Ohio’s Militia is deeply rooted in the English and early colonial tradition of citizen-soldiers providing local protection and law enforcement though out the Ohio Valley, with the initial settlement being in Marietta, Ohio, in July of 1788. Before, during and after the Revolutionary War, many men continued to muster the militia for their protection, as that was the way of life in the territory.
With the formation of a new nation and the US Constitution establishing the need for a “well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state”. The nation passed the Militia Act of 1792 which officially continued the militias throughout the nation, requiring all able-bodied men ages 18 to 45 to serve in their local militia units, they were required to provide their own weapons and equipment. It also stated that the Governor would appoint an Adjutant General, to organize and supervise unit training of the militia. Abiding by the founding fathers’ distrust of a large standing army, it limited the ability of militia to serve outside of their state / territory borders and placed effective control with the Governor’s rather than the federal government.
The Ohio Militia served this great state throughout history serving during the War of 1812, and The Mexican American War, however the militia was not well regulated as it was supposed to be and local towns and city’s failed to keep muster and allowed the troops to skip or not train for many reason. For this it became extremely difficult to maintain troops, besides the US now had a Federal Military. During the war of 1812, the Revolutionary war was still fresh in the mind of many people, and they did not want to lose the very freedom that they had recently gain, so when the call for troops came, the nation quickly beefed up for the war. The same happened in 1848 during the Mexican American War, Ohio was abled to assist by raising several regiments of infantry and artillery batteries from the local militia units and volunteers.
The largest call for troops from the nation came during April of 1861, the American Civil War, again Ohio’s militia system had fell into shambles, but was quick to answer the presidents call for volunteers. After months of mustering and training troops, almost all the Ohio Militia were sworn into federal service and served with distinction throughout the war. The first Congressional Medal of Honor was given in March of 1863 to Army Private Jacob Parrott of Fairfield County, Ohio. He was a member of Company K, 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Five other Ohio Soldier’s also received the Medal for the same daring raid shortly after PVT Parrott. During the Civil War, it was the first time the term “National Guard” was used to describe Ohio troops.
With Lee’s surrender, and by order of the president, the Union Army was quick to muster out troops as it need to reduce the numbers of active federal troops. This created a problem right off the back as the troops that was once state militia soldiers were not returned to state control to be mustered out, instead they were released and told to go home by the Union Army, their service was completed. Troops scrambled to return home. In some cases, some units marched back to Ohio and in those cases, were mustered out by the state. With this confusion, it once again hurt the state’s militia system and again fell into despair.
In April of 1898, Congress meets and approves a resolution to use Military forces to assist and secure the independence for Cuba from Spain, this was due to the U.S. Battleship Main being attacked and exploding in the Havana Harbor. The Spanish-American War had started, and once again, the Federal Government put a call out for troops. Like many states’ Ohio also responded by send troops to Texas to be mustered and train to fight in the war. However, Ohio had three regiments leave the US for war, while the 6th and 8th Ohio Infantry was sent to Cuba, the 4th Ohio Infantry went to Puerto Rico. Like the Civil war, all of the state soldiers, were inducted into federal service before leaving the U.S. The remaining soldiers in Texas, were discharged and sent home. Like the Civil War this created confusion and the troops just returned home vers being returned to state control.
With the conclusion of the Spanish-American war, while successful and victorious, the US Military reviewed and took at a look at how it wages war. The number of issues that arose during the call to arms for the war created many issues such as lack of consistent training, communication, equipment, and discipline among the different units mustered into service, created delays and hardships, that could have been avoided if all had the same training. Because of this the military knew it needed to streamline this process. A young Congressman and veteran of the war saw firsthand how this truly affected the states militia system compared to the federal governments. Formerly the Commanding General for the Ohio National Guard and past president of the National Guard Association, Congressman Charles F. Dick, was instrumental in creating the Militia act of 1903 also known as the “Dick Act”. The Dick Act was the first major change to the original Militia Law of 1792. Congressman Dick entered service in the National Guard in 1876 and later was a LTC of the Volunteers, before becoming the Commanding General. In short, you can say he had a vested interests in seeing the changes made.
