Georgia State Defense Force

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Georgia State Defense Force
Georgia SDF Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
Country  United States
Allegiance  Georgia
Branch Army
Type SDFBranchInsigniaColor.jpg  State Defense Force
Size < 1000
Part of Georgia Department of Defense
Garrison/HQ Marietta, Georgia
Commander in Chief Gov. Nathan Deal
Adjutant General MG Joseph Jarrard
Commander BG Thomas Danielson

The Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF, GASDF, or SDF) is an unpaid, volunteer component of the Georgia Department of Defense,[1] serving in support of the national and state constitutions under direction of the governor and the adjutant general of Georgia. As a State Defense Force, members serve alongside the Georgia Army National Guard and the Georgia Air National Guard.[2]

The mission of the Georgia State Defense Force is to provide an organized, trained, disciplined, rapid response volunteer force to assist state and local government agencies and civil relief organizations during emergencies to ensure the welfare and safety of Georgia citizens.[3]

The SDF's members help support and augment the Georgia National Guard, provide professional skills to the Georgia Department of Defense, and assist Georgia communities. Volunteers are trained to assist the National Guard, provide search and rescue, medical support, and disaster relief.[4]


The Georgia State Defense Force is currently organized with a headquarters based at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta; three brigades with geographic areas of responsibility throughout the state;[5] medical companies;[6][7] a support brigade providing special skills augmentation; a Chaplain Corps (based on Army special branches religious support) with a Command Chaplain, Brigade Chaplain, Battalion Chaplain (UMT) Unit Ministry Team and a Chaplain Training Center; and a military band (based on the Army Band - Large, Music Support Team (MST) concept).[8] Each brigade and equivalent unit is commanded by a field grade officer (usually a colonel). The current chain of command for the State Defense Force at the state level is organized under three positions: The commander-in-chief (Governor Nathan Deal), the adjutant general (Major General Jim Butterworth), and the Georgia State Defense Force commander (Brigadier General Thomas Danielson). At present, both the Georgia Army National Guard commander (Brigadier General Joe Jarrard) and the Georgia adjutant general are commissioned officers in the Georgia State Defense Force.[9][10]


Current eligibility to join the Georgia State Defense Force extends to men and women between the ages of 18 and 64 who:

  • pass a background check,
  • are U.S. citizens or legal residents,
  • have a high school diploma or equivalent, and
  • meet height and weight standards that are "designed to ensure that GSDF personnel present minimum acceptable appearance when in uniform."[11][12]

Prior military experience is not required, although approximately 40 percent of active members have prior service experience.[13]


The Georgia State Defense Force’s rich heritage dates back to England. Under the direction of General James Oglethorpe, Sergeants of the Guard trained future colonists in militia tactics. Georgia settlers arriving in 1733 became members of General Oglethorpe’s militia and were called up during the Battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742 to help repel the Spanish invasion of Georgia. These militia forces later joined General George Washington in the fight for American Independence.

The volunteer militia remained in continuous service throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time, the militia participated in Indian wars against the Creeks, Cherokees, and Choctaws, and, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, Georgia responded with over 100 volunteer regiments, battalions, and batteries. The portion that remained at home helped to defend Atlanta and Macon, shadowed by the Union advance in 1864. This volunteer commitment was second only in number to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Georgia State Defense Force members help recertify Georgia Army National Guard medics in CPR/AED.

In 1917, following passage of the National Defense Act of 1916, the National Guard could be called into federal service. As a result, Georgia law organized the militia into three classes: the National Guard, the naval militia, and the unorganized militia. It further created a separate Home Guard, or State Constabulary, also subject to military law. After World War I, the militia was called to put down labor unrest at factories and mills across the state.

In 1940, with the onset of World War II, Governor E.D. Rivers requested the American Legion to organize the Georgia State Defense Corps. The next year, in 1941, Colonel Ryburn Clay was appointed to head the State Defense Corps and it was activated and placed under the command of Brigadier General Omar Bradley, commanding officer at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Its name was shortly changed to the State Defense Corps of Georgia and then to the Georgia State Guard in 1942. During World War II, 35,000 volunteer members guarded war plants, critical communications facilities, utilities, reservoirs, and transportation facilities. Approximately 8,000 served at any given time with about 10,000 left at the end of the war.[14] They were trained to repel an invasion that never came. Although not officially disbanded until 1951, the Georgia State Guard began its retirement in July 1946.[15]

Members of the Georgia Defense Force rapidly unload a supply of water and ice at Dobbins AFB in anticipation of a flight from New Orleans containing hurricane Katrina evacuees.

The Georgia State Guard was re-authorized in 1973 to serve as a constabulary force, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s was tasked to serve as a backup for state police forces. Legislation resulted in the first muster in 1985 when it was re-activated as the Georgia State Defense Force under the command of Brigadier General John Gillette. The force was tasked to provide a cadre around a larger force to assume the vacated domestic missions of Georgia National Guard members called to federal duty.

The current Georgia State Defense Force is authorized by the federal government under 32 USC 109(e), by the State of Georgia under Title 38 of the Official Code of Georgia,[16] and by the National Guard Bureau under NGR 10-4.[17] The Georgia Department of Defense is composed of the State Defense Force, the Army National Guard, and the Air National Guard, all of whom serve under the direction of the adjutant general of Georgia.[18]

Recent operations include support to National Guard units during the Gulf War, participation in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, emergency aid to agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), support to Georgia National Guard units and their families since 2001, and activation during the 2004 G-8 Summit at Sea Island[19] and the 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricane evacuations.[20]

In 2010, the GSDF and its members were recognized by a special resolution of the Georgia Legislature[21] for their participation in Operation Healing Hands, providing disaster relief to earthquake victims in Haiti.[22] After the devastating outbreak of tornadoes across the Southeast U.S. in May, 2011, members of the GSDF participated in relief efforts in Lamar County and other hard-hit areas of the state.[23] Members of the GASDF, including consumer advocate CPT Clark Howard, assisted with car removal following a huge traffic jam caused by Winter Storm Leon.[24]

Awards and decorations[edit]

The Georgia State Defense Force issues several awards, including the following:[25]

  • GASDF Medal of Valor Service Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Medal of Valor
  • GASDF Legion of Merit (Medal).jpg GaSDF Legion of Merit (Medal)
  • GASDF Medal of Merit.jpg GaSDF Medal of Merit
  • GASDF Distinguished Service Medal.jpg GaSDF Distinguished Service Medal
  • GASDF Commendation Medal.jpg GaSDF Commendation Medal
  • GASDF Enlisted Member of the Year Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Enlisted Member of the Year
  • Georgia State Defense Force Achievement Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Achievement Ribbon (Class 1, 2 & 3)
  • Georgia State Defense Force Unit Commander's Citation.jpg GaSDF Unit Commander's Citation w/Gold Frame
  • Georgia State Defense Force Military Qualification Service Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Military Qualification Training Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Military Proficiency Service Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Military Proficiency Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force State Active Duty Ribbon.jpg GaSDF State Active Duty Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Emergency Service School Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Emergency Services School Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Military Readiness Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Military Readiness Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Recruiting Achievement Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Recruiting Achievement Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Volunteer Service Award Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Volunteer Service Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Good Conduct Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Good Conduct Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Longevity Service Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Longevity Service Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Military Indoctrination Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Military Indoctrination Ribbon
  • Georgia State Defense Force Outstanding Unit Citation Ribbon.jpg GaSDF Outstanding Unit Citation Ribbon W/Gold Frame

Members of the Georgia State Defense Force may also wear awards and decorations earned through the United States Armed Forces, as well as any United States ally, any State National Guard, or any other state defense force.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]