The Militia – Operational Structure


So I talked a little in the last rambling about the history of the militia. Now that I turned in my last group project for the semester, I figured it was time to move on to the next section – the structure and purpose of a militia.

Originally, the militia existed for protection from enemies (Native Americans and the British at the time), as well as for enforcement of laws. The Militia Acts allowed the President to call forth the militia to back up the Marshals in the same way that local municipalities could call forth the militia to back up the Sheriffs. To be clear, there is (from my limited legal skills) historical precedent for the President, Governor, and local municipalities to call forth the militia for varying reasons. Also, from my review of the literature I could find, a militia is officially only a militia (within the Constitutional construct) if it is organized by some form of government, such as Tazewell County recently did. Otherwise, even if you are hanging out with all of your shooting buddies, you’re still the unorganized militia. You’re actually a lot closer to the old military clubs that fed the Volunteer system.

Now, I’m not saying that to slam anyone. I think that there is a serious need for individuals who have organized themselves to respond to the many natural disasters and other issues facing us today. In fact, I believe it is a perfect use of the unorganized militia. It allows them to serve their communities through preparedness and response, and also establishes a grass-roots network that could be used should an enemy threat arise. Protecting a community should also be a non-partisan endeavor. You don’t even have to like guns to be able to serve your community in one of these Volunteer units; they’ll need people with logistical and management skills, medical skills, communication and IT skills – there are all sorts of opportunities.

Alright, so that was a little bit of the purpose of the group, but how should it be organized? The Militia Acts laid out a basic organization:

That within one year after the passing of this act, the militia of the respective states shall be arranged into divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions and companies, as the legislature of each state shall direct; and each division, brigade and regiment, shall be numbered at the formation thereof; and a record made of such numbers in the adjutant-general’s office in the state; and when in the field, or in service in the state, each division, brigade and regiment shall respectively take rank according to their numbers, reckoning the first or lowest number highest in rank. That if the same be convenient, each brigade shall consist of four regiments; each regiment of two battalions; each battalion of five companies; each company of sixty-four privates. That the said militia shall be officered by the respective states, as follows: To each division, one major-general and two aids-de-camp, with the rank of major; to each brigade, one brigadier-general, with one brigade inspector, to serve also as brigade-major, with the rank of a major; to each regiment, one lieutenant-colonel commandant; and to each battalion one major; to each company one captain, one lieutenant, one ensign, four sergeants, four corporals, one drummer and one fifer or bugler. That there shall be a regimental staff, to consist of one adjutant and one quartermaster, to rank as lieutenants; one paymaster; one surgeon, and one surgeon’s mate; one sergeant-major; one drum-major, and one fife-major.

Okay, so that’s really complicated when written. Theoretically, it could look like this (I pulled the drummer and fifer/bugler):


It looks pretty on paper, but let’s get a reality check here – in an emergent situation, it’s fairly unlikely that you’re going to pull 75 people together on short notice. Realistically, even if you implement this model, training should be geared toward having members operate in significantly smaller units, such as fire teams/squads/troops, whatever you want to call them. The entire beauty of the militia is that it rises from within the community to protect it. The individual members may be dispersed among various neighborhoods, and it’s entirely possible that their initial attention will be devoted to their own street or block. Even if you go with this structure, it will be very important that members understand that this is not a rigid construct – it will have to flow to meet exigent circumstances. One way to do this is to organize fire teams and squads around geographic areas to ensure there is always leadership. An even better way would be to push leadership development and responsibility as low as possible in the construct so that you don’t have people sitting around looking at each other waiting for someone else to make a decision.

Another option for organization is to follow the A-Team construct:

1792 A

You could do a weird hybrid of these concepts, disregard both and make up your own, or do a task organization like the Incident Command System. The paper construct matters a lot less than the organizational culture of empowering members to respond initially at their local level, then as the incident continues, a more cohesive structure can be formed to address it at a larger scale. Having put together a paper construct and drilled it beforehand helps with that second step. Also, don’t try to force yourselves into a preconceived notion. Choose specialties that work for your needs and build from there.

I’ll try to continue this series as time permits and if readers find it useful. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Leave a Reply