Defining the Roles of the Militia
The Dick Act formally establish the difference between the Organized Militia and the Unorganized Militia, for the first time, as the Militia Law of 1792 was never followed or directly enforced. Now the organized militia consisted of all able body males between the ages of 18 to 45 who were a part of an organized military unit and mustering for training and service. The unorganized militia consisted of everyone else of the same age, that was not mustering with a unit but was able to be called upon if needed. This is the first time the militia was formally given the title of “National Guard”. It established the training requirement of drilling two days a month, annual firearms training, and a week in the field. The act also required the militia to follow and incorporate the Federal Army’s standards, training, and organization. While this was a major change to the Militia Law, most states were in favor of this, as it gave them a more robust militia to call on when the time arose. However, this left many small issues that will later expose themselves as time progressed, one being the militia could not be called on by the Federal Government without the Governors permission. Soldiers had to volunteer to be inducted into Federal service. Another issue was that the militia could not be used outside of the United States, and could only be used for 9 months, afterwards they had to be returned to state control.
The changes to the Militia act in 1908, settled the issues of length of service that the National Guard can be call upon from 9 months to what he deemed fit for the emergency at hand. It also took the power away from the Governors when the President called upon the troops. In 1912, the US Attorney General stated it was unconstitutional to use the National Guard outside of the US. This continued to restrict them, to a homeland mission only.
A change to the Militia Act in 1914 officially brought the National Guard as the 2nd line of defense to the Federal Military, which Congressman Dick lobbied for as the National Guard Association President. While a victory to some, it was still plagued with the restriction of not being allowed to be used outside if the US. During this time, the Secretary of War, Lindley M Garrison developed a plan for a Federal Reserve Force. This plan was met with resistance from the National Guard Association as they saw it as a threat to their new duties as the 2nd line of defense to the Regular Army. Luckily the nation was against force conscription, as it had always shown that in a time of need the nation would step up to answer the call as it had done for many years.
In March of 1916, Francisco “Pancho” Villa raided the town of Columbus New Mexico. The US Army was sent to bring him to justice, but he later raided two boarder towns in Texas. The President called on the National Guard from every state (Ohio included) to help, sending troops to the border, however the National Guard was still restricted to staying within the US and only the Federal Army was allowed to pursue into Mexico. Seeing this as a major issue, Congress began deliberation to change the Militia Act and rightfully so.
The National Defense Act of 1916 changed the status of the US Army to include the Regular Army, the Volunteer Army, the “Officer’s” Reserve Corps, the Enlisted Reserve Corps, and the National Guard when called to federal service. With this change it fixed the problem of being confine within the US borders only. However, it left the state’s vulnerable due to the fact the new law under section 61. “Maintenance of other troops by the states” Stated in short that the states could not maintain troops within the state during peacetime other than the National Guard. Little did they know how soon this would be challenged.
OHIO’s Home Guard (1917 -1921)
Within a few months of the National Defense Act of 1916 passing into law, the spring of 1917 President Woodrow Wilson order the National Guard to active service to prepare for war, by June 15th, the National Guard would be absorbed by the regular Army. Thus, leaving all the states with no military force to handle issues at home. This was not acceptable in many states and letters and request for support poured into the War Department. A letter from MG Leonard Wood to all the State’s Adjutants Generals advised them he understood the stress that was created by losing the National Guard. However, he did suggest that they look to the state or municipal government for aid and stress an emphasis on the last lie of the Sect 61 of the National Defense Act of 1916.
In April the first troops in Ohio National Guard began reporting to Active Duty. Governor Cox at the time advised that he had no plans to form a new state militia, but he did support the cities and municipals to form “Home Guards”. From April of 1917 to October of 1918 there were over 120 Home Guard companies withing the state of Ohio. In February of 1918, the Cincinnati Home Guard was calling to State Active Duty to assist with the flooding on the Ohio River. With inconsistency throughout the Home Guard, Governor Cox, officially created the “Ohio Home Guard” on October 19th, 1918. Governor Cox did this to bring the Home Guard in line with training and organization like the National Guard and to gain federal recognition for support. World War One Armistice came on November 11th, 1918. The Ohio Home Guard continued to stay in place while troops returned home from Europe. In 1919 during the Strike of the Cincinnati Fire Department, the Cincinnati Home Guard was once again called to state active duty to cover for the FD while on strike. By the end of 1919 and according to the annual report to the secretary of war, it listed Ohio with just 50 companies of home guard. By 1920 the updates to the National Defense Act, set things back to the prewar standards and abolished the use of other troops in the states, other than the National Guard and the Naval Militia. Governor Cox ordered and stood down the Home Guard.
