Tennessee State Guard
Tennessee State Guard Insignia.png
The Tennessee State Guard insignia
Active1985 – present
Country United States
Allegiance Tennessee
TypeState defense force
RoleMilitary reserve force
Part ofTennessee Military Department
Garrison/HQNashville, TN
WebsiteTNSG Official Website
Civilian LeadershipGovernor Bill Lee
Governor of the State of Tennessee
State Military LeadershipMajor General Jeff H. Holmes
Adjutant General of the State of Tennessee Brigadier General Juan R. Santiago
Commanding General, Tennessee State Guard

The Tennessee State Guard (TNSG) is the state defense force of the state of Tennessee. The TNSG is organized as an all-volunteer military reserve force whose members drill once per month unless called to active duty. The TNSG is a branch of the Tennessee Military Department, alongside the Tennessee Army National Guard, the Tennessee Air National Guard, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. The State Guard acts as a force multiplier for the state's National Guard. As a state defense force, the Tennessee State Guard cannot be federalized, and is not deployed outside the borders of Tennessee, as it is a purely state-level unit. It answers solely to the Governor of Tennessee, unlike the dual federal and state controlled National Guard. The creation of a state military force is recognized under Tennessee Code Annotated 58-1-401.[2]


State militias

The Tennessee State Guard traces its origins to the American Revolution. During the Battle of King's Mountain, approximately four hundred volunteers from the area known today as Tennessee crossed the mountains into North Carolina to fight against the British Army and Loyalist militias. They contributed significantly to the Patriot victory.

Tennessee militias served in battle again in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson. After fighting and winning the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, they served with distinction in the Battle of New Orleans alongside other state militias, federal soldiers, local volunteers, slaves, and pirates against the British Army.[3]

During the Mexican–American War, the nickname "The Volunteer State" became associated with Tennessee. When asked by President Polk to provide two infantry regiments and one cavalry regiment, Tennessee provided approximately ten times that number of volunteers.[4]

During the Reconstruction Era, violent activity by the Ku Klux Klan and former Confederate partisans led Governor William G. Brownlow to establish the Tennessee State Guard as a state militia to counter these anti-Reconstruction efforts. The Tennessee State Guard was a coalition drawn from white Unionists and Radical Republicans, as well as black freedmen; seven companies contained black soldiers, including one commanded entirely by black officers.[5]: 31  During the Reconstruction Era, the Tennessee State Guard was used "to police elections, protect recently enfranchised freedmen, and thwart the operations of paramilitary groups such as the Ku Klux Klan."[5]: dust jacket 

World War I

In 1915, to replace the Tennessee National Guard after the National Guard was federalized, Tennessee created a paramilitary unit, the Tennessee Rangers, which was organized as a constabulary unit and fell under the authority of the adjutant general. In 1916, the Rangers were deployed to end the burning and destruction of properties in Stewart County by the Ku Klux Klan. The Rangers helped maintain order during World War I while the National Guard was deployed abroad until their disbandment in 1923.[6]

World War II

In 1941, prior to the United States' entrance into World War II, the Tennessee State Guard was reinstated by Governor Prentice Cooper. The State Guard received training and direction from the federal military, with approximately 100 officers spending two weeks training under army officers at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia. Within a year, Tennessee's State Guard became the fifth largest in the United States, the largest in the South and the largest state guard in proportion to its population.[7] One famous Tennessean, Alvin York, belonged to the World War II-era Tennessee State Guard, accepting a commission as a colonel in 1941.[8] The State Guard was activated numerous times, including guarding a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress which was forced to make an emergency landing outside of Pulaski, Tennessee; maintaining peace after a riot in Bristol, Tennessee; performing relief effort following a train crash in Jellico, Tennessee; and assisting in the pursuit and capture of three escaped German prisoners from Camp Forrest.[7] By 1947, with National Guard units returning home, the State Guard went inactive.


In 1985, the Tennessee Defense Force was reactivated to provide a trained military reserve force for the Governor to call upon in times of emergency, and, in 1998, the name was changed by the legislature to the Tennessee State Guard.[9] In 1993, the TNSG was deployed to assist in recovery operations following a series of tornadoes which touched down in Tennessee.[10] After the attacks of September 11, 2001, state guard members were called up to guard the Naval Support Activity Mid-South base in Millington, Tennessee.[11] In 2004, during the Iraq War, members of the Tennessee State Guard were activated to assist the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment with pre-mobilization processing.[12] In 2005, Governor Phil Bredesen activated the Tennessee State Guard to assist with relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina.[13]

In April 2020, members of the Tennessee State Guard were activated to State Active Duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members were tasked with providing medical support to Tennessee's COVID-19 Medical Joint Task Force.[14]


