Alaska State Defense Force

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The Alaska State Defense Force
Alaska State Defense Force Logo.png
The Alaska State Defense Force Insignia
Country  United States
Allegiance  Alaska
Branch Army
Type SDFBranchInsigniaColor.jpg  State defense force
Role Military reserve force
Part of Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
Garrison/HQ Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Civilian leadership Governor Bill Walker
(Governor of the State of Alaska)
State military leadership Brigadier General Roger Hall

The Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF) is the state defense force of Alaska. It is one of 23 such forces in the U.S. states.[1] The Alaska State Defense Force is administered under the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, but is headed by a commander who reports directly to the governor of Alaska, who acts as commander-in-chief of the state defense force.


The Alaska State Defense Force is the successor of the Alaska Territorial Guard founded during World War II. After the war ended and Alaska became a state in 1959, the Territorial Guard was disbanded but was replaced by a state militia established by state statute. In 1984, the Alaska State Guard was formed; it was renamed in 1987 as the Alaska State Defense Force. In 2004, the name 49th Military Police Brigade (49th MP BDE) was also adopted for it. A later realignment of the command's structure has utilized the new designation of 49th Readiness Brigade (Separate), but the unit is still mainly known as the Alaska State Defense Force.

The ASDF structure was primarily composed of military police units. The units operated with mostly state certified constables under the Alaska Police Standards Council. By statute, the Alaska State Defense Force must be made up of no less than 75 percent former military personnel.

Following the September 11 attacks, the ASDF was tasked with guarding critical oil infrastructure against attack.[2]

Unlike most of the state defense forces in the United States, Alaska State Guardsmen trained and certified with firearms in order to achieve proficiency to carry firearms when activated.[3] However, in 2008, following an investigation of the leadership of Brigadier General Thomas Westall, then serving as the head of the ASDF, Governor Sarah Palin ordered the ASDF to disarm.[4] The current structure of the ASDF is as a Readiness Brigade composed of readiness battalions. The military police (MP) function is in abeyance until needed by the Adjutant General for Alaska.


The mission of the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF) is to maintain an organized, trained military force capable of timely and effective response to state emergencies, or, on other occasions deemed appropriate by the Governor, to provide military assistance to civil and military authorities in the preservation of life, property, and public safety.[5] Previous missions assigned to the ASDF have included manning a security checkpoint on the Dalton Highway, traffic control after a Valdez-area landslide, and safeguarding flooded homes in Houston against looters.[4]

ASDF has conducted joint operations with local city and state agencies as well as federal entities, including the U.S. military as well as government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The unit missions to date have included Operation Winter Talon, avalanche rescue, Kenai Peninsula floods and the Big Lake fire. ASDF members have worked at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race restarts. Some members have been detailed to work with the Alaska Railroad police as well as local police departments.


Alaska state statute AS 26.05.010 established the Alaska Militia. It declares: "The militia of the state [of Alaska] consists of all able-bodied citizens of the United States and all other able-bodied persons who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, who reside in the state [of Alaska], who are at least 17 years of age, and who are eligible for military service under the laws of the United States or this state [of Alaska]."[6] The ASDF is constituted as a cadre of experienced officers and enlisted personnel which is ready to organize the entire population, if need be. The ASDF benefits from the experience of its personnel. Many of them have technical skills in such areas as medicine, communications and logistics. It is a volunteer force which contains the skills necessary for operations in time of disaster.


The unit wears United States Army uniforms in accordance with the AR 670-1.[7]


The 49th Readiness Brigade Alaska State Defense Force consists of a Brigade Headquarters, three regional Commands (North, Central and Southern) and various Battalions within each Area Command. For example the Northern Area Command consists of the 3rd Battalion (Fairbanks) and the 5th Battalion (Delta Junction) and so on.

In the past... The battalions below the Headquarters Element include a medical detachment, waterborne operators, and an aviation detachment. The AK SDF has its own academy in which individuals are brought up to State training standards to be Constables. The headgear worn varies on mission requirements.'

Government support[edit]

Issues of funding, mission and the bearing of arms are listed among common complaints and stumbling blocks associated with unit effectiveness.[8] ASDF, when colocated with the Alaska National Guard, was careful to never utilize federal resources to accomplish its mission. The Brigade Headquarters and 2 of its battalion headquarters were relocated from the National Guard Headquarters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to the National Guard Armory in Wasilla. Since then, the State Defense Force has been pressed more with less limitations as well as capabilities, equipment, and activations.[citation needed] With the recent reliefs of command of the high ranking officers of the Alaska National Guard including the Adjutant General who was against the expansion of the State Defense Force, there is a possibility that the SDF will be able to reobtain previous capabilities and more if the new Command is supportive of them.


  1. ^ Homeland Defense Forces for Homeland Defense and Homeland Defense Missions
  2. ^ Tulak, Arthur N.; Kraft, Robert W.; Silbaugh, Don. "State Defense Forces and Homeland Security" (PDF). Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  3. ^ USFF Homeland Security Articles
  4. ^ a b Hollander, Zaz (28 October 2008). "Defense commander resigns after complaints". Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska: Anchorage Daily News). Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  5. ^ ASDF 49th Military Police Brigade handout
  6. ^ "Sec. 26.05.010. Alaska militia established.". The Alaska State Legislature Official Website. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  7. ^ State Defense Force relies on members' life experience
  8. ^ Volunteer Military Organizations - An Overlooked Asset

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