Serving in the State Defense Force: My Experience with the Maryland Defense Force

During my time in the Maryland Army National Guard we spent a lot of time working with the Maryland Defense Force, especially during major training exercises and during state emergencies.  At the time, I was a bit confused about what their role was with the National Guard.  Initially, I thought it was just a bunch of old guys and gals who missed serving in the Army.

To be quite frank with you, I was a bit naïve about the role of the Defense Force and how important they were to the National Guard.   After all, I never had a class about the role of the State Defense Force and no one ever told me anything about what their job was.  I simply did not know what I did not.

Through a period of a few years, my opinions of the Defense Force changed significantly.  Before I finished my time in the National Guard, I grew to really respect these guys and gals.  Sure, some of them did not “look” like Soldiers, but they had all the qualities you would want in a Soldier: heart, talent, patriotism, strong work ethic, reliable, and intelligence.

In case you are serving in the National Guard and you don’t know much about the State Defense Force, I would like to take a moment and educate you.

Here are a few things you should know about the State Defense Force

  • They are under the sole authority of the state government and are not a federal asset
  • They are partially regulated by the National Guard Bureau
  • Their job is to support the National Guard when needed
  • They are a volunteer force and to the best of my knowledge, none of them are paid to serve
  • They generally operate with emergency management and homeland security missions
  • They cannot be activated for federal service
  • Many of the volunteers have prior military service
  • Each state has different requirements about who can serve in the State Defense Force
  • They report to the state’s Adjutant General
  • Source: Wikipedia

In most cases, these “Soldiers” have no contract, no physical fitness standards, training standards vary widely, and a lax rank structure.

This may put some people off, but here’s what I’ve found.

First and foremost, these folks are serving because they want to, even though they normally don’t get paid.  In addition, most of these folks have critical skills, such as doctors and engineers.  Not only do they have valuable skills, but they also have a lot of life and work experience that Soldiers do not have.   Their knowledge, experience and expertise come in handy during critical missions.

I remember working closely with several members of the Defense Force.  Let me tell you this.  They were smart, hard working, professional, and reliable.   And I’d serve with them any day of the week.  Now that I am older and wiser and realize what they do, I have a ton of respect for them!

I’d like to close this post with two thoughts.  First and foremost, if you are serving in the State Defense Force, thank you.  I appreciate your service.  Next, if you are a Soldier in the National Guard, give these guys a little slack, and some respect.  Leverage their expertise when you can.  They have a lot to bring to the table.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

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