Boaters on New York and Vermont’s Lake Champlain may see a new face over the next few weeks. Working with the U.S. Border Patrol, members of the New York Naval Militia will be out on the waters helping to inspect pleasure boats entering the United States from Canada and direct them to U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection stations.

A component of the New York Guard, also known as the New York State Defense Force (SDF), the New York Naval Militia has a long history of assisting federal and state partners in meeting the homeland security needs of the state. After 9/11, for example, the New York Guard, New York Naval Militia, and New Jersey Naval Militia were activated to assist in response measures, recovery efforts, and critical infrastructure security. More recently, during Tropical Storms Irene and Lee last year, the New York Naval Militia served in command posts and other roles aiding in state response.

New York’s SDF is just one of 23 forces across the nation. Altogether, they stand approximately 14,000 strong. Unlike the National Guard, SDFs serve solely under the command of the state’s governor and cannot be called to federal service. This gives them several unique advantages. In particular, SDFs are continuously resident within their respective states and can be called up quickly and easily in times of need. As an all-volunteer force, SDFs also offer a vital, low-cost force multiplier and homeland security resource.

Made up predominantly of members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Reserves, New York’s Naval Militia Force adds significant value to state military and first responders. Even more than that, it offers an example to other states of the significant value of a professional, well-trained state defense force.