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.

Unorganized Militia Guidon

I’ve posted several times over the years on the topic of “militia”[1] and I recently stumbled across a post on militia uniform patches that has inspired me to create a generic “Unorganized Militia Guidon”.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

With regard to the elements: The crossed musket and sabre is a common insignia amongst State Militias/Defense Forces, but I’ve only seen them on websites selling embroidered collar insignia or at very low resolutions in raster format. As stated in a previous post, I am an untalented “tracer” so I found some usable pictures of both infantry (for the musket) and cavalry (for the sabre) officer brass to trace in Inkscape. The picture of the infantry brass was a little low quality, so I found a couple decent resolution pictures of a 1795 Springfield rifle (here and here) to trace. The result is a fairly proportional pairing. I looked up the dimensions (20″x27″, 10″ swallow tail) with a  of a U.S. Army guidon on Wikipedia and set that as my page size in Inkscape. The actual reg covering guidons is here.

All you crazy right-wing militia nuts out there interested in using my “work”: as indicated above, I am licensing it under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Given there is nothing unique or special about this, that is only fair. Anyone with a bit of graphics ability could easily recreate this in a very short period of time. Unfortunately, I am unable to load up the master SVG file here, so if you want it, you will need to email me to request it.

For those of you who are thinking “This emblem is Great! I sure wish I could get a shirt or something with it…”, feat not! I have a CafePress store with many items. Click here to be taken to it. 

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[1] Links:

Does a nation need a standing army?

Below is an excellent post from the Russian newspaper Pravda:

Does Russia need its own army?: If we have a conflict like the one with Georgia, it requires a professional army. But if we have a conflict like the one in Syria, which is somewhat forced upon us, then we need every man in the country to be able to use a gun, prevent an invasion of the terrorist enemy forces on the territory of the Russian Federation

Ignoring Pravda’s place in history as the voice of the communist party, this article is worthy of discussion. It seriously debates the matter of having a standing army vs. a ready militia. I can’t think of a  mainstream news outlet in the US that would even consider running such an article.

Such a discussion needs to take place within the United States. “Militia” has become codeword for “domestic terrorist” here in the U.S.A., but this should not be so. We were founded on the premise that all males of a certain age should be prepared to defend their home and homeland. Colonial militia service was compulsory and “everyone” was expected to maintain certain equipment and be ready to take up arms should the need arise.

Most people assume that the National Guard is the militia, but it ceased to be, in my opinion, when the National Guard was federalized under the Militia Act of 1903. During WWII many states saw a need for a non-federal militia and established Home Guard units that formed the basis for modern state defense forces(SDFs)[1]. Many of these SDFs have limited support from their states and are a hint of a memory of a notion of a militia. They are un(der)funded and most are unarmed. They take backseat to FEMA and local EMAs in emergencies. For a period of time I “served” in the Alabama State Defense Force, and I commend those who serve in their states’ SDF. They hearken back to the colonial era where every able-bodied male was a member of the militia (SDFs have males and females amongst their ranks today). I support the objectives of the SDFs, but I question their effectiveness due to the neutered capacity that they exist in. This is unfortunate.

Amendment II of the United States Constitution states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

 Most people just focus on the right to keep and bear Arms. While this is important, it overlooks the fact that the Founding Fathers believed it necessary to maintain a well regulated militia. This is foundational.  Compulsory service in the militia placed a vested interest in the survival of the State into the hands of the citizens. They had “ownership” and a share in the corporate body that is the United States. We were and are a republic, res publica, literally in Latin the “public thing”. We are not subjects of the Federal Government. We are the sovereign, and we elect those who are sent to represent our will at a national assembly. I think we have lost track of that concept, and thus relegated our common defense solely to the professional Armed Forces, and less consciously to local law enforcement.

As we progressed from a primarily agrarian society toward an urban lifestyle, we determined it better to pay others for our defense, both domestic and abroad. There are many merits to this, but we surrendered quite a bit of freedom in the process.

