Georgia State Defense Force

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Georgia State Defense Force
Georgia State Defense Force SSI.png
Georgia SDF Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
Country  United States
Allegiance  Georgia
Branch Army
Type SDFBranchInsigniaColor.jpg  State Defense Force
Size 560+[1]
Part of Georgia Department of Defense
Garrison/HQ Marietta, Georgia
Commander in Chief Gov. Nathan Deal
Adjutant General MG Joe Jarrard
Commander BG Thomas Danielson

The Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF, GASDF, or SDF) is an unpaid, volunteer component of the Georgia Department of Defense,[2] serving in support of the national and state constitutions under direction of the governor and the adjutant general of Georgia. As a State Defense Force, members serve alongside the Georgia Army National Guard and the Georgia Air National Guard.[3]

The mission of the Georgia State Defense Force is to provide an organized, trained, disciplined, rapid response volunteer force to assist state and local government agencies and civil relief organizations during emergencies to ensure the welfare and safety of Georgia citizens.[3]

The SDF's members help, support, and augment the Georgia National Guard, provide professional skills to the Georgia Department of Defense, and assist Georgia communities. Volunteers are trained to assist the National Guard, provide search and rescue, medical support, and disaster relief.[3]


The Georgia State Defense Force is currently organized with a headquarters at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta; three brigades with geographic areas of responsibility throughout the state;[3] medical companies;[4][5] a support brigade providing special skills augmentation; a Chaplain Corps (based on Army special branches religious support) with a Command Chaplain, Brigade Chaplain, Battalion Chaplain (UMT) Unit Ministry Team and a Chaplain Training Center; and a military band (based on the Army Band - Large, Music Support Team (MST) concept).[3] Each brigade and equivalent unit is commanded by a field grade officer (usually a colonel). The current chain of command for the State Defense Force at the state level is organized under three positions: The commander-in-chief (Governor Nathan Deal), the adjutant general (Brigadier General Joseph Jarrard), and the Georgia State Defense Force commander (Brigadier General Thomas Danielson).


Current eligibility to join the Georgia State Defense Force extends to men and women between the ages of 18 and 64 who:[6]

  • pass a background check,
  • are U.S. citizens or legal residents,
  • have a high school diploma or equivalent, and
  • meet height and weight standards that are "designed to ensure that GSDF personnel present minimum acceptable appearance when in uniform."[7]

Prior military experience is not required, although approximately 40 percent of active members have prior service experience.[3]


The Georgia State Defense Force’s rich heritage dates back to England. Under the direction of General James Oglethorpe, Sergeants of the Guard trained future colonists in militia tactics. As settlers began arriving in Georgia around 1733, many became members of General James Oglethorpe’s militia and were called upon during the Battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742 to help repel the Spanish invasion of Georgia. These militia forces later joined General George Washington in the fight for American Independence.

Georgia State Defense Force members help recertify Georgia Army National Guard medics in CPR/AED.

The volunteer militia remained in continuous service throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time, the militia participated in Indian wars against the Creeks, Cherokees, and Choctaws, and, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, Georgia responded with over 100 volunteer regiments, battalions, and batteries. The portion that remained at home helped to defend Atlanta and Macon, shadowed by the Union advance in 1864. This volunteer commitment was second only in number to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In 1917, following passage of the National Defense Act of 1916, the National Guard could be called into federal service. As a result, Georgia law organized the militia into three classes: the National Guard, the naval militia, and the unorganized militia. It further created a separate Home Guard, or State Constabulary, also subject to military law. After World War I, the militia was called to put down labor unrest at factories and mills across the state.

In 1940, with the onset of World War II, Governor E.D. Rivers requested the American Legion to organize the Georgia State Defense Corps. The next year, in 1941, Colonel Ryburn Clay was appointed to head the State Defense Corps and it was activated and placed under the command of Brigadier General Omar Bradley, commanding officer at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Its name was shortly changed to the State Defense Corps of Georgia and then to the Georgia State Guard in 1942. During World War II, 35,000 volunteer members guarded war plants, critical communications facilities, utilities, reservoirs, and transportation facilities. Approximately 8,000 served at any given time with about 10,000 left at the end of the war.[8] They were trained to repel an invasion that never came. Although not officially disbanded until 1951, the Georgia State Guard began its retirement in July 1946.[9]

The Georgia State Guard was re-authorized in 1973 to serve as a constabulary force, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s was tasked to serve as a backup for state police forces. Legislation resulted in the first muster in 1985 when it was re-activated as the Georgia State Defense Force under the command of Brigadier General John Gillette. The force was tasked to provide a cadre around a larger force to assume the vacated domestic missions of Georgia National Guard members called to federal duty.

Members of the Georgia State Defense Force assist with crowd and traffic control during the annual Wreaths Across America event at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Georgia.

