I advocate that you seriously consider incorporating state organized militia service as a key element of a developing or ongoing personal preparedness strategy. At this time, twenty-two states have some form of active state sanctioned/sponsored militia organization, all of which are incorporated into each of those states’ military organization. Generally, these state organized militias are collectively referred to as State Defense Forces (SDFs ), though the various states refer to their organizations within a narrow range of naming conventions. Some examples include, the Texas State Guard, Virginia State Defense Force, Ohio Military Reserve, etc. Though state defense forces are official elements of state militaries, they cannot be called up for federal service, may not be deployed outside of their state (unless the members volunteer in some unique circumstances), and may not be deployed outside the United States under any circumstance. The military formations are prohibited by law from serving under direct federal military command and cannot be activated into federal service. Individual service members with potential federal service obligations may be called into federal service, though the issue is moot as they would already be called into service regardless of membership or not in state defense forces.
Each of these state defense forces are legitimate military formations recognized under the United States Constitution, the State Constitutions of the various states, and relevant laws at both the state and federal levels. Their missions generally focus on disaster response, emergency management, and/or homeland security. I am a member of the Texas Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard. The Texas Maritime Regiment trains and operates with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife (man-tracking and boat patrols on Texas rivers and lakes); the Texas Forestry Service (heavy equipment operations for wildfire containment and natural/man-made disaster support); the United States Coast Guard (homeland security waterborne patrolling and natural/manmade disaster waterborne response). Each state defense force will have missions that lean heavily toward disaster response or emergency management, the nature of which will be dependent on the unique nature of the state’s environment and needs. Regardless, in most cases, state defense force training, experiences, resources and associations can be advantageous to those preparing to thrive after a disastrous or catastrophic event.
Advantage – Training
Some SDF programs are more robust and developed than others, so, depending on the training standards and program quality of a particular state defense force, the value of service based training can vary broadly. However, from a preparedness standpoint, service in your State Defense Force may offer multiple advantages for the individual seeking development of new skills or retention of known skills. Since disaster preparedness on an individual basis shares a common theme with disaster preparedness on a community basis, there are skill-sets, knowledge bases, and resources that are equally valuable in both circumstances. Some examples include emergency medical training and equipment access, communication training and equipment access, map-reading and land navigation, survival skills, tactical skills, weapons training, etc. Based on discussions I’ve had with members of other SDFs and reviews of various sources, the quality and nature of training can be fairly divergent from unit to unit within a state defense force, and also from state to state.
As a rule, to become proficient, those who do not already have such skills from prior federal service or other experiences have to spend money on obtaining such training, as well as develop and dedicate resources on practical skill maintenance. The quality of privately obtained training or individually developed experience may not always provide adequate value for the expense. In general, relevant training in these and other skills are part and parcel of state defense force service at no, or minimal, out-of-pocket expense.
Some, though not all, of otherwise expensive training presented throughout my ongoing service in the Texas Maritime Regiment at minimal cost, if any, to me include: land navigation, first aid, advanced first aid, CPR  and AED , combat medic, ASP baton, scuba diving, Taser, active-shooter (ALERRT), emergency response base camp establishment and operation, human tracking, boat operation, tactical employment, personal security detachment operations, vehicle licensure for federal military vehicles (various), military emergency management specialist courses, Ham radio certification, rappelling and rope work, swift water rescue familiarization training, etc. Much of this was complementary to my prior federal service in the USMC . In some cases, it simply allows me to keep relatively current on some skills, while some were completely new for me.
Naturally, as in most things, you get out of it what you put in. For those who hit the ground running with the expectation of taking advantage of every opportunity to develop themselves, the training should be available somewhere. In some cases, there are expensive training options wholly paid by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS ). An example is the instructor course for Incident Response to Terrorist Bombing, a four day course in New Mexico for which DHS pays for round-trip air fare, car rental, course tuition, lodging, and a meal stipend. For this and other such courses, I know I like to feel like some of my tax dollars are directly benefiting me in a positive way. There are other examples that are pretty much closed to those who are not part of law enforcement, emergency first responders, or part of the Homeland Security infrastructure. For some examples of courses available to state defense force personnel, go to www.ruraltraining.org . My view on this is that I have already spent the money in the form of taxation, now its time to get back some of what I already paid out.
Advantage – Experiences
Due to the nature of the missions of SDFs as most significantly applicable to natural disasters or large scale emergencies, SDF activation is most likely under those or similar circumstances. In the states along the Gulf of Mexico our most frequent full activations are associated with hurricanes. Operating in areas devastated by hurricanes with no running water, no electricity, no retail fuel sources, no retail food stores, no restaurants, etc., gives one an increased appreciation for some of what may be faced in a full grid-down environment. There is literally no amount of simulation that can compare to operating in such an environment for an extended period. Rather than trying to strain your brain to guess what might be faced and what the best responses are, reality is all around you to absorb and store as personal experience. Recent events with large scale wildfires that have destroyed thousands of homes and disrupted the lives of thousands of Texans also provide us with the opportunity to experience some of what might be faced at various times. Additionally, we gain experience with oil and chemical spills on those unfortunate occasions when Man’s plans don’t mesh well with God’s reality.