Today, the act of enforcing the laws and ordinances of a local have been delegated to professional police forces, a concept that would have been quite foreign to our Founding Fathers[2]. This is a supercession of  the common law concept of posse comitatus. As we have accepted less and less responsibility for the welfare of ourselves and our communities, the police forces have had to step up to fill that gap. This assumption of power relegated to them by an inability of communities to police themselves internally has led to many of the egregious oversteps by that we have read about in recent years. The problem with a select few enforcing the law is that rogue elements amongst them fall victim to the notion that they are above the law. I am confident that they are the minority of law enforcement officers. I would be remiss, however, if I did not stop and thank those who have stepped up and put themselves in harm’s way to “protect and serve” their communities against those who would willfully and violently disobey the law and harm their fellow man. It is a thankless job, and I am thankful for those who are willing to do it.

We also have relegated our National defense to a professional force, which in modern society is also necessary. Due to downsizing in active components, many of those serving in combat are National Guardsmen and Reservists. These citizen soldiers are put on Active Duty for extended and repeat deployments. They attend the same training that everyone else in the military attends and are indistinguishable in combat. They are a far cry from the rag-tag militia that General George Washington lamented over in the early years of the American Revolution. Militarism has advanced to a precise science, as is attested by our service academies. We have a strong, well-educated, and dedicated professional military. We should ever be proud of those who serve. As excellent as our military is, however, it is comprised of only a fraction of our overall population.

The majority of the populace reap the benefits without ever making any of the sacrifices. Maybe this is a benefit of professional domestic and national defense forces, but it offloads one’s civic responsibilities and makes the society stagnant. Without a vested interest, people begin voting for those who offer them “bread and circuses” and public interest gives way to self interest. We forget to “ask not what our Country can do for you” and we never ask “what you can do for your Country”. We are more than willing to send the sons and daughters of someone else to die to protect our liberties. I think this is one of the reasons Roman citizenship was tied so strongly to military service. I’m not saying that America should limit its citizenship in such a manner; that is foreign to our Nation and should be. We should be shareholders in the nation, we each have an obligation to ensure its continued success.

So back to the question of does a nation need a standing army? That’s a question each nation must answer for itself. Does it plan to engage in foreign conflict perpetually? If so, then yes, it needs a standing army. Is the population at large capable of defending its own borders? If not, then it needs a standing army. Is it at peace with its neighbors and those capable of doing it immediate harm? Can its militia defend its own borders? If that is the case, then maybe it doesn’t need a large standing army. What say you?

References:

[1] I can’t speak for other states, but the Alabama Code still allows for a state militia. You can read more about it in my post on Honorary Colonelcy in the State of Alabama.

[2] The notion of modern police forces was invented by Sir Robert Peale in 1829, when he established the Metropolitan Police Force in London.

Shipping firms use floating armouries to deter pirates

I’ll preface this by stating that I am not a maritime (or any other form of) law expert, nor do I play one on TV, but the topic of a private entity’s, whether human or corporate, right to defend itself on land or sea interests me.

Shipping firms use floating armouries to deter pirates:
Private security firms are storing their guns aboard floating armouries in international waters so ships that want armed guards for East Africa’s pirate-infested waters can cut costs and escape laws limiting the import and export of weapons.

The Somali pirates have made this a hot topic, but for a while, armed merchant ships have been taboo. Much credence is given to international opinion on prohibiting arms on commercial vessels and depending heavily on whatever navy ship may be in the area to come to a sieged ship’s rescue.
Given how many merchant ships already flies under flags of convenience, I can see where those nations whose flags the ships are flying under would establish their own weapons sales facilities in their ports and make it easy for mariners to gun up. I’m not sure where Liberia, Panama, et al. would pull their stockpile from, but there would definitely be the chance for them to make a steady income, given the dangerous waters that commercial vessels often find themselves in.
But what do I know? I’m just a spectator in the realm of geopolitics.