Tennessee State Guard members prepare for deployment in response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Tennessee State Guard members prepare for deployment in response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

The organization's responsibilities are summarized in the mission statement of the Tennessee State Guard, namely: "The purpose of the Tennessee State Guard is to provide a professional complement of personnel to support the State mission of the Tennessee National Guard, by assisting the Tennessee Army National Guard as a force multiplier, and at the direction of the Adjutant General, to assist civil authorities with disaster relief, humanitarian causes, ceremonial service, religious and medical support for the well being and safety of the citizenry of Tennessee."[15]

The Tennessee State Guard can be used to augment National Guard units in times of emergency, provide medical aid, security, funeral honors, high frequency (HF) communications and perform other stateside responsibilities generally performed by the Tennessee National Guard. The State Guard can serve as first responders to a natural or man-made disaster, and may integrate emergency response plans with local community emergency response teams. Aside from deploying to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, and guarding military installations in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, State Guardsmen, in preparing for their role as emergency response personnel, also participated in Operation Vigilant Guard in a disaster response drill organized as a mock earthquake disaster zone.[9] Since the state guard is not a federal force, it is not prohibited from engaging in law enforcement by the Posse Comitatus Act, unlike federal military units. As the Tennessee State Guard generally provides non-combat support for the National Guard or state civilian authorities, guardsmen are not armed during duty, although no law exists which prevents them from being armed on the governor's orders.

Although the TNSG performs unarmed support roles during deployment, members of the TNSG regularly compete in the Mid-South Guard & Reserve Association M16 rifle and Beretta M9 pistol marksmanship competitions against Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard reservists as well as members of the National Guard.

In 2014, at the request of the 194th Engineer Brigade of the Tennessee Army National Guard, several National Incident Management System (NIMS)-certified instructors from the 1st Regiment of the Tennessee State Guard provided NIMS training to members of the 194th Engineer Brigade over a two-day training period. The State Guard plans to continue providing emergency management training to National Guardsmen based in other cities.[16]

In 2019, the 61st Medical Company (MEDCOM) participated in Operation Ardent/Shaken Fury, an eight state cooperative exercise responding to a large earthquake along the Mississippi River. As part of the exercise, the 61st MEDCOM trained to triage, treat and transport disaster victims in coordination with other participating entities.[17]


Any able-bodied citizen with a high school diploma or GED and no criminal record is eligible for membership, although preference is given to honorably discharged members of all five branches from the United States military. Civilians with specific professional skill sets, such as doctors, attorneys, chaplains or engineers, may be given preference for membership without prior military service.[18] All officers must have at minimum earned a bachelor's degree.[18]


Brig. Gen. Kenneth Takasaki (L) relinquishes the colors to Brig. Gen. Tommy Baker, Assistant Adjutant General-Army, Tennessee National Guard.
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Takasaki (L) relinquishes the colors to Brig. Gen. Tommy Baker, Assistant Adjutant General-Army, Tennessee National Guard.

New personnel with no prior military service are required to attend Initial Entry Training (IET) during their first year, usually held concurrently with Annual Training (AT). Prospective members are required to take several free online emergency management classes offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to earn the Military Emergency Management Specialist Badge. Tennessee State Guard training includes classes from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).[19] The Tennessee State Guard also provides online training courses through the SGAUS PME Academy. Training is conducted during drill days, which are held one day per month, and during an annual three-day drill during the summer.[2]

All of the TNSG basic non-commissioned officer and basic officer courses are approved through the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia. In 2015, the Tennessee State Guard initiated in-residence courses to include Advanced Leaders Course (ALC), Officer Basic Course (OBC) and Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC). These courses are generally conducted once per year concurrently with Annual Training (AT).[20]

In 2010, the Tennessee State Guard launched a four-month military police class, with regiments from East Tennessee taking part in the pilot program taught at the Knoxville Police Headquarters.[21]


The TNSG uses the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) in the UCP pattern as its uniform.[22] In the event that Tennessee State Guardsmen are assigned to work with the Tennessee National Guard as members of a flight crew, Guardsmen are authorized to wear the aircrew battle dress uniform (ABDU) if prescribed by the commander.[23] For formal events, including military funerals and award ceremonies, the Dress Blue or Army Service Uniform (ASU) is optional for Guardsmen.[22]


The Tennessee State Guard is organized as a Directorate Headquarters with four regiments. The headquarters are in Nashville, Tennessee. Offices and directorates reporting directly to headquarters include:[24]

The battalions of the TNSG are divided into four larger units: the 1st Tennessee Regiment, based in Millington; the 2nd Brigade Support team, based in Nashville; the 3rd Tennessee Regiment, based in Knoxville; and the 4th Tennessee Regiment, based in Chattanooga.[24]

Lt. Col. Terry Jones, 1st Regiment, Tennessee State Guard, shown wearing the TNSG uniform.
Lt. Col. Terry Jones, 1st Regiment, Tennessee State Guard, shown wearing the TNSG uniform.

