degree of cooperation . . . between Federal and State officials concerned” and contemplated providing SDFs with surplus federal military equipment. The new model for state guards would be that of a “cadre force,” that is, a force with only the top 10 to 15 percent of positions filled—the remaining ranks would be recruited as needed. On this footing, the new SDFs were small and have generally remained so, though their numbers surged after September 11.

While no major attacks on the homeland have occurred since then, the case for expanding SDFs remains compelling. The War on Terror has set a pattern of mass National Guard deployments on a scale not seen since the world wars—deployments that can have a crippling effect on state emergency preparedness. In 2004, for example, the Washington Post reported that 60 percent of Maine’s Army National Guard was serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; in neighboring New Hampshire, the figure was 58 percent. “We’re tapped,” said that state’s adjutant general. In Montana, half of the state’s National Guard had been deployed along with ten of the 12 Blackhawk helicopters normally used to dump water on forest fires.

The Guard’s absence has also left states and cities more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, such as last year’s shooting in San Bernardino. Even before September 11, the U.S. Commission on National Security / 21st Century observed that terrorist strikes were most likely to occur when the U.S. was engaged in a conflict overseas—precisely the moment when National Guard units may find themselves far from home. The National Guard itself appears disinclined to emphasize its homeland-defense role. The National Guard Association has fought proposals to give the Guard principal responsibility for homeland security, on the grounds that the Guard’s primary mission is to remain interoperable with the regular army and ready for immediate deployment. The driving force behind that position appears to be the desire to maximize federal funding. As John Goheen, an association spokesman, explained: “If you’re not deployable, you’re not going to be funded.”

State defense forces are ideally suited to fill the gaps created by the National Guard’s frequent international missions.

Even with the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the National Guard remains largely focused on its ability “to project land power anywhere our nation requires,” according to the Guard’s forward-looking 2017 Posture Statement. In the most recent fiscal year, Army Guard Special Forces soldiers deployed to 53 countries, while Guard airmen were deployed overseas more than 11,000 times. Continued instability in the Middle East and renewed terrorist threats could lead to additional National Guard mobilizations. Humanitarian crises, such as the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, will generate further international missions.

State defense forces are ideally suited to fill the gaps created by the National Guard’s frequent overseas commitments. Unlike the Guard, SDFs are exclusively focused on homeland security and can’t be sent off to war. Unlike federal forces, which can take days to arrive at the scene of a disaster, SDFs can mobilize quickly and possess valuable local knowledge. SDF leaders encourage members to get certified in emergency management and planning through courses offered by FEMA. The State Guard Association has packaged this training into a program that allows SDF personnel to earn a designation as a “Military Emergency Management Specialist.” The presence of citizen-soldiers with this level of competence can, according to an article in the U.S. Army War College journal Parameters, provide “a vital procedural bridge between the military forces, local first responders, and state and federal agencies responding to the crisis, as they can operate efficiently in both military and civilian environments.”

SDFs also show great potential in command, control, and communications—or “C3,” in military lingo. During an emergency, SDF personnel can easily integrate with a state’s military coordination site, known as a “joint operations center,” or the civilian version, known as an “emergency operations center.” The South Carolina State Guard has won praise for its mobile communications trailers, which can keep local, state, and federal agencies connected during emergencies. Similarly, the New York Guard maintains the state’s Military Emergency Radio Network. The ability to provide backup communication would prove invaluable in the event of a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out some 2,000 cell towers.

Source: “The Militia You’ve Never Heard Of” can be found here.

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