Tennessee State Guard

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Tennessee State Guard
Tennessee State Guard Insignia.jpg
The Tennessee State Guard insignia
Active 1985 - Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  Tennessee
Branch Army
Type SDFBranchInsigniaColor.jpg  State defense force
Role Military reserve force
Size 1,000 (approximately)
Part of Tennessee Military Department Seal.jpg  Tennessee Military Department
Garrison/HQ Nashville, TN
Website http://www.tnmilitary.org/tennessee-state-guard.html
Civilian Leadership Governor Bill Haslam
Governor of the State of Tennessee
State Military Leadership

Major General Terry M. "Max" Haston
Adjutant General of the State of Tennessee

Brigadier General Kenneth T. Takasaki
Commanding General, Tennessee State Guard

The Tennessee State Guard (TNSG) is the state defense force of the state of Tennessee. The Tennessee State Guard is an all-volunteer, part-time reserve force whose members assemble for training and drills once a month unless called to active duty. It is organized as a branch of the Tennessee Military Department, parallel to the state's National Guard. The TNSG falls under the authority of the Governor of Tennessee, and the governor can mobilize the TNSG at his or her discretion. The state guard acts as a force multiplier for the state's National Guard, but unlike their National Guard counterparts, they cannot be federalized or deployed outside of the state without permission from the governor. The creation of a state military force is recognized under Tennessee Code Annotated 58-1-401.[1] This law ensures that the governor is able to provide a military response in case of an emergency even if the National Guard is deployed, by having the Tennessee State Guard assume the state duties of the state's National Guard.

The Tennessee State Guard has existed in various forms since the Revolutionary War, although the current organization has only been established since 1985. Members serve on a voluntary basis, and are not paid unless called up for active service. As the Tennessee State Guard generally provides non-combat support for the National Guard or state civilian authorities, they are not armed during duty, although no law exists which prevents them from being armed on the governor's orders.


State militias[edit]

The Tennessee State Guard traces its origins to the American Revolution. During the Battle of King's Mountain, approximately four hundred volunteers from the area known today as Tennessee crossed the mountains into North Carolina to fight against the British Army and Loyalist militias. They contributed significantly to the Patriot victory.

Tennessee militias served in battle again in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson. After fighting and winning the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814), they served with distinction in the Battle of New Orleans alongside other state militias, federal soldiers, local volunteers, slaves, and pirates against the British Army.[2]

During the Mexican-American War, the nickname "The Volunteer State" became associated with Tennessee. When asked by President Polk to provide two infantry regiments and one cavalry regiment, Tennessee provided approximately ten times that number of volunteers.[3]

During the American Civil War the Confederacy took advantage of the many state-based militias to fight their war. Tennessee's location on the border of Kentucky, which was a Union state, and the strategic hub of Memphis, Tennessee made the residents of Tennessee in constant need of forces to protect them from Union incursions. Tennessee units served in many battles of the Civil War, notably the Battle of Shiloh in which the 4th Tennessee Infantry served with distinction and lost nearly half of its members.[4]

During the Reconstruction Era, violent activity by the Ku Klux Klan and former Confederate partisans led Governor William G. Brownlow to establish the Tennessee State Guard as a state militia to counter these anti-Reconstruction efforts. The Tennessee State Guard was a coalition drawn from white Unionists and Radical Republicans, as well as black freedmen; seven companies contained black soldiers, including one commanded entirely by black officers.[5]:31 During the Reconstruction Era, the Tennessee State Guard was used “to police elections, protect recently enfranchised freedmen, and thwart the operations of paramilitary groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.”[5]:dust jacket

State Defense Forces[edit]

After the passage of the Militia Act of 1903, state militias were transformed into the National Guard, and subject to deployment by the federal government. States who wished to maintain a military force then had to create a separate, independent state guard aside from the National Guard. Many states did so during the World Wars in order to guard borders and coastlines, suppress insurrection, guard military establishments, and respond to disasters. During both World Wars, when National Guard units were federalized, state defense forces became the replacement military for guarding the home front. Tennessee assembled a state defense force which was able to assume the responsibilities of the deployed National Guard units, assist in guarding federal military assets when federal soldiers could not be spared, and act as a reserve force in the event of a mainland invasion. Although State Guard units could not be directly drafted, many individual members were either drafted or volunteered for battle through the federal military. One famous Tennessean, Alvin York, belonged to the Tennessee State Guard, helping to reorganize it for modern times in 1941.[6] By 1948, with National Guard units returning home, the State Guard went inactive.

