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The New Jersey Naval Militia
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The New Jersey Naval Militia 19
This article was originally published in the March 2002 edition of "Shipmate", the publication of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni
Association. It has been modified slightly for this purpose.
THE NEW JERSEY NAVAL MILITIA3
Wayne E. Girardet, Captain (NJ)
A frequent question asked is "What is the New Jersey Naval Militia Joint Command
(NJNMJC)?". The term "naval militia" is defined in Title 10 of the U.S. Code as a component,
along with the National Guard, of the organized militia. Unfortunately, militia has come to be
associated with extremist groups that belie its proud heritage. Nevertheless, the organization has
proven to be a valuable complement to New Jersey's military forces in these troubled times.
Naval militias predate the reserve system and functioned primarily as a back-up force for the
U.S. Navy. At its high water mark around the turn of the last century, twenty-six states had a naval
militia. With the advent of the USNR, naval militias evolved into organizations with a dual state
and federal mission much like the National Guard. By law, they must be composed of at least 95%
drilling naval reservists in order to receive federal support. The New Jersey Naval Militia was
founded in 1894 and organized into three battalions. While not exactly state-of-the-art equipment,
the navy did provide a monitor and a sailing man-of-war for training purposes. Subsequently, the
New Jersey Naval Militia was activated for every major conflict from the Spanish-American War
through the Korean War at which time peak strength of 3,950 officers and enlisted personnel was
achieved. Starting in the late 1950s, the militia was gradually absorbed by the USNR resulting in
disbandment in 1963.
In 1999, Governor Christie Whitman recognized the need for a state waterborne force and
reactivated the naval militia as a joint command consisting of a regiment with three battalions.
However, unlike its predecessor, the NJNMJC is a hybrid with the 1 Battalion being a true naval
militia, the 2 Battalion performing as an operational Naval State Guard, and the 3 Battalion
providing support and auxiliary functions. The concept of operations differs from a traditional
reserve or guard unit in that it is based on volunteerism. Essentially, each member is required to
donate two days each month for actual missions in support of state and federal agencies. Additional
mission requirements result in being placed on state active duty with pay and allowances.
The authorized strength of the NJNMJC is 3,000 with the organization being designed to
accommodate up to 4,000 members and more than 70 vessels. Currently, the NJNMJC has 200
sworn members, most assigned to the 2 Battalion, with many more in some stage of processing.
Most members have a sea service background, but there are small army and air state guard
contingents fully integrated into NJNMJC operations. A recently signed memorandum of
understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Navy has opened the way to recruiting naval reservists for the
1 Battalion. It is anticipated that 800-1,000 of these men and women will bring their skills to the
NJNMJC in the next few months and provide unique service to New Jersey in times of emergency or
natural disaster. MOUs with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps are also in the works.
Basically, the NJNMJC is a force multiplier assisting with state and federal missions. The
NJNMJC is described as a "niche marketer," fulfilling needs and providing capabilities where little
or none existed before. In addition to providing the heretofore-missing waterborne component of
New Jersey's military forces, the Command also furnishes several specialized services. For instance,
20 State Defense Force Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2007
it has a team trained in water rescue and firefighting, a unit of experienced chaplains, and a Disaster
Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). In the future, a diving unit and a fixed wing air capability will
be added. All of these assets are being utilized to provide support for the following primary
! Weapons of Mass Destruction/Homeland Security.
! Marine Police & Other Law Enforcement Agencies.
! N.J. State Emergencies (e.g., Hurricane or Flood).
! N.J. National Guard Counterdrug Task Force.
! Special N.J. Projects & State Guard Missions (e.g., OPSAIL 2000).
! Battleship New Jersey (BB-62).
! Youth Programs.
The NJNMJC is headquartered at Fort Dix, NJ, conducts logistics and other supporting
functions at the NJNMJC Armory in Plainfield, NJ, and operates vessels from the U.S. Coast Guard
Station at Sandy Hook, NJ. The current inventory includes four 23' twin outboard, cabin class patrol
boats, one 46' buoy tender undergoing refit at the Naval Ship Yard in Philadelphia, PA, one 28'
diesel jet boat, and one 26' diesel surfboat.
While the NJNMJC has been activated several times in its brief history, the defining event in
its evolution and that of the nation was the terrorist disaster on 11 September, 2001 (9/11). In the
120 days since that horrendous event, the NJNMJC has provided over 2,800 man-days in support of
New Jersey and surrounding states in the following areas:
! Officer-in-Charge of the military Joint Operations Center which has been manned 24/7 since
! Waterborne security for the George Washington Bridge.
! Waterborne transportation for governmental agencies between Ground Zero and the Forward
Command Post at Liberty State Park, NY.
! Chaplain services at Ground Zero and the Staten Island, NY Logistics Support Base.
! Development and presentation of an anthrax awareness program to all N.J. National Guard
troops in the field.
! Physical security augmentation at Fort Dix and the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, NJ.
! Waterborne security patrols at the Salem, NJ Nuclear Power Plant.
! Logistical support at Ground Zero for the DMAT.
! Warehouse management for the Salvation Army.
Shortly after 9/11, several navy, army and air guard officers formed the Strategic Planning
Group to develop the organization that was essentially adopted by the State of New Jersey for
Homeland Security. In the intervening period, the Group has continued to formulate plans for the
deployment of hundreds of soldiers and sailors for the protection of New Jersey's populace and
Since the article first appeared in "Shipmate" in March 2002, there have three changes of
administration in New Jersey yielding new leadership for the state's military forces. Unfortunately,
the transition was not a pleasant one and politics intervened to the detriment of the NJNMJC.
Despite the many benefits delineated in this article of having a robust state guard and naval militia,
there has been neither funding nor recognition for almost five years. Accessions and promotions
The New Jersey Naval Militia 21
have been frozen for the same period. Nevertheless, an intrepid band of over 100 men and women
continue to train voluntarily in preparation for the next crisis. Currently, there is a new proposal
being forwarded to the Governor that will resolve this impasse one way or the other.
As the modern naval militia concept moves into the future, there are several issues that will
need to be addressed including arming NJNMJC personnel and granting them limited law
enforcement powers as the Command continues to assist a sorely over-taxed U.S. Coast Guard. In
the current climate, it has become necessary consider assuming the "Brown Water" role, which has
all but disappeared since Vietnam and transition from a "Weekend Warrior" mentality to 24/7 model
of service. Perhaps, the Naval Militia may ultimately form the basis for a Naval National Guard. In
any event, the Command remains confident that it is an invaluable resource in service to the citizens
of New Jersey.