Military Times

2012 Insider's Guide to the Guard and Reserve

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Joining Up


Federal law allows states to form militias. These are reserve organizations under the authority of state governments and regulated by the National Guard Bureau.

There are two basic kinds of militias — State Defense Forces (also known as State Guards, State Military Reserves or State Militias) and Naval Militias. These forces are distinct from their state’s National Guard in that they cannot be mobilized for federal service and they are not funded by the federal government.

Twenty-two states and Puerto Rico have some form of State Defense Force or Naval Militia, or both, each with different levels of activity, state support and strength, and oriented mainly toward emergency management and homeland security missions.

Training standards vary widely from state to state. Members of State Defense Forces and Naval Militia units are volunteers and must buy their own uniforms and most, if not all, of their own equipment. They generally are not authorized to carry military weaponry.

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