The TNSG also includes the 61st Medical Company (MEDCOM) that provides medical command and support.

Battalions of the Tennessee State Guard[24]
Regiment/Brigade Battalion Name Location
First Regiment 1st Infantry Battalion Millington
2nd Military Police Battalion Jackson
3rd Military Police Battalion Trenton
4th Military Police Battalion Paris
Second Brigade Support Team 51st Forward Support Battalion Nashville
3rd Tennessee Regiment 1st Infantry Battalion Gray
2nd Military Police Battalion Jefferson City
3rd Military Police Battalion Kingsport
4th Military Police Battalion Maryville
4th Tennessee Regiment 1st Infantry Battalion Chattanooga
2nd Military Police Battalion Cleveland
3rd Military Police Battalion McMinnville
4th Military Police Battalion Winchester

Legal protection

Like National Guardsmen and federal reservists, state guard members receive protection from termination or other forms of discipline from their employers as a result of being called into active duty or drill status under Tennessee Code Annotated § 8-33-110.[25]

Awards and decorations

In addition to several ribbons issued by the TNSG, Tennessee State Guardsmen are allowed to wear decorations issued by other military institutions, including ribbons, decorations, and badges issued by the following institutions in order of precedence:[26]

State Guardsmen 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, the SEAL Trident, or other awards or badges while in federal service may wear them on the TNSG uniform as prescribed by the United States Army uniform regulations.[26]

Individual ribbons

The Tennessee State Guard issues the following awards:[26]

See also


  1. ^ "State Guard". tn.gov. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b "The All-Volunteer Tennessee State Guard". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Tennessee State Library and Archives: Brief History of Tennessee in the War of 1812". Archived from the original on 2012-07-16.
  4. ^ "How Tennessee became the "Volunteer" State". www.tennesseehistory.com. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  5. ^ a b Severance, Ben (2005). Tennessee's Radical Army: The State Guard and its Role in Reconstruction, 1867-1869. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 1572333626.
  6. ^ Stentiford, Barry M. (2002). The American Home Guard: The State Militia in the Twentieth Century. Texas A&M University Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 1585441813. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Tennessee State Guard". Tennessee Virtual Archives. Tennessee State Library and Archives. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  8. ^ Hickman, Kennedy. "World War I: Sergeant Alvin C. York". www.about.com. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  9. ^ a b "A Volunteer Army of Tennessee Pre-Dates the United States". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Archived from the original on January 12, 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  10. ^ Tulak, Arthur N.; Kraft, Robert W.; Silbaugh, Don. "State Defense Forces and Homeland Security". The Free Library. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  11. ^ Daverman, Richard (1 December 2002). "Guard Duty". NashvillePost.com. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Tennessee State Guard Assists With National Guard Processing". The Greeneville Sun. 11 March 2004. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  13. ^ Carafano, James Jay; Brinkerhoff, John R. (October 5, 2005). "Katrina's Forgotten Responders: State Defense Forces Play a Vital Role". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  14. ^ Jorge, Kaylin (8 April 2020). "Tennessee State Guard members volunteer in fight against COVID-19". WZTV. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Tennessee State Guard". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Soldiers of the TNSG Conduct a NIMS Two-day Training Session for 29 Soldiers of the 194th Engineering Bridgade" (PDF). State Guard Association of the United States. Tennessee State Guard. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Tennessee State Guard". GOVSERV. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Join the Tennessee State Guard". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Archived from the original on January 12, 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  19. ^ "The Tennessee State Guard". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Tennessee Historical Society & University of Tennessee Press. 2010.
  20. ^ Bankus, Lieutenant Colonel Brent C. "Volunteer Military Organizations: An Overlooked Asset". The U.S. Army Official Website. Archived from the original on 11 July 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  21. ^ Butera, Steve (August 7, 2010). "Tennessee State Guard starts up new military police class". www.wbir.com. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  22. ^ a b "Questions & Answers about the Tennessee State Guard". Third Regiment of the Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  23. ^ "TNSG Regulation 670-1: Dress and Appearance" (PDF). First Regiment of the Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 29, 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  24. ^ a b c "Tennessee State Guard Units". Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Archived from the original on January 12, 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  25. ^ "TN Code § 8-33-110 (2016)". Justia. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  26. ^ a b c "TNSG Command Operational Policy 672-5" (PDF). 2nd MP Battalion, 3rd Regiment, Tennessee State Guard Official Website. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 17, 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2014.