The state of the Alabama State Defense Force

Back in December, I stumbled across an article online that the Alabama State Defense Force had been stood down. Having once been an officer in the ASDF, I was a bit disappointed to hear that. Being a bit of a militia advocate, I’ve commented on “militias” at various points on this site, and I used to maintain, as “signal officer”, the website of Company C, 103rd BN, 1st Infantry BDE, ASDF (the site is defunct now, and the Way Back Machine didn’t capture snapshots when I was listed on it).

I’ll not be so harsh as to claim that “Alabama bureaucrats squander away Alabama State Defense Force” the way the article I am referencing did, because I can sort of see why the ASDF was stood down. My experience was, that while those who volunteered sincerely wanted to be of service, the ASDF either was not given, or did not have, the capacity to be effective. And to be honest, having been honorably served in the Armed Forces, I wasn’t comfortable being a uniformed militiaman in public. Having served, I wasn’t a wannabee, and I didn’t want to be confused for a has-been. We also weren’t doing things that I thought were the most effective use of my time. I was interested in the historic notion of a militia, and not the quasi search and rescue role it was being used for.

All this led me to write a letter Governor Bentley to express my concern in the matter. I wish I had saved my correspondence, but to paraphrase, it was something to the effect of sadness that it had been stood down, an understanding of why it might have been based on my experience, and my hope that the goal was to effectively reorganize it.

To my delight, I received this response from the Governor today:

January 8, 2014

Dear Mr. Blevins:

Thank you for your letter which I received today regarding the Alabama State Defense Force (ASDF).

Since its creation in 1983, the ASDF has been a part of the Alabama Military Department under the Adjutant General. For the past several years, the ASDF has been informally transitioning from its original role as a replacement for the National Guard in the event of a full National Guard mobilization to the more relevant role of a disaster response augmentation element of the National Guard. The ASDF’s Cold War era structure, their low strength numbers, and other challenges have hindered this important transition.

In September of 2013, the Adjutant General made the decision to formalize the transition of the ASDF to maximize the organization’s utility to the National Guard and minimize liability to the state. This will ensure the organization is organized in line with the needs of the Alabama Military Department and best postured to help meet the potential needs of the state. The first step in this process was to stand down the old organization while adjustments to the structure, mission, and manning of the future organization are carefully staffed. The ASDF has not been abolished or disbanded. Current members of the ASDF are in an “inactive” status until the future structure, mission and manning of ASDF are determined.

Again, thank you for your interest in the ASDF. We appreciate all the patriotic Alabamians whom volunteer to serve in the Alabama National Guard and the ASDF.

Sincerely,

Robert Bentley
Governor

RB/pb/sw

This is the response I was hoping to see. It tells me that the ASDF is taken seriously, and that an honest evaluation was made of its current organization. I hope the Adjutant General, MG Perry G. Smith, is able to reorg the ASDF into a viable, and valuable, service to the State of Alabama.

Sweet Home (Huntsville) Alabama

Huntsville from 250 miles up via NASA’s photo of the day today:

From the caption:

Huntsville, Alabama From Space

The ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System or ISERV – a camera aboard the International Space Station – captures an image of her hometown. ISERV was designed and built at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

 If you look real close at about 10:30 on the image, you can see the Saturn V standing up at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. It has always served well as my landmark  when flying home. At the center of the map you can make out the Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center, the center being named after my favorite ex-Nazi, Wernher von Braun.

Sweet Home Mammoth?

While shuffling through my RSS favorites recently, I ran across a post positing a hypothetical reboot of the fifty states into areas with equal representation in the Electoral College. The article is here, but I want to pay particular attention to my locale, and why I like the imaginary boundary better than the real one.

© Neil Freeman
In this repartitioning of state lines, my area falls in a new state named “Mammoth”, taking its new name from the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Mammoth takes in Evansville, IN as its northernmost prominent city, Huntsville, AL, as its southernmost prominent city, and Nashville as its capital. It encompasses portions of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Mammoth bears some resemblance to the western third of the old Cherokee Nation, as displayed in C.C. Royce’s map from 1884.
Out of © – public domain

So what is better about these new borders? It aligns Huntsville and Nashville more naturally into the same state. The Tennessee River Valley in Alabama shares a closer affinity (in my lay opinion) to the Cumberland River Valley than it does with the rest of Alabama. Montgomery is too far away, both geographically and economically, from Huntsville.

Also, the Mammoth boundaries create a state with a strong defense industry nestled inside. Huntsville has Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center. Clarksville has Fort Campbell. Coinciding with this is a swath of excellent universities including the University of Alabama at HuntsvilleVanderbilt University, and the University of Southern Indiana, not to mention several smaller colleges in each of the cities.

One downside of Mammoth, however is that there are no Amtrak stations within its borders, but I suppose that only matters to the few odd folks such as myself who still enjoy travel by rail.

To a greater extent, my bias is based on a greater affinity I have for Nashville than I do for Birmingham or Montgomery. I’m a boring fuddy-duddy, but I do enjoy a nice stroll in downtown Nashville with all its venues, and the occasional “rasslin” event at the Bridgestone Arena. Given my Cherokee heritage, I’m not an Andrew Jackson fan by any means, but the Hermitage is an amazing house to visit as well. Closer to home, I especially enjoy the the Constitution Hall Village in downtown Huntsville or the Harmony Park Safari Drive-Thru Zoo. There’s also Old McDonald’s Petting Farm, which is a bit out of the way, but fun for small kids. To the north of Nashville there’s the National Corvette Museum and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

I’m not knocking any of the states that would be redefined. They each have their own wonderful histories, but borders are made to be redefined. If we’re evaluating hypotheticals, Mammoth seems to capture a regional culture pretty well.

Happy Birthday Alabama

From Alabama First Lady, Dianne Bentley’s blog:

Happy Birthday Alabama: Did you know Alabama celebrated its 193rd birthday on December 14, 2012?

First Lady Dianne Bentley joined with two schools and the Department of Archives to celebrate this day in our state’s history and to wish Alabama, Happy Birthday!

Thanks to volunteers and the staff at the Archives, students were able to tour the building and participate in several different crafts; one craft allowed students to make their own Alabama flag. During her visit, Mrs. Bentley stopped to view the first constitution of Alabama which is only on display one day a year and she got to hear the story of its making from the director, Steve Murray.

It was a special day that opened up with song and the slicing of cake. Mrs. Bentley hopes to be a part of this tradition every year she can.
 

Alabama Governor’s Mansion Christmas Open House Tours

I doubt that my family will be able to make the trek down to Goat Hill, but the decorations look exquisite: 

Christmas Open House Tours:
MONTGOMERY – Governor and Mrs. Robert Bentley announced Friday the Governor’s Mansion will be open to members of the public for Christmas Open House tours from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 3; Monday, December 10; and Monday, December 17.

Decorators from across the state have volunteered their time to adorn the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House in Christmas splendor for the tours.

“The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama, and we want to share it with them during this wonderful Christmas season,” First Lady Dianne Bentley said.

Patricia “Sister” Schubert will sign copies of the new Alabama Tourism Department book Alabama Food at the tour on Monday, December 3. Other signings of Alabama Food by contributing editors Brian S. Jones and Marilyn Jones Stamps will take place on December 10 and 17.
Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the Governor’s Mansion gift shop prior to the tours each day. The Governor’s Mansion gift shop is located at 30 Finley Avenue, across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry Street in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951. The neighboring Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the tours.