Military Wiki
The Massachusetts State Defense Force
Flag of Massachusetts.svg
Active 2011 - Present
Country United States of America
Allegiance Massachusetts
Branch Army
Role Military reserve force
Part of Massachusetts Organized Militia
Garrison/HQ Milford, Massachusetts
Civilian leadership Governor Charles D. Baker
(Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
Ceremonial chief Brigadier General Gary Pappas

The Massachusetts State Defense Force (MSDF) is the State Defense Force of the state of Massachusetts. The purpose of the Massachusetts State Defense Force is to augment the National Guard during emergencies in the state, especially when some or all of the National Guard is deployed.[1] The MSDF is an all-volunteer state military force which reports directly to the State Adjutant General and is under the command of the Governor of Massachusetts. Like the National Guard, members have regular civilian careers and only meet for drills one weekend per month unless activated by the Governor during an emergency. The guard is headquartered at Milford, Massachusetts, in the same building as the National Guard. The director of the guard is appointed by The Adjutant General of Massachusetts (TAGMA). The Massachusetts State Defense Force is authorized by both the Constitution of Massachusetts and chapter 33 § 10 of the Massachusetts General Laws. [2] [3]

The MSDF is composed of volunteers who operate solely within Massachusetts and may not be called into federal service. The MSDF assists the United States National Guard forces, assumes state missions when the National Guard is deployed, provides emergency support during disasters, and assists in color guards and funeral details.


Early history

The Massachusetts General Court formed the MSDF's predecessor in 1863, which served until its disbandment in 1866. During the American Civil War, Massachusetts provided multiple units to support the Union cause. The Massachusetts militia was reformed in 1898 as the Massachusetts Provisional Militia for the Spanish-American War before again being disbanded in 1899. During the course of the war, five infantry regiments and one artillery regiment from the Massachusetts Provisional Militia were deployed. [4]

20th Century

By 1908, the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia consisted of two brigades and some unattached units ("total strength, 6,524"), commanded by William H. Brigham and Governor Curtis Guild, Jr. [5]:28–30

In April 1917, the General Court again reformed the militia, renaming it the Massachusetts State Guard due to the events of World War I. Anticipating a possible German invasion or other emergency and lacking the National Guard due to deployment, many states created and trained state guard units. During World War I, the Massachusetts State Guard, training alongside other guardsmen from other states in New England, practiced capturing soldiers from Fort Devens (then Camp Devens) who would pose as enemy paratroopers, and "practiced using grenades, digging trenches, charging across fields with their shotguns, making incendiary and smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails, and creating roadblocks."[6]

After the Halifax Explosion in Nova Scotia in 1917, a medical detachment from the Massachusetts State Guard was among the first units to arrive and offer aid.[7] As an expression of gratitude for the aid provided by the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts State Guard, the city of Halifax sent the city of Boston a Christmas tree, a gift which was revived in the form of an annual tradition conducted by the province of Nova Scotia in 1971 which continues to this day.[8] During the 1918 flu pandemic, the Massachusetts State Guard operated nine hospitals to treat civilians.[7]

The State Guard was activated during World War II and served as a light infantry division until deactivation in February 1947.[7] The guard also maintained a Flying Column as a quick reaction force to help compensate for the National Guard's absence, and were active for the duration of the war.[9] In addition to the combat division, the Massachusetts State Guard operated the Women's Defense Force (WDC), a unit made up of women who were responsible for medical, firefighting, air raid alert, transportation, canteen, and communications services.[10] During the Vietnam War, the Massachusetts State Guard was reorganized and trained to be able to replace the 26th Infantry Division of the Massachusetts National Guard in the event that the guard unit was deployed.[7]


The Guard was renamed the Massachusetts Military Reserve in June 1994; the State Guard name was restored during the group's reorganization after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Massachusetts State Defense Force went on inactive status in Feb 2008. However, due to the need for additional assistance in emergency management, and the shortage of state resources due to frequent deployments of the National Guard, the Massachusetts State Defense Force was reactivated on May 31, 2011.[11]


The purpose of the Massachusetts State Defense Force is to execute the state duties of the Massachusetts National Guard when the Guard is either partially or completely deployed. Since the MSDF cannot be deployed outside the state of Massachusetts, the Governor of Massachusetts always has military units in the state able to respond to an emergency. The primary responsibilities of the MSDF are to provide operational support to disaster relief, to provide professional support to the Massachusetts National Guard, and to aid in providing a medical response during and after a disaster.[1] State Guardsmen may also aid in color guards and military funerals.[11]