Tennessee State Guard: 1985-present[edit]

It wasn't until the latter half of the twentieth century, with National Guard units becoming more frequently federalized, that the need for a local force who would not be sent abroad in a time of emergency became clear. In 1985, the Tennessee Defense Force was formed to provide a trained military reserve force for use of the Governor's use in times of emergency, and in 1998 the name was changed by the legislature to the Tennessee State Guard.[4] In 1993, the TNSG was deployed to assist in recovery operations following a series of tornadoes which touched down in Tennessee.[7] After the attacks of September 11, 2001, state guard members were called up to guard a federal naval station in Millington, Tennessee. In 2005, Governor Phil Bredesen activated the Tennessee State Guard to assist with relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina.[8]


The mission statement of the Tennessee State Guard sums up their responsibilities, namely: "The purpose of the Tennessee State Guard is to provide a professional complement of personnel to support the State mission of the Tennessee National Guard, by assisting the Tennessee Army National Guard as a force multiplier, and at the direction of the Adjutant General, to assist civil authorities with disaster relief, humanitarian causes, ceremonial service, religious and medical support for the well being and safety of the citizenry of Tennessee."[9]

The Tennessee State Guard can be used to augment National Guard units in times of emergency, provide medical aid, security, funeral honors and other responsibilities generally covered by the state's National Guard. They can serve as first responders to a natural or man-made disaster, and can integrate emergency response plans with local community emergency response teams. Aside from deploying to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, and guarding military instillation in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, State Guardsmen also participated in Operation Vigilant Guard in disaster preparation through drills organized as an earthquake disaster zone response.[4] The state guard can be deployed to guard military installations, and serve as crowd or riot control. Since the state guard is not a federal force, it is not prohibited from engaging in law enforcement by the Posse Comitatus Act like federal military units are.

In addition to being trained to perform these duties, each brigade has its own airborne-qualified search and rescue team trained by certified instructors.[10] The special operations branch include licensed paramedics, civilian structural engineers, former Special Forces and Rangers, and communications specialists, all of whom are both airborne and scuba qualified, as well as a canine section.[11]


Any able-bodied citizen with a high school diploma or GED and no criminal record is eligible for membership, although when quotas have largely been met, honorably discharged members of all five branches of the United States military are given precedence for any remaining slots, due to the skills and experience they offer. Civilians with specific professional skill sets such as doctors, attorneys, chaplains or engineers may be considered for membership without prior military service, regardless of full quotas.[12] All officers must have at least a bachelor's degree.[12]


Service in the Tennessee State Guard does not include initial basic training like the full-time military, but new members obtain basic instruction on the wear of uniforms, ranking system, and the chain of command. Prospective members are required to take several free online emergency management classes offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to earn the Military Emergency Management Specialist Badge. Tennessee State Guard training includes classes from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).[10] The Tennessee State Guard also provides online training courses through the TNSG Academy. Training is conducted during drill days, which are held one day per month, and during an annual three day drill during the summer.[1]

In 2010, the Tennessee State Guard launched a four month military police class, with regiments from East Tennessee taking part in the pilot program taught at the Knoxville Police Headquarters.[13]

All of the TNSG basic non-commissioned officer and basic officer courses are approved through the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia.[11]

Members of the Search and Rescue (SAR) Branch are all airborne and scuba certified.[11]


Uniforms may be provided by the unit, but may have to be purchased by the individual soldier, depending on supply. The TNSG uses the battle dress uniform in the woodland camouflage pattern.[14] In the event that Tennessee State Guardsmen are assigned to work with the Tennessee National Guard as members of a flight crew, Guardsmen are authorized to wear the aircrew battle dress uniform (ABDU) if prescribed by the commander.[15] For formal events, including military funerals and award ceremonies, the U.S. Army Class A dress uniform is optional for Guardsmen.[14]


The Tennessee State Guard is organized as a Directorate Headquarters with four regiments. The headquarters are based in Nashville, Tennessee. Offices and directorates reporting directly to headquarters include:

  • Directorate of Personnel Administration
  • Directorate of Plans, Operations and Training
  • Directorate of Security and Intelligence
  • Directorate of Logistics
  • Directorate of Civil/Military Support
  • Directorate of Communications
  • Directorate of Engineering Services
  • Directorate of Information Services
  • Headquarters Commandant
  • Headquarters Surgeon Section
  • Secretary to the General Staff
  • Judge Advocate General Staff
  • Office of the Inspector General
  • Provost Marshal
  • Special Operations (SAR) Branch
  • TNSG Academy
  • Public Information Office
  • Chaplains[16]

The regiments of the TNSG include:

  • 1st Tennessee Regiment based in Millington, TN
    • 1st Infantry Battalion (Millington)
    • 2nd Military Police Battalion (Jackson)
    • 3rd Military Police Battalion (Trenton)
    • 4th Military Police Battalion (Paris)
  • 2nd Brigade Support Team based in Nashville, TN
    • 11th Forward Support Battalion (Memphis)
    • 21st Forward Support Battalion (Nashville)
    • 51st Forward Support Battalion (Nashville)
  • 3rd Tennessee Regiment based in Knoxville, TN
    • 1st Infantry Battalion (Gray)
    • 2nd Military Police Battalion (Jefferson City)
    • 3rd Military Police Battalion (Kingsport)
    • 4th Military Police Battalion (Alcoa)
  • 4th Tennessee Regiment based in Chattanooga, TN
    • 1st Infantry Battalion (Chattanooga)
    • 2nd Military Police Battalion (Cleveland)
    • 3rd Military Police Battalion (McMinnville)
    • 4th Military Police Battalion (Winchester)[16]