The Ohio Home Guard was officially the first State Defense force of Ohio after the Dick Act. It clearly separated the history of the SDF and connected the National Guard to the Colonial Militia. The National Guard assumed its original mission and provided the state with the needed security till 1939.
Ohio State Guard (1940 -1947)
By 1939, the war in Europe was once again in full force and the US was on the lookout, trying to avoid being drawn into the war. On October 15th, 1940, the President once again called on the National Guard for a year of Active Duty, originally set to help with security throughout the nation but eventually trained up for war. Congress, remembering the past, on October 21st, 1940, passed legislation to once again allow states to muster troops to replace the National Guard called to Federal service. At first, they were going to be called the home guard like in WWI, however they wanted to distinguished between the new units verses the past and decided on the name of “State Guards”. Unlike WWI, the War Department and the National Guard Bureau would be advisors to the State Guard. The early part of 1940, Adjutant General Gilson D. Light spoke throughout the state about the development of the Ohio State Guard.
In 1941, Governor Bricker, while addressing the 94th General Assembly to consider establishing the Ohio State Guard or increasing authority of the Highway Patrol. On April 28th, 1941, a bill that had already passed the Ohio Senate was passed at the Ohio House that Officially created the Ohio State Guard and the Ohio Naval Militia. They were ordered to muster between 1000 to 4800 men and Officers. On April 21st, 1941, the US Army Regulation 850-250 “Regulations for State Guard” was published and issued to states. Ohio State Guard used this and the newly published State Guard Manual as the guidelines to forming and training the Ohio State Guard.
On May 22nd, 1941, the Governor Bricker appointed COL Whittier S. Bird as the Ohio Adjutant General and the First Commander of the Ohio State Guard. COL Donald F. Pancoast was appointed as the Executive Officer. On May 28th, 1941, Governor Bricker, appointed Commanders for the first three Infantry Regiments formed. Uniform in the beginning were announced by COL Bird as being blue, this would remain this way till the War Department issued uniforms to the State Guards. By August 7th, the Ohio State Guard had 1925 enlisted men and 164 officers sworn in. On December 7th, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, by the morning of the 8th, the Ohio State Guard received its First Official Alert.
On April 27th, 1942, Governor Bricker announced that COL Donald F Pancoast would be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and to take command of the Ohio State Guard as well as the Ohio Naval Militia. He would also be stepping in during the absence of Adjutant General Bird who left the previous week to join the 37th Division, by June this would be made official.
The Ohio State Guard spent many months, training and being inspected by the National Guard Bureau, passing most inspections and meeting expectations set forth by the War Department. So much that the Ohio State Guard expanded to 6 Regiments, with the 6th Regiment being an all-negro unit. However, that didn’t mean there wasn’t faults, the 2nd Regiment, Company L of London Ohio was disbanded by order of the National Guard Bureau for not meeting training standards. The war department took the State Guard Seriously.
While being put on alert in December of 1941, the First actual activation of the Ohio State Guard did not come till a year later, December 31st of 1942, the First Regiment, company E out of Cincinnati with company A later to follow and help with flooding in the Manchester area. By 1943, the Ohio State Guard became so proficient and Gas training that the State used the Ohio State Guard to give demonstrations and training to companies throughout the state, while not officially on state active duty, it was a full-time exercise. The 2nd state activation of the Ohio State Guard came on October 20th of 1944, The Adjutant General Ordered 500 troops of the Ohio State Guard to East Ohio Gas Company Fire to help with crowd control, patrol the burned area, and to protect property from Looters. The third activation came at the cost of a train derailment, where chlorine gas car was involved. The adjutant General sent 60 Members of Company I of the 4th Infantry Regiment. In February of 1945 a company out of Lima was ordered to state active duty to assist with crown control during a hotel fire, making this the 4th state activation. On March 6th, 1945, saw the 5th and largest activation of the Ohio State Guard, involving over 20 companies, Ohio State Guard troops were called along the Ohio River once again for flooding. There were some small incidents were a soldier/officer here or there were sent to preform additional duties, such as monitor union strikes / negotiations, provide demonstrations, and in a small incident, provide soldiers to fill in as MP Guards at Camp perry when requested by the Department of the Army. But the Finial activation didn’t come till December of 1945, when the Adjutant General ordered the Ohio State Guard Lima Truck unit to FT. Wayne, Indiana to pick up approximately 100 discharged veterans of the Ohio’s 37th Division and bring them home
By April of 1945 the Ohio State Guard and the Naval Militia had over 4000 enlisted men and 294 Officer’s as reported to the National Guard Bureau. In May, VE Day happened as Germany surrendered and by August VJ day happened as Japan Surrendered. The Ohio State Guard was to maintain its readiness until 4800 National Guard troops were returned to the state and began drilling again and were ready to assume the role that the Ohio State Guard had filled. In January of 1947 BG Pancoast was replaced by BG Chester W Goble, who announced that the Ohio State Guard would begin its drawdown in February. After returning all federal property, vehicles, weapons and equipment to the federal government and passing all the finial inspections, the last Ohio State Guard unit was stood down on September 30th of 1947, the unit was the Company A, QMC (Truck) out of Lima Ohio.
