Virginia Defense Force
|Virginia State Defense Force|
Virginia SDF Insignia
|Type||State Defense Force|
|Role||Defense Support of Civil Authority|
|Part of||Virginia Department of Military Affairs|
|George Washington Division||Richmond, Virginia|
|Engagements||French and Indian War
American Revolutionary War
War of 1812
American Civil War
|Commander in Chief||Terry McAuliffe|
|State Military Leadership||
Brigadier General (VA) Justin B. Carlitti, Sr.
Division Command Sergeant Major
The Virginia Defense Force (VDF) is the official state defense force of Virginia, one of the three components of Virginia's state military along with the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Air National Guard; with a current roster of over 1000 Soldiers. The VDF is the descendant of the Virginia State Guard, the Virginia Regiment, and even earlier the Colonial Militia of the Virginia Colony. The Virginia Defense Force is the most recognizable force of the Virginia militia, itself considered a combined force of all National Guard, state defense, and unorganized militia in the state of Virginia.
The Virginia Defense Force Command is headquartered at the historic Old City Hall, but drills out of Waller Armory in Richmond, Virginia. State law allows the command to grow to as many as 7,800 troops to be activated in the VDF when necessary by a call out by the Governor. The VDF is all-volunteer unless activated to "Active Duty" status and augmented by unorganized militia draftees by the Governor of Virginia. The federal government authorizes purely state-level forces under 32 U.S.C. § 109 which provides that state forces as a whole may not be called, ordered, or drafted into the armed forces of the United States, thus preserving their separation from the National Guard. However, under the same law, individual members serving in state-level forces are not exempt from service in the armed forces by nature of serving in a state defense force. But, under 32 USC § 109(e) "A person may not become a member of a defense force if he is a member of a reserve component of the armed forces." However, if an Officer or Soldier is placed on the retired roll of the Active Army or Reserve components, he or she is eligible, with prior approval from the Governor, to transfer their commission to a military command within that State, and continue to serve at present or higher rank.
In 1607, the Virginia Militia was formed as a part of the British militia system in order to provide an organized defense against attacks and to give the Governor a body of men capable of bringing order during a disaster. Soon after in 1623, the Governor dictated that all men in the Virginia Militia must drill every month on their county court house green. He also appointed officers to lead the Militia for the first time. By 1676, the Virginia Militia had responded to numerous Indian raids and had served in Bacon’s Rebellion.
As the 18th century evolved into a near continuous war between the British and French Empires, and due to wars with Indian tribes and French incursions to the west of the colony, The Virginia Regiment was formed by Governor Dinwiddie in 1754 out of the Virginia Militia. It was the first all professional colonial regiment ever raised in the New World and thus given status of a regular British Army regiment during the 7 Years War. Its officers were often unpaid volunteers and they would provide a corps to serve as Aides de Camp to the Commanding Generals of the British Army as well as fighting forces. Colonel Joshua Fry was selected as the first commander and George Washington as its Lt. Colonel. Washington became its Colonel in 1755 and established the command at Winchester, Virginia. The regiment was a hybrid and included soldiers of “foote, rangers and mounted” and fought in the southern battles of the French and Indian War. Its colors were retired in 1758 and members were returned to the Virginia Militia As the revolutionary spirit spread across the new nation, the House of Burgesses reconstituted the Virginia Regiment and expanded it dramatically. Further, it was determined that the standard Militia unit needed to institutionalize separate mounted troops. In 1776, the State reorganized the Virginia Regiment into ten regiments of infantry called “The Virginia Line”, and organized the first mounted infantry unit called the Virginia Light Horse Regiment. Colonel Bland, a Virginia Militia officer was tasked to form, out of the Militia, this mounted regiment. In turn, it was commanded by Lt Colonel Henry Lee III or "Light Horse Harry", father of General Robert E. Lee of the Union and Confederate Armies.