Since we are not simply spectators from afar in these disasters and emergencies, we gain critical experience in how to respond in these situations, what equipment, resources, training, and techniques are most useful. Essentially, state defense force personnel operate in the realm of hard reality in disaster areas, the value of which cannot be realistically substituted. Though I have no experience with other states’ forces, my best guess is that every state with an SDF has some sort of practical operational application that will provide real world added value experience, be it tornados, earthquakes, flooding, etc.
Advantage – Resources
In some cases the state provides access to resources that would otherwise be unavailable or prohibitively expensive. The first thing that comes to mind is bottled water and MREs . During activation for disaster response, we are provided practically unlimited access to MREs, both for our use and distribution to impacted civilians. At the conclusion of the disaster or emergency response, state officials have always indicated a preference for total distribution of these meals, as the effort to return them to storage represents additional and needless expense, particularly as these are provided by the federal government as part of the emergency management process. As a lifelong taxpayer whose experience has seen money flowing one way, away from my pocket, I consider this legal and authorized retention of provided resources a reasonable partial return on prior payments.
Another element that might be seen as valuable to some is the first line access to vaccinations for pandemics for state military forces personnel and our nuclear family members. Because of reported issues of major side-effects from vaccinations, I recognize everyone may not want one, but for those who do, we are provided first access as emergency response personnel.
Some of the other advantages are federal income tax deductions for service associated equipment purchases such as gear, ammunition, uniform clothing, etc. This, in and of itself, has a direct value for those who are still developing or deepening their preparedness resources. In Texas there are some providers, vendors, or retailers who offer military discounts on non-military items. Though there are many others, one example is the McDonald’s restaurant chain. While this might not seem immediately relevant to a prepper, my perspective is that every dollar I don’t spend elsewhere is one more dollar that can be focused on preparedness needs and saving where possible is another element to improving one’s overall position. Along this vein, we have college tuition reimbursement programs, discounts for various state or other government services, free vehicle registration, etc. All these can pile up and represent a fairly tidy sum to apply toward your own disaster preparedness program.
Another resource consideration not to be overlooked is early access to critical decision-making information. I was at one time assigned to the intelligence section of our unit, during which time I joined the National Military Intelligence Association which provides a regular open source compilation of daily news that might be of interest in improving situational awareness. Also, because the state defense forces are integrated at the top levels with the national military and emergency management structure, to be effective in responding to a developing situation the personnel must be “brought on line” before an event reaches a critical point. In the event a grid down collapse develops as opposed to occurs suddenly (such as a CME  or nuclear incident), military personnel will receive warning orders or pre-activation notification. Such information may provide sufficient lead time to activate your personal program, getting you and/or your family away from the immediate threat area if possible. What I’m picturing is getting your family, friends, constituents, or group members rolling to a bug-out location immediately on receipt of such a notice, beating mass evacuations and/or roadblocks not yet set up.
Advantage – Association
While this is a bit intangible with pretty wide opportunities for success or failure, in my case it is directly responsible for being invited into an existing retreat plan. As one inevitably discusses issues and events with those closest to you, there is a very good chance of interacting with like minded people who may have an interest in developing a closer association. In my case, gaining access to a working ranch with an ongoing and relatively well developed program represents an immediate savings of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and may ultimately save the lives of me and my family. While I don’t expect everyone to experience the same process exactly, I hope the value of interacting with military personnel with the same or similar understanding of threat probabilities is apparent to everyone.
Advantage – Legitimacy
Without getting into discussion of the Constitutional merits of independent non-aligned militias, my view is there are particular values relative to the legitimate exercise of authority in disaster environments through membership in a state sponsored militia. The value of bearing a state issued and officially recognized military identification when moving in a developing threat environment can be extraordinarily high. Military identification allows one to move legitimately in areas and along routes that are otherwise denied to the population at large. This in and of itself has value in that during evacuation, if one were to be caught up in one, travel along otherwise restricted roadways greatly enhances the speed at which one can reach a particular location. In my experience, approaching a roadblock in uniform with orders and ID in hand results in the removal of the roadblock before even coming to a full stop. As a member of the state military forces, you are seen to be part of the legitimate response structure because you are a legitimate part of that structure. All of the elements are designed to operate together to improve the overall response so, just as we might be manning a roadblock and move it aside for a law enforcement officer, a truck full of firemen, etc., the same benefit accrues to the SDF member.