On the recommendations of a steering committee involved in the reformation of the The Massachusetts State Defense Force in 2011, the MSDF is slated to expand into a number of different roles, including:

  • Support or augment professional staff functions of the National Guard including legal, chaplain, public affairs, information technology, medical, dental, mental health, and other professional functions;
  • Support operational capabilities of National Guard operations including DOMS, Joint Adaptive Battle Staff, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive (CBRNE) enhanced response force packages (CERFP).[12]


Recruiting in the Massachusetts State Guard is currently being focused at the following residents of Massachusetts (and non-residents on a case-by-case basis):

  • Honorably discharged members of the uniformed services of the United States, including active duty, reserve, and National Guard;
  • Ordained clergymen of any religious denomination;
  • Health service professionals (Chiropractors, Dentists, Optometrists, Physicians, Podiatrists, Psychologists, and Veterinarians as well as Audiologists, Biomedical Laboratory Technologists, Clinical Mental Health Professionals, Dieticians, Health Service Administrators, Nurse Practitioners, Pharmacists, Physical Therapists, Physician Assistants, Public Health Specialists, Occupational Therapists, Registered Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, and Social Workers);
  • Licensed attorneys permitted to practice law in Massachusetts.[1]

To become an officer in the Massachusetts State Defense Force, a Guardsman must have earned a Bachelor's degree.[13]

Like the National Guard, members serve on a reserve basis as part-time members and may only be called into service at the discretion of the Governor of Massachusetts, with the exception of drills one weekend per month. Therefore, prospective members are only required to commit to one weekend of training per month unless called up.


Currently, members of the MSDF are assigned to either the MSDF's staff brigade or one of the three MSDF battalions: 1st Battalion (Operational Support), 2nd Battalion (Professional Support), or 3rd Battalion (Medical Response Force).[1]


The Massachusetts State Defense Force uses the Army Combat Uniform and a patrol cap. The patch which says "U.S. Army" on federal army soldiers is replaced by one which says "Massachusetts." An MSDF unit patch is worn on the left sleeve along with the American flag, and combat badges and awards won during federal or National Guard service are allowed to be worn on the right sleeve of the MSDF uniform.[12]

Further reading

  • Taylor. The Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. Outing Magazine, 1891. Google books
  • United States Adjutant-General's Office, Military Information Division. Organized militia of the United States, 1896. Google books
  • The law for the government of the Massachusetts Militia: being chapter 367 of the acts of 1893, with amendments and additions thereto, made during the years 1893-97, inclusive. Wright & Potter Prtg. Co., 1898
  • George Warren Nason. History and complete roster of the Massachusetts regiments, minute men of '61 who responded to the first call of President Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1861, to defend the flag and Constitution of the United States ... and biographical sketches of minute men of Massachusetts. Smith & McCance, 1910. Google books


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Massachusetts State Defense Force". Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  2. "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Article VII, Section 1". Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  3. "General Laws, Part I, Title V, Chapter 33". Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  4. "Massachusetts Militia Regiments - Spanish American War". Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  5. Roster of the Organized Militia of the United States by Divisions, Brigades, Regiments, Companies, and Other Organizations With Their Stations. United States Department of War.,+by+Divisions,+Brigades,+Regiments,+Companies,+and+Other+Organizations,+with+Their+Stations.+February+1,+1908&source=bl&ots=keh_xTp0xK&sig=8ab8wVCNS-JtEaEE3rAG37WdHVU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oJ9XUvjOKO2p4APVxoB4#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  6. Stentiford, Barry M. (2002). The American Home Guard: The State Militia in the Twentieth Century. Texas A&M University Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN 1585441813. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Massachusetts State Defense Force Fact Sheet". June 5, 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  8. "The Boston Christmas Tree". Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  9. Kondratiuk, Leonid (January 22, 2010). "Full time Units in the Massachusetts National Guard". Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  10. "Dr. Ruth B. Loving - 1941-1945: The USO, and the Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps". Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Kush, Bronislaus (June 1, 2011). "Snap to attention! State militia reactivated to shore up local security". Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Massachusetts State Defense Force Briefing". December 15, 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  13. "Massachusetts State Defense Force Personnel Management". March 4, 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 

External links

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