In the summer of 1776, Bland and Lee organized The Virginia Light Horse regiment. This unit was predominantly led by the aristocracy of Virginia and made up of the wealthy planters and merchants sons. The Virginia Light Horse was by November of that year brought into Continental Army service and was re-designated the 1st Continental Light Dragoons. Troops 1 & 2 were stood up outside of Boston, troops 3 & 4 were stood up in Pennsylvania, and 5th & 6th troops were assigned to the Virginia Regiment/Line as it assumed Federal military duties. Henry Lee, a Virginia militia Captain, was commissioned by Congress in 1776 to form 5th Troop. 5th Troop took over 6th Troop and evolved over the years into Lee’s Legion and later into the 2nd Partisan Corps; it was the primary cavalry force in the Southern Campaign and was on active duty until its colors were retired in 1783, again at Winchester, Virginia.
In 1846, the main county units mustered for service in the Mexican War, but the requirements on the Virginia Regiment did not have them actually deploy west and they were sent back to their homes and colors cased again in 1848. These units formed the nucleus of the Virginia Divisions of the Confederacy in the Civil War; and though little activity took place during the reconstruction period, the Virginia troops again mustered for service in the Spanish American War. These troops were incorporated in the 2nd U.S. Virginia Volunteer Cavalry and Infantry in 1898/99, but were not deployed and stood down in 1901.
During World War I, the Virginia State Volunteers (later renamed the Virginia Volunteers) were organized as a state defense force to support civil authorities from 1917 to 1921. The group guarded bridges, waterways, fuel storage areas, and public buildings and facilities during the war years, armed with surplus weapons dating back to 1876. Various units were activated and deactivated during the 1960s as crowd control units during the protests in Washington, D.C.
Due to the possibility of imminent American involvement in World War II, Governor Price ordered the establishment of the Virginia Protective Force on January 2, 1941. The force executed the stateside duties of the National Guard until disbandment in 1947.
In 1983, a change in the post-Civil War Constitution of the State of Virginia allowed the State to permanently re-activate the Virginia Regiment. It was modernized and brought into line with the standards of the U.S. Army regulation concerning Guard and Reserve forces. The newly reorganized command was established as the Virginia Defense Force, commanded by a Major General, subordinate the Governor of the State, and directly assigned to the Adjutant General's forces as an element of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs.
To date, it is one of a very few US military units that can claim battle participation for campaigns and wars that took place prior to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Virginia regiment (now the VDF) can also claim participation alongside such storied regiments as the 44th and 48th Infantry regiments (now Royal Anglian Regiment), and the Queen's Royal Hussars of the British Army, and the 5th Regiment de Hussards, 2d Regiment de Dragons, and 12th Cuirassier Regiment (France) of the French Army; due to the campaigns of the 18th century.
The mission of the VDF is by the Code of Virginia to support the Virginia National Guard at the following times
- 1. Provide for an adequately trained organized reserve militia to assume control of Virginia National Guard facilities and to secure any federal and state property left in place in the event of the mobilization of the Virginia National Guard.
- 2. Assist in the mobilization of the Virginia National Guard.
- 3. Support the Virginia National Guard in providing family assistance to military dependents within the Commonwealth in the event of the mobilization of the National Guard.
- 4. Provide a military force to respond to the call of the Governor in those circumstances described in § 44-75.1.
Applicants to the VDF must meet the following eligibility requirements in order to obtain membership:
- Legal Resident of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia
- A valid Social Security number
- Age 16 to 65 (Minors require written consent of parent or legal guardian.)
- Physical ability to perform in any assigned billet
- No felony convictions
- Good moral character 
Members of the VDF wear the woodland camouflage version of the Army Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) and a modified Class A dress uniform with a black beret and distinctive VDF flash in red with gold trim and the letters VA in gold. Officers wear the standard "blues" uniform for dress functions, and the regular Army "Mess Dress" for formal functions. The modifications are brass/gold rank, the Virginia state flag and distinctive unit insignia on the chest pocket. The VDF wear OD green name tags with black lettering, as well as subdued division patches like standard Army issue uniforms.
The VDF no longer uses the abbreviation VaDF or State Guard. The command and control is the Department of Military Affairs, Commonwealth of Virginia; or the Virginia Defense Force.
The creation of a state defense force by a state is authorized by 32 USC 109 (c). Title 44-54 of the Virginia Code sets the targeted membership of the Virginia Defense Force at 1,200 members. Activation is by an executive order of the Governor in the event of an emergency; or the President if there is a declaration of a disaster area.