An additional benefit to being a credentialed member of a state defense force in a post-collapse environment is there is naturally an ingrained unwillingness of most people to initiate hostilities with an apparently organized, uniformed, armed, military force moving through their environs. While it is likely this would not always be the case, an increase in probability one can avoid conflict is an increase in the probability of eventual success in getting wherever it is you might be trying to go. Secondly, in the likely event there are problematic persons or groups in an area you may be in, there is an increased probability legitimately credentialed military personnel could expect and receive greater assistance from an otherwise non-aligned populace. In other words, people would be more prone to help out in forming a posse to crush some roaming gang if the request were to come from Gunnery Sergeant Smith and troops of the State Military Forces, than from Bob Smith, the guy who lives in the farm down the road with his friends and cousins. Questions of authority and competence will likely be reduced in the first instance, whereas one can imagine folks wondering who in the heck this Bob guy thinks he is to come around trying to form a posse or whatever.
Furthermore, short-term post-collapse society may still include those do not grasp the extent of changes and whose prior positions and responsibilities in law-enforcement drive them to consider arresting openly armed persons. In such a circumstance, were one to be traveling or operating with or without a group, being well-armed, uniformed, and credentialed should alleviate most concerns such a former law-enforcement individual might have. My consideration is that SDF personnel are more likely to be welcomed as potential help, or even viewed as an opportunity to enlist into an apparently functional remnant of social stability, than be viewed as a potential threat justifying attempting an arrest.
Because most folks I speak to are more interested in thriving over the long-haul versus barely surviving, and recognize there are clear advantages to working as part of a community to achieve those aims, the likelihood of success is enhanced by an effective armed organization that can serve as the basis for community defense. As in most things of a preparedness nature, early beats too late. Joining your State Defense Force as soon as one reasonably can will provide the opportunities to gain from the advantages previously discussed. Space limitations prevent me from expanding this discussion further, though in reality the advantages are extensive for preparedness minded folks.
Advantage – Oath Keeping and Honor Maintenance
One of my rules in life, but particularly regarding preparedness, is that most actions or decisions should have multiple justifications. Service in state defense forces should not be simply to improve one’s preparedness posture, but also to serve our fellow citizens and work to improve society. It is in our nature as decent people to help others in need and do our part in protecting what is great and positive in our nation and among our people. We take oaths to do so, and desire to serve with honor and distinction. The potential exists, however, that conflicts might arise regarding one’s duty to God, to self, to family, or to the state and fellow citizens. One example that comes to mind is a need to focus on family in the event of a serious long-term illness. Thankfully, most if not all state defense force services have an avenue should such an instance develop.
In general, the laws governing state defense forces provide personnel the option of resigning prior to completion of an enlistment period. As a rule, enlistments are “open-ended” in that there is no cut-off date at which one must re-enlist to maintain active status, so when one is ready to discharge from a state defense force a resignation is performed – essentially a request for honorable discharge. My research suggests past practice is, barring criminal activity or some heinous violation of the state code of military justice, honorable discharges are essentially immediately in effect upon resignation and officially granted as the paperwork gets processed. By providing this option of resignation, a personal mechanism of control for the maintenance and assurance of personal honor and sense of duty exists that federal service members lack. Federal forces do not have that luxury, but must generally fulfill their full terms of enlistment.
Disadvantages – Expense
State Defense Forces are usually not paid for training, and what they are paid for periods of activation are normally not much. Because the budgets for state active service in militia units is fairly small, organizations that want to have an aggressive training program need to be inventive and willing to explore training opportunities both internally and from “non-traditional” training sources. Fire departments may provide rappelling training, local police departments may offer training in SWAT tactics, Army National Guard units might help with land navigation, while an Air National Guard unit provides communication training. The point is, unlike federally subsidized military forces with training bases, budgets, and large cadres of trainers and instructors, state forces frequently have to be more adaptive to practically non-existent training budgets to develop useful skill-sets and knowledge bases in their personnel.
Though there may be slots in the state budget for uniforms and gear, the reality is that most, if not all, of the necessary military uniforms and equipment must be privately purchased. One of the mechanisms found to help mitigate the personal impact on this is creating a non-profit that accepts tax deductible donations from businesses to help defray large expenses. This can be particularly helpful in areas that strongly support state defense forces. Regardless, ideally everything purchased for service should be dual use as part of a personal disaster response plan, so the expenses are what one would already be spending anyway on preparedness supplies.
Finally, many employers do not support their employees with paid time off for state military service, though my understanding is that in Texas there are laws that provides the same level of job protection as that afforded to personnel in federal or National Guard service. On the other hand, some employers provide full pay and benefits while attending training or on active service deployments. That would definitely be something to explore prior to joining a state defense force.
In my view based on my experience in the Texas Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard, from the standpoint of value in enhancing a personal preparedness strategy, the advantages of membership in a state defense force far outweigh the few disadvantages of cost. I strongly encourage those who have state defense forces active in their states to seriously consider membership as a means of dramatically enhancing their preparedness posture. For those in Texas who might wish to explore this further, please go to http://1bntmar.weebly.com/ . If you reside in a different state, Wikipedia has a complete list of states with active state defense forces, most with links to discover more from the official web sites.