Oregon State Defense Force

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Oregon State Defense Force
Oregon State Defense Force Insignia.jpg
Active 1961 - 2015
Country  United States
Allegiance  Oregon
Branch Army
Type SDFBranchInsigniaColor.jpg  State defense force
Role Military reserve force
Part of Oregon Military Department
Civilian leadership Governor Kate Brown
State military leadership Major General Michael E. Stencel[1]

The Oregon State Defense Force (ORSDF) is the official state defense force of Oregon and one of the three components of Oregon State's organized militia,[2] with Oregon's Army and Air National Guard (ORNG) making up the other two. It serves as a state-level military and emergency services reserve force.

On the military side, the ORSDF assists, augments or replaces the National Guard as ordered by the Governor (e.g., during times of crisis or when the ORNG is deployed elsewhere). During emergency or disaster incidents, the ORSDF assists requesting civil or military authorities with rapidly deployable emergency communications, coordination, and incident command system expertise and support compliant with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rules.

As part of the official state militia, the Oregon State Defense Force serves under the Governor of Oregon rather than the President of the United States and draws its legal authority from Chapter 399[3] of Oregon law. Those statutes require that the ORSDF be made up of individuals that are not a part of the federal military services or the National Guard. It is an all volunteer force composed of former military personnel from all the military services and is a branch of the Oregon Military Department.

As of April 2015, the OMD has temporarily suspended the Oregon State Defense Force. However, a spokesman for the Oregon Military Department stated on record that the suspension was temporary and the ORSDF would return to active service.[4] As of March 2018, the Oregon Military Department has yet to keep its promise. Since Oregon law requires the state to maintain the ORSDF at a cadre level during peacetime,[3] a reinstatement of the force is required in order to reattain compliance with the law.

Since 2016 a group of primarily prior enlisted military personnel, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and private citizens has stood up, equalized training and has unofficially taken the role of the OSDF.[citation needed] This group is currently restructuring into a Regiment format and has no negative law enforcement contacts.[citation needed]


Civil War

Although Oregon militia units did not directly serve in the Civil War, they were called up to replace the federal soldiers who were called away from protecting the frontier and redeployed to fight against the Confederate Army. In 1866, the state militia was disbanded as federal soldiers were once again deployed in the Oregon territory. However, almost immediately after their disbanding, they were re-formed after legislation was introduced by State Representative Colonel Owen Summers.[5]

Spanish–American War

During the Spanish–American War, Oregon provided the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry Regiment to serve in the Philippines. They were among the first United States forces to enter the Pacific theater of the war, and served with distinction.[5] The 2nd Oregon Volunteer Regiment was the first unit to land in the Philippines, and the first to enter the capital of Manila.[6]

World Wars I and II

After the transformation of state militias into National Guard units, subject to deployment by the federal government, states were forced to organize their own military units if they wished to protect their borders and infrastructure from sabotage or attack. In World War I, a Home Guard was mustered to protect shipyards. In World War II, a Home Guard was once again created in order to guard National Guard bases and protect against sabotage. After both wars, the organizations were deactivated.[5]

Modern times

The Oregon National Guard Reserve was formed in 1961, and was renamed the Oregon State Defense Force (ORSDF) in 1989. In 1996, the ORSDF was activated to assist in recovery operations after severe snowstorms struck Oregon.[7] In 2002, the Oregon State Defense Force was reorganized to better parallel their National Guard counterparts.[5] As of April 2015, the Oregon Defense Force has been disbanded. Spokesmen from the Oregon National Guard promised that the ORSDF would be returning.

Staff Sgt. (ORSDF) Pedro Toledo (right), with the Oregon State Defense Force, helps a child try on body armor soldiers typically wear for training and deployments.


By statute the Oregon State Defense Force is an internal security force for the Oregon State National Guard and can be called upon by the Governor of Oregon to serve under many capacities. These capacities include, but are not limited to:

  • provide assistance to the Oregon National Guard in an emergency
  • maintain HAM radio communication during an emergency
  • augment National Guard state active duty missions
  • participate in local training exercises with other first responders
  • fulfill the state duties of the National Guard when the National Guard is federalized.[8]

Since state defense force members live at home rather than on a military base, it is possible that in the event of an emergency, members may be based more closely to the disaster area and would be able to respond more quickly than federal emergency response units such as FEMA. Also, because the state defense force is not a part of the federal military of the United States, it is not prohibited from serving as law enforcement during an emergency when directed by the governor, unlike federal military units prohibited from doing so by the Posse Comitatus Act.


The Oregon State Defense Force has no training facilities, and as such must recruit from prior military members in order to maintain a level of professional training, with the exception of professionals who may offer skills needed by the Oregon State Defense Force, who may be exempted from the prior service requirement. Soldiers in the ORSDF are required to attend drills with their unit to refresh and expand upon training, generally once a month.[9]


  • Headquarters, 41st Regiment (Tigard)
  • 218th Battalion (Forest Grove)
  • 162nd Battalion (Springfield)
  • 186th Battalion (Medford)
  • Special Troops Detachment (Clackamas)
  • Headquarters, 82nd Regiment (Clackamas)
  • Headquarters, 249th Regiment (Warrenton)
  • 1249th Battalion (Salem)
  • 116th Battalion (La Grande)
  • 1-82 Battalion (Bend)

ORSDF Pipe Band

The Oregon State Defense Force maintained a military band, which was composed of bagpipe and drum players. The unit was invited to play in Ronald Reagan's inauguration in 1981, and continued to play in military ceremonies and parades in Oregon.[10]

Legal protection

Employers within the state of Oregon are required under Oregon law to grand a leave of absence to any of their employees who are members of the Oregon State Defense Force, and who are activated to take part in training or to respond to an emergency situation. Employers must then reinstate these employees to their previous position, without loss of seniority, accrued vacation time, personal time, sick leave, or other benefits when their deployment ends.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Navas, Melissa (September 25, 2015). "Governor Brown Appoints Brigadier General Michael Stencel to Lead the Oregon National Guard" (Press release). Salem, OR: Office of the Governor of Oregon. 
  2. ^ http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/396.105
  3. ^ a b "2015 ORS 399.035 Oregon State Defense Force". OregonLaws.org. 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Oregon State Defense Force gone for now". YouTube. LIN Television Corporation. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d http://www.orsdf.org/history.htm
  6. ^ http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/second_oregon_volunteer_infantry/
  7. ^ Tulak, Arthur N.; Kraft, Robert W.; Silbaugh, Don. "State Defense Forces and Homeland Security" (PDF). Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  8. ^ http://www.orsdf.org/mission.htm
  9. ^ http://www.orsdf.org/obligations.htm
  10. ^ http://odfpipeband.com/history.htm
  11. ^ "2015 ORS 659A.086: Employment rights of members of organized militia when called into active state service". Oregon Legislative Assembly. Retrieved 24 November 2017. 

External links

  • The Oregon State Defense Force Website
  • Oregon Military Department Website
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