Legal protection[edit]

Like National Guardsmen and federal reservists, state guard members receive protection from termination or other forms of discipline from their employers as a result of being called into active duty or drill status under Tennessee Code Annotated § 8-33-110.[17]

Awards and decorations[edit]

In addition to several ribbons issued by the TNSG, Tennessee State Guardsmen are allowed to wear decorations issued by other military institutions, including ribbons, decorations, and badges issued by the following institutions in order of precedence:

Tennessee State Guard individual ribbons[edit]

  • TNSG Valor Ribbon.JPG TNSG Valor Ribbon
  • TNSG Alvin C. York Ribbon.JPG TNSG Alvin C. York Ribbon
  • TNSG Distinguished Service Ribbon.JPG TNSG Distinguished Service Ribbon
  • TNSG Meritorious Service Ribbon.JPG TNSG Meritorious Service Ribbon
  • TNSG Com. Gen. Letter of Commendation Ribbon.JPG TNSG Com. Gen. Letter of Commendation Ribbon
  • TNSG Commendation Ribbon.JPG TNSG Commendation Ribbon
  • TNSG Wound Ribbon.JPG TNSG Wound Ribbon
  • TNSG Life Saving Ribbon.JPG TNSG Life Saving Ribbon
  • TNSG Officer Achievement Ribbon.JPG TNSG Officer Achievement Ribbon
  • TNSG Enlisted Achievement Ribbon.JPG TNSG Enlisted Achievement Ribbon
  • TNSG TN Defense Service Ribbon.jpg TNSG TN Defense Service Ribbon
  • TNSG Search & Rescue Ribbon.jpg TNSG Search & Rescue Ribbon
  • TNSG Aid to Civil Authority Ribbon.JPG TNSG Aid to Civil Authority Ribbon
  • TNSG Operation Desert Storm & Shield Ribbon.jpg TNSG Operation Desert Storm/Shield Ribbon
  • TNSG Operation Enduring Freedom Ribbon.JPG TNSG Operation Enduring Freedom Ribbon
  • TNSG Operation Task Force Volunteer Ribbon.JPG TNSG Operation Task Force Volunteer Ribbon
  • TNSG Community Volunteer Service Ribbon.JPG TNSG Community Volunteer Service Ribbon
  • TNSG Soldier of the Year Ribbon.JPG TNSG Soldier of the Year Ribbon
  • TNSG Good Conduct Ribbon.JPG TNSG Good Conduct Ribbon
  • TNSG Officer Training Ribbon.JPG TNSG Officer Training
  • TNSG NCO Training Ribbon.JPG TNSG NCO Training Ribbon
  • TNSG Basic Entry Level Training Ribbon.JPG TNSG Basic Entry Level Training
  • TNSG Chaplain's Ribbon.jpg TNSG Chaplain's Ribbon
  • TNSG Volunteer Service Ribbon.JPG TNSG Volunteer Service Ribbon
  • TNSG Recruitment Achievement Ribbon.jpg TNSG Recruitment Achievement Ribbon
  • TNSG Recruiter's Ribbon.JPG TNSG Recruiter's Ribbon
  • TNSG Military Readiness Ribbon.JPG TNSG Military Readiness Ribbon
  • TNSG Service Ribbon.JPG TNSG Service Ribbon



  1. ^ a b "The All-Volunteer Tennessee State Guard". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "Tennessee State Library and Archives: Brief History of Tennessee in the War of 1812". 
  3. ^ "How Tennessee became the "Volunteer" State". www.tennesseehistory.com. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "A Volunteer Army of Tennessee Pre-Dates the United States". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Severance, Ben (2005). Tennessee's Radical Army: The State Guard and its Role in Reconstruction, 1867-1869. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 1572333626. 
  6. ^ Hickman, Kennedy. "World War I: Sergeant Alvin C. York". www.about.com. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Tulak, Arthur N.; Kraft, Robert W.; Silbaugh, Don. "State Defense Forces and Homeland Security". Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Carafano, James Jay; Brinkerhoff, John R. (October 5, 2005). "Katrina's Forgotten Responders: State Defense Forces Play a Vital Role". www.heritage.org. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Tennessee State Guard". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "The Tennessee State Guard". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Tennessee Historical Society & University of Tennessee Press. 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c Bankus, Lieutenant Colonel Brent C. "Volunteer Military Organizations: An Overlooked Asset". The U.S. Army Official Website. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Join the Tennessee State Guard". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Butera, Steve (August 7, 2010). "Tennessee State Guard starts up new military police class". www.wbir.com. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Questions & Answers about the Tennessee State Guard". Third Regiment of the Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  15. ^ "TNSG Regulation 670-1: Dress and Appearance". First Regiment of the Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Tennessee State Guard Units". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  17. ^ "State of Tennessee Public Chapter No. 390 Senate Bill No. 1996". www.tn.gov. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "TNSG Command Operational Policy 672-5". 2nd MP Battalion, 3rd Regiment, Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 

External links[edit]