Title 44-54.12, although providing for the use of armories and other state lands for Defense Force purposes, specifically prohibits members of the Defense Force from training with firearms, without the specific instruction/authorization of the Governor.
The Defense Force is evolving into a Civil Affairs command and will provide training in military related specialties such as communication, infrastructure restoration, public shelters, traffic control, and unarmed security missions. VDF companies and battalions are self training but conduct annual training as a division every year at Ft. Pickett, Virginia. Many of the VDF members have conducted training with FEMA, NIMS, ICS, the regular military, and State Police, as well as meeting the requirements of SGAUS.
The VDF maintains several Shelter Augmentation Liaison Teams (SALT), with each team consisting of three VDF members who serve as liaisons between the Virginia State Police and the Virginia National Guard in the event that the National Guard is deployed to take over shelter management from the police during a stateside emergency. During a deployment, the teams will deploy with the state police, note the practices and procedures put in place, and brief the National Guard on these procedures when the National Guard arrive so as to provide a smooth transition in the change of command.
The Virginia Military Advisory Council is the Defense Force's link to a higher authority and the staff of the Adjutant General.
For 2011, the budget passed by the Virginia Legislature allocated to the Virginia Defense Force about $240,000.
The VDF's numerous units altogether make up the George Washington Division, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. Constituent units of the George Washington Division are organized as regiments of two or more companies representing regions of the Commonwealth. The major units of the VDF and where they are headquartered are:
- George Washington Division (Richmond, VA)
- First Regiment (Richmond, VA)
- Second Regiment (Manassas, VA)
- Third Regiment (Winchester, VA)
- Fourth Regiment (Lynchburg, VA)
- Fifth Regiment (Gate City, VA)
VDF Aviation Battalion
The Virginia Defense Force maintains an aviation battalion with companies in the Hampton Roads area, Orange and Danville. The battalion maintains fifteen privately-owned aircraft, and can conduct damage assessment, aerial reconnaissance and search and rescue missions.
VDF Riverine Detachment
The Virginia Defense Force maintains a riverine detachment which is capable of conducting inland aquatic search and rescue operations as well as transport and security operations. The Riverine Detachment has since been dissolved, and the craft sold.
The Code of Virginia guarantees that members of the Virginia Defense Force who are called to active duty or training are entitled to a leave of absence, and full reemployment rights after their deployment ends.
Virginia Defense Force awards
- State defense force
- Virginia National Guard
- Virginia Army National Guard
- Virginia Air National Guard
- Virginia Military Institute
- State Guard Association of the United States
- Howells, 1st Lt. Henry C. (July 16, 2009). "Virginia Defense Force now 1,000 strong". The Virginia National Guard Official Website. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". The Virginia State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
- "History - A Proud Heritage". The Virginia State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
- "§ 44-54.12. Arms, equipment and facilities.". LIS: Virginia's Legislative Information System.
- Baskervill, Bill (April 7, 2003). "State Guard Group Gains Importance Volunteers Serve Both Nation and Community". Daily Press — Newport News, Va. pp. C.6. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
- Owen, Staff Sgt. Andrew H. (Oct 13, 2011). "VDF participates in State Managed Shelter Exercise". The Virginia National Guard Official Website.
- "Virginia Defense Force Recruiting and Retention Command". The Virginia State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 21 Oct 2014.
- Puryear, Maj. Cotton (3 December 2009). "Virginia Defense Force trains on the ground, in the air and on the water". Virginia National Guard Official Website. Virginia Guard Public Affairs. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
- "§ 44-93. Leaves of absence for employees of Commonwealth or political subdivisions". LIS: Virginia's Legislative Information System.
- Virginia Defense Force - Official Government Website
- George Washington Division Headquarters, Richmond
- 1st Medical Battalion, Fort Pickett, Blackstone, VA
- Aviation Battalion
- 2nd Regiment, Multifunctional Response Group C, Culpeper
- Blackhorse Brigade, 33rd Battalion - Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Winchester
- Blackhorse Brigade, 33rd Battalion - Alpha Company, Leesburg
- Blackhorse Brigade, 33rd Battalion - Bravo Company, Woodstock
- Blackhorse Brigade, 33rd Battalion - Charlie Company, Harrisonburg
- Highland Brigade, 34th Battalion, Gate City