The current Georgia State Defense Force is authorized by the federal government under 32 USC 109(c), by the State of Georgia under Title 38 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated,[10] and by the National Guard Bureau under NGR 10-4.[11] The Georgia Department of Defense is composed of the State Defense Force, the Army National Guard, and the Air National Guard, all of whom serve under the direction of the adjutant general of Georgia.[3]

Recent operations include support to National Guard units during the Gulf War, participation in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, emergency aid to agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), support to Georgia National Guard units and their families since 2001, and activation during the 2004 G-8 Summit at Sea Island[12] and the 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricane evacuations.[13]

In 2010, the GSDF and its members were recognized by a special resolution of the Georgia Legislature[14] for their participation in Operation Healing Hands, providing disaster relief to earthquake victims in Haiti.[3] After the devastating outbreak of tornadoes across the Southeast U.S. in May, 2011, members of the 5th Brigade of the GSDF, under the local command of Colonel Michael Worthington, participated in relief efforts in Lamar County and other hard-hit areas of the state.[15] Members of the GASDF, including consumer advocate CPT Clark Howard, assisted with car removal following a huge traffic jam caused by Winter Storm Leon.[16]

Legal protection[edit]

Employers in the state of Georgia are required by law to grant a leave of absence to any employees who are members of the Georgia State Defense Force who are activated for any military service, and to restore those employees to their previous positions upon their return from their deployment.[17]

Awards and decorations[edit]

The Georgia State Defense Force issues several awards, including the following:[18]

  • GSDF Medal of Valor.jpg Medal of Valor
  • GSDF Distinguished Service Medal.jpg Distinguished Service Medal
  • GSDF Legion of Merit Medal.jpg Legion of Merit Medal
  • GSDF Meritorious Service Medal.jpg Meritorious Service Medal (Formerly Medal of Merit)
  • GSDF Commendation Medal.jpg Commendation Medal
  • GSDF Achievement Medal.jpg Achievement Medal
  • GSDF Good Conduct Ribbon.jpg Good Conduct Ribbon
  • GSDF Longevity Service Ribbon.jpg Longevity Service Ribbon
  • GSDF Unit Commander’s Citation.png Unit Commander's Citation (Awarded as a ribbon)
  • GSDF State Active Duty Service Ribbon (Obsolete).jpg State Active Duty Ribbon (Obsolete)
  • GSDF State Active Duty Service Ribbon.jpg State Active Duty Ribbon
  • GSDF Humanitarian Service Ribbon.png Humanitarian Service Ribbon
  • GSDF Volunteer Service Ribbon.jpg Volunteer Service Ribbon
  • GSDF Recruiting Achievement Ribbon.jpg Recruiting Achievement Ribbon
  • GSDF Soldier NCO Member of the Year Ribbon.jpg Soldier/NCO Member of the Year Ribbon (Formerly Enlisted Member of the Year Ribbon)
  • GSDF Military Proficiency Ribbon.jpg Military Proficiency Ribbon
  • GSDF Military Qualification Training Ribbon.jpg Military Qualification Training Ribbon
  • GSDF Emergency Service School Ribbon.jpg Emergency Services School Ribbon
  • GSDF Military Indoctrination Ribbon.jpg Military Indoctrination Ribbon
  • GSDF Military Readiness Ribbon.jpg Military Readiness Ribbon
  • GSDF Physical Fitness Ribbon.jpg Physical Fitness Ribbon
  • GSDF Unit Commander’s Citation (Obsolete).jpg Unit Commander's Citation (Obsolete)
  • GSDF Outstanding Unit Citation.jpg Outstanding Unit Citation

Members of the Georgia State Defense Force who have previously served in a federal component of the United States military may also wear awards issued by any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, a United States ally, or other state defense forces in addition to any Georgia state awards. Veterans of the American military who have earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Ranger tab, the Pilot Wings, the Air Crewman Wings, the Submarine Warfare insignia, the Diver insignia, and the unit formation patch in cases where the soldier served in a combat zone may wear these awards on both the dress and service uniforms as well.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Georgia State Defense Force SGAUS Brief 2015" (PDF). Georgia State Defense Force. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  2. ^ "GSDF Commander". Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Georgia State Defense Force". Georgia State Defense Force Official Website. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  4. ^ "1st Medical Company - GASDF". 1st Medical Company (GASDF) Official Website. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  5. ^ "2nd Medical Company - GASDF". 2nd Medical Company (GASDF) Official Website. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  6. ^ "Candidate Requirements". Georgia State Defense Force Official Website. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Height and Weight Standards". Georgia State Defense Force Official Website. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  8. ^ "GSDF History Overview". Georgia State Defense Force. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Our History". Georgia State Defense Force. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  10. ^ "GA Code § 38-2-50 (2016)". Justia. 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  11. ^ "National Guard Regulation 10-4: National Guard Interaction With State Defense Forces" (PDF). National Guard Bureau. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  12. ^ Shaddick, Roger (August 2005). "GSDF Support Group members honored in awards ceremony". Heads Up! E-News From the Georgia State Defense Force. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  13. ^ Moon, Garry (October 2005). "GSDF again mobilized for Hurricane Rita airlift". Heads Up! E-News From the Georgia State Defense Force. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  14. ^ Thomas, Don; Thompson, Steve; Wiles, John (2010). "Senate Resolution 1396" (PDF). Georgia General Assembly. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  15. ^ Pepalis, Bob (30 April 2011). "Alpharetta Man Texts Of Devastation in Georgia". Alpharetta Patch. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Clark Howard, National Guard remove cars from Georgia highways". WSB-TV. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  17. ^ "38-2-280 - Reemployment in private industry; various types of absences; injunction to compel; Attorney General's aid". Justia. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  18. ^ a b "Georgia State Defense Force Regulation No. 672-1" (PDF). Georgia State Defense Force Official Website. Georgia Department of Defense. 8 March 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 3, 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]