By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, Governor Robert Bentley signed the Alabama State Defense Force bill (SB278) into law. The law modernizes and enhances the statute which authorized the creation of the Alabama State Defense Force in the 1970s (ASDF).
Alabama State Senator Phil Williams (R) from Rainbow City is the sponsor of the bill and led it through the Senate. “The new law is a revision of the original statute and is designed to give the ASDF some clear guidance, a more definitive chain of command, and to help to create a real mission for their members. The State Military Department specifically requested the bill and I met with their staff on several occasions to work on the details. As a result of the new law the State will now be able to fully implement a State Military Department Regulation that will govern the ASDF’s activities. It will also likely result in the ASDF becoming an augmentee organization to National Guard command centers for disaster relief such as what we experienced in the April 2011 tornado event,” Sen. Williams said.
The bill did not make it to the House of Representatives calendar until the last day of the 2012 legislative session. Rep. Dickie Drake successfully carried the bill in the House. Rep Drake said that the Alabama Defense Force is “A bunch of patriots who stay behind” and take care of the Alabama National Guard armories, equipment, and facilities while the Alabama National Guard is overseas on deployments. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly with support from both the Republicans and the Democrats.
Rep. Drake said that the Alabama Defense Force are all volunteers and they receive no compensation. While the membership includes civilians many are former military. Rep. Drake said that force is used in a support capacity for the Alabama National Guard and is not intended to be an armed force. The Alabama State Defense Force is commanded by Major General Ronald G. Nolan.
Sen. Williams said, “The ASDF was created by a combination of statute and executive order in the 1970’s. It was originally conceived as a quasi-military organization to augment the State National Guard here at the homefront in the event of a full mobilization which resulted in the Guard being fully deployed. Over time the organization has not had a real viable mission and the advent of the current war has shown that it is highly unlikely that the National Guard will ever be fully deployed all at one time.”
According to the official web site of the Alabama State Defense Force, the State Defense Force is “the official state guard, or state militia, of the State of Alabama, members of ASDF serve our state during her most desperate times of need. As a military force under the control of the Governor and the Adjutant General, we are called upon to serve our state when needed and called on. Most often, we serve during times of natural disaster or other climatic events.”
During World War II, the Alabama National Guard was federalized and sent overseas where it fought under Gen. McArthur in New Guinea and participated in the liberation of the Philippines among other actions. Alabama Governor Frank Dixon organized a temporary military force to replace the federalized National Guard. The Alabama State Guard was recruited mostly from the state’s American Legion posts of overage World War I veterans and trained at Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island. A.S.G. companies actually were called out during the war to maintain order in several labor disputes. The Alabama State Defense Force is based partially on the example of this earlier force. Alabama is among 26 states that have a state defense force.
Over 5,000 Alabama Guard members were deployed with the American armed forces during the Iraq War. Rep. Drake said that the ASDF helps “keep continuity in the unit” while members of the National Guard are deployed away from their normal duties here in Alabama.
To learn more about the Alabama Defense Force visit their website: