The Ohio Military Reserve is a component of the Ohio Adjutant General's Department and serves under the governor as commander in chief. Its primary mission is to provide a fully-manned and mission-ready civil support and sustainment brigade to support the state's Emergency Support Function 6 (mass care) and Emergency Support Function 7 (logistics and resource support) during natural or man-made disasters or other threats to homeland security. In order to accomplish this mission, OHMR units are trained in medical support, volunteer reception and management, shelter management and logistics support in addition to basic soldier skills.
The core competencies involve training to National Incident Management System (NIMS), Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards.
The Organized Militia
The Ohio Military Reserve (OHMR) is categorized as a State Defense Force (SDF). Also known as State Guards, State Reserves, or State Militias, these military units operate under the exclusive authority of their respective states. Only about half of the states in the U.S. have laws authorizing SDFs, some of which do not even have actively operating units. Most SDFs operate as an extension of their state's National Guard and follow Army protocols. In addition, a small handful of states also maintain a naval force. Ohio is one of a select few with both.
There are two types of militia: organized and unorganized. The "organized militia" exists by law and receives official funding and authority. Examples of this include, Ohio Army National Guard, Ohio Air National Guard, Ohio Military Reserve, and Ohio Naval Militia. Chapter 5923 of the Ohio Revised Code defines the scope of the organized militia and its relationship to the state.
According to federal law, the "unorganized militia" consists of every able-bodied man of between 17 and 45 years of age who are not members of the National Guard or other organized militia. Today, these take the form of unofficial organizations and clubs who operate outside of any official command and control. Their activities focus on firearms, survival training, camaraderie, and occasionally community service. Recently, the term "militia" has received a lot of negative attention due to its association with more extreme private paramilitary groups who maintain a specific social or political agenda.
The OHMR has units stationed throughout the state. Home stations are located in Highland Hills, Norwalk, Alliance, Middletown, Newark, and Columbus. Annual training is conducted at Camp Perry Joint Training Center in Port Clinton on Lake Erie. This is also the home station for the Ohio Naval Militia.
State Defense Forces are not eligible for federal funding and must request their assets from the state. However, like most other SDFs, the Ohio Military Reserve is almost entirely self-funded. Personnel are unpaid for their training drills and must provide their own uniforms and equipment.
According to National Guard Regulation 10-4, Chapter 1.5 "Any State, Territory, or District of Columbia, that creates a SDF under 32 USC § 109 is solely responsible for the establishment, organization, training, equipping, funding, management and employment of that SDF in accordance with (IAW) its laws."
OHMR soldiers are only eligible for compensation if the unit is officially called up for a deployment by the Governor.
HISTORY OF THE OHIO MILITARY RESERVE
The Ohio Military Reserve has its roots in the Ohio Militia, which was formed in 1803. At that time, every state within the United States had its own militia. The militia existed to protect a state's residents from attack, whether it was from Indians, other countries, or internal revolts. Most states required able-bodied white men to participate in the militia. Age limits existed in all states, with most states requiring men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five to participate in the militia.
The Ohio Militia played an important role in the state's early history. Militiamen supported United States soldiers during the Indian Wars of the early 19th century. During the War of 1812, the Ohio Militia helped defend the American Northwest from British invasion. Following this conflict, the Ohio Militia still existed, but it declined in importance. With the death of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, most Ohioans no longer faced major threats from the Indians. The United States also remained at peace with other nations until the Mexican War began in 1846. During this prolonged era of peace, Ohio's state government reduced funding to the militia to set aside money for other programs.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War in April 1861, Ohio Governor William Dennison dispatched George McClellan and Jacob Cox to the state arsenal in Columbus to investigate the guns and other supplies that Ohio had on hand to help equip the state's militia units. The two men discovered a few crates of rusted smoothbore muskets, mildewed harnesses for horses, and some six-pound cannons that could not be fired. Despite the lack of equipment, Dennison encouraged Ohio communities to revive the militia system and form units that they would send to Columbus, the state capital. Dennison entrusted McClellan with command of these units, asking him to create a cohesive and professional force out of the volunteers. Most of these units formed the basis of Ohio Volunteer Infantry units, which the State of Ohio eventually provided to the United States government for the war against the South.
Following the Civil War, the Ohio Militia remained in existence, but it again experienced a decline. In 1903, the United States government implemented the Militia Act of 1903 (aka the "Dick Act"), which formally created the National Guard. One of the principal reasons for this new law was the poor condition of state militia organizations. Most state militia units now became National Guard units. Before creation of the National Guard, state militia units, in theory, only existed to protect their states.
States still oversaw the new National Guard units, which were primarily to serve in their own states. However, the federal government could now nationalize National Guard units and send them into other states or even other countries without the approval of the units' home states. Today, both Army National Guard and Air National Guard units exist in Ohio, and many Ohioans belong to these organizations. Members of the National Guard receive pay and other benefits, including financial assistance to attend college. A desire to serve and, the various financial benefits cause many Americans to enlist in National Guard units.
Despite the existence of the National Guard, Ohio still maintained its own militia force. The Dick Act prohibited states from retaining their own militia systems. Ohio was one of the states that chose not to follow the federal mandate and maintain such a force. A principal reason for the continuation of the Ohio Militia was the desire to protect Lake Erie. There was no Naval National Guard. With Ohio having a water boundary with Canada, Ohio leaders felt the need to maintain a naval component to its militia force. In 2006, Ohio was one of only five states with a naval force.
Following World War II, the Ohio government established the Ohio Defense Corps, which is now known as the Ohio Military Reserve. The Ohio Defense Corps was a continuation of the Ohio Militia. In 1961, Ohio implemented a law that made all of Ohio's men and women between seventeen and sixty-seven years of age eligible for duty in the Ohio Military Reserve. In 2006, the Ohio Military Reserve numbered just six hundred members. Its primary purpose was to expand quickly to assist Ohioans in case of natural disasters or enemy attack. The state government now relied primarily upon the Ohio National Guard for the state's defense, as well as to assist in natural disasters and other types of emergencies. However, if the Ohio National Guard was either unavailable or in need of assistance, the Ohio Military Reserve stood ready to support the Guard.
For almost three decades, Ohio Military Reserve trained and operated as a military police entity and was organized as a corps. Standard training included riot control and firearms proficiency. The OHMR stood ready to provide security support for the state. Over the years, some support services were provided to various private organizations in an unofficial capacity. Ceremonial services were also provided for parades, funerals, and holidays. However, there was never an official activation by the Governor or Adjutant General.
In September 2009, then Adjutant General MG Gregory L. Wayt implemented several dramatic changes to the OHMR. Instead of training for police and security duties, the OHMR would now shift its focus to disaster response and civil support. In addition, the organization was transformed from a Corps into the 4th Civil Support & Sustainment Brigade (CSSB), thereby changing the entire command structure.
Personnel began to train for new jobs, including: points of distribution (POD), shelter management, and volunteer reception centers (VRC). The transition took three years, but in September 2012, the OHMR completed the final evaluations at the Annual Training (AT). In the eyes of the AG and the State of Ohio, the organization was considered fully trained, mission ready, and deployable. This brought a new sense of pride to the OHMR and helped to establish itself as a part of the state's official emergency response. Today, the OHMR stands ready to deploy anywhere in the state at a moment's notice.