Like in WWI, Congress once again passed a resolution, on July 25, 1947, repealing the law that allowed the New State Guards of WWII. This was a topic that was much debated; however, the law was changed. Because of this many states guards formed associations during and after the war. The Ohio State Guard did this during the war and continued the association after the war as well. Many reunions and picnics were held throughout 1947 and 1948. The cold war had started, and the heat was growing in Korea. Talks were of war yet again and the fear of calling on the National Guard increased yet again.
Ohio Defense Corps (1949-1985)
Ohio, seeing the writing and remembering how hard it was to stand up troops during WWI and WWII, did not want to be behind if the call came. With that the Ohio General Assembly on May 26th, 1949 amended Senate bill 259, to provide Military protection for the state of Ohio in the event the Ohio National Guard is call into federal service again. The Ohio Defense Corps was born. Many officers from the Ohio State Guard were recalled back into service to help stand up the new Ohio Defense Corps. There were many meetings and guidance given by the Ohio Adjutant General to the new officers of the Ohio Defense Corps, among the discussions with MG Leo M Kreber, the Ohio Defense Corps would be dividing Ohio into area of operations with a Commander at each one.
In 1950 Congress once again passed legislation allowing for a State Defense Force for a period of two years due to the escalation in Korea. Even though Ohio was ahead of the curve when standing up the Ohio Defense Corps, they still had trouble mustering troops. The numbers slowly raised as time progressed and monthly drill became a regular training event. The US Army rescinded Army Regulation 850-250 and replaced it with Army Regulation 950-10 as the new Regulation for State Guards. This regulation would remain until Oct of 1952. In June of 1953 the Ohio Defense Corps held its first annual training at Camp Perry. July of that same year, the Korean War comes to an end for the US with the signing of the armistices.
Congress had once again rescinded the changes to section 61 and repealed state’s ability to have troops other than the National Guard during peace time. Ohio on the other hand had already passed a state law authorizing this, prior to the changes to National Defense Act. MG Al Lord Walsh, president of the National Guard Association challenged that Ohio’s law was illegal and unconstitutional. With that accusation out there Ohio’s Adjutant General A E Hendmon asked for a ruling from the Attorney General, C. William O’Neil who stated he did not believe that it was illegal or unconstitutional. He also stated that it is “wholly beyond the province of my office”. So, the Ohio Defense Corps continued to serve the state of Ohio. In 1956, Congress passed legislation to permit the voluntary maintenance of State Defense Forces in peace time. It was reported during this time frame there was about 1100 troops in the Ohio Defense Corps.
The Ohio Defense Corps continued the pride and tradition of service well into the mid-80s. While during that time, they were never called into State Active Duty, they were always prepared to answer the call. The success of the Ohio Defense Corps over the years was due to support from good officer who understood the rationale behind having the force, however that doesn’t mean there wasn’t troubled times during the Ohio Defense Corps years of service. Several Budget cuts, to political pressure to shut the force down, they survived the challenges and drive forward to provide valuable troops. In June of 1985, a change came to rename the Ohio Defense Corps to the Ohio Military Reserve.
Ohio Military Reserve (1985 – Present)
In 1985 with the renaming of the Ohio Military reserve it saw many changes to the state law. The biggest being that the mission of the Ohio Military Reserve went back to being a constabulary force to help with suppression of riots and help enforce laws in time of need as well as defend the state from an invasion. So, with that, the Ohio Military Reserve continued with the Infantry role within the state. Keeping with what the Ohio Defense Corps had set up, the state was still divided into 5 areas of operations within the state. 1st Brigade was southwest area of Ohio, 2nd Brigade was the Southeast area, Corps HHC was the Columbus Area with 3rd Medical, 4th Brigade was the Northwest area, finally 5th Brigade made up the northeast area.
The Ohio Military Reserve continued to fight political pressure and budget issues, however the sprit of the volunteer soldier within the organization continued to thrive. Many professional Ohioan’s came to serve their state and provided the OMR with new core of Officers. Many of these Officer were Korea or Vietnam veterans who have long since left military service but found a calling to serve once again. Those professional with the support of the National Guard at times, created the bases of what the Ohio Military Reserve is today, for example mentoring and training with the 73rd INF Brigade in Columbus, to developing our own professional education system for our troops.
The first major change for the OHMR came in the form of changing our branch from Infantry to Military Police, by order of the Adjutant General, the OHMR began the change and eventually finished it in the 90s. During this time, the OHMR participated in many events, such as Air Shows, In Cleveland, Dayton, Rickenbacker and Lancaster by providing security. Members of the 1st Brigade assisted the US Air Force in manning the gates at Dayton, while 2nd Brigade worked at Rickenbacker ANGB doing the same duties. All the OHMR would take turns during annual training at Camp Perry for Gate and MP Duties on the post. The OHMR developed relationships with National Guard units to do joint training, such as medical flight, loading and unloading of troops. Land Navigation and acting as OPFOR for National Guard units. Some Units during the years, “self-activated”, to assist local municipals with natural disasters in their area of operations. Most of these missions were considered Community service missions. While the units did these events on orders, they were never called by the TAG’s office or the Governors Office to State Active duty.
Over the years, the support and budgets changed drastically from Governor to Governor, and the support from the National Guard changed from Tag to Tag. These were the major factors that effected the growth and reduction of the OHMR over the years.
In 2009, MG Gregory Wayt, ordered the 2nd Major Change in OHMR history, the Ohio Military Reserve once again change their branch from Military Police to Civil Support. The new focus of the OHMR was emergency management which was a major focus change across the nation for all State Defense Forces. With this change, the OHMR also saw a manning change from a CORPs to a simple Brigade format. The New Ohio Military Reserve was now known as the 4th Civil Support & Sustainment Brigade. The transition was overseen by the National Guard with multiple Liaison Officers and NCOs from the National Guard were assigned to the OHMR to assure that the transition was completed. The OHMR’s new mission was now focused on FEMA Emergency Support Functions 6 & 7 and was deemed operational by the National Guard in 2012. The OHMR went from being cadre force being held in reserve to an active military unit within the National Guard Command Structure and homeland response.
In 2019, a horrendous tornado tore through Montgomery County, Ohio causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage. The Governor of Ohio declared a state of emergency and called the Ohio Military Reserve to State Active Duty for the first time since WWII. A Company of the 2nd BN, 4th CSSB provided support to the Ohio EMA in the tornado debris clean up. The mission was to last 18 weeks but with the combine support of the Ohio EMA, the Ohio Military Reserve, and the Contractors hired by the EMA, the mission was completed in 10 days.
State of Ohio Defense Force (2019 – Present)
In 2019, at the guidance of MG John C Harris Jr. the current Ohio National Guard Adjutant General, a new change effected the State Defense Forces of Ohio. With new laws created to develop a Ohio Cyber Reserve, MG Harris saw fit to develop the State Of Ohio Defense Force Command. A Command element that Commands all three SDF’s in Ohio, the Ohio Military Reserve, the Ohio Naval Militia, and the Ohio Cyber Reserve. MG Harris appointed the previous Commander of the Ohio Military Reserve, BG Richard J Vasquez as the first commander of the OHSDF Command.
At the beginning of March 2020, the state of Ohio like many states across the nation was hit hard by the COVID-19 virus, Because of that, the Governor Mike Dewine once again activated the OHSDF to provide troops to support and assist Ohioans throughout the state as a part Operation Steady Resolve, OHMR Soldiers, ONM Sailors were activated along with Ohio National Guard Soldiers and Airman to operate in Foodbanks, Points of distribution, PPE warehousing, assisting in nursing homes, helped with virus testing, vaccination clinics, worked in the prison systems and processed unemployment claims. In all more than 200 personals within the OHSDF were deployed and Honored with the Ohio National Guard Special Service Ribbon. Those members were also honored by receiving the United States Public Health Service COVID-19 campaign medal, the first federal award given to the OHSDF.
Today, Soldier’s and Sailors of the OHSDF are proud to continue growing the legacy of leadership and service in the time of crisis. Always Ready, Always There!