Many are interested in a career in uniform, but not everyone is interested in full-time military service. There are many options for those who wish to retain civilian status but still contribute to the national defense and serve their country.
The National Guard is an important option for those looking to serve in a capacity that allows them to keep a civilian career, and remain based in the USA rather than being stationed overseas in a non-deployment capacity.
A Brief History Of The National Guard
Believe it or not, the National Guard is actually older than any current branch of the United States military. According to the National Guard official site, the Army National Guard lays claim to the oldest Guard units. They are:
- 101st Engineer Battalion
- 101st Field Artillery Regiment
- 181st Infantry Regiment
- 182nd Infantry Regiment
All of these units belong to the Massachusetts Army National Guard. The units are described on the National Guard official site as, “the descendants of the original three militia regiments organized by colonial Massachusetts legislation on December 13, 1636.”
Further legislation known as the Militia Act of May 8, 1792 recognized militia units created prior to the law and allowed them to “retain their customary privileges.” Further refinements of this law were established by the Militia Act of 1903, the National Defense Act of 1916, and other federal law.
The Two National Guards
Yes, there are two versions of the National Guard. One is the Army National Guard, the other is the Air National Guard.
The Air National Guard, also known as ANG for short, was part of the 20th Century reorganization of the American military establishment; following World War Two, substantial re-evaluations of the national defense strategy and priorities brought the ANG into an important role that has been continuously refined.
The Guard was an important part of “The Greatest Generation” of World War Two, but after the conflict ended, important changes would affect all aspects of military service.
The Army National Guard has its own proud traditions both in World War Two and beyond; in World War Two Army Guard troops were ordered to active duty for a year of training which effectively doubled the size of the Army overall. In the early 21st Century the Army Guard played important roles in natural disaster relief efforts including operations following Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and many similar efforts.
Joining The Army National Guard
One of two categories may apply to those who want to enter the Army National Guard. One is for prior-service military members who want to continue to serve. The other is for those who have never been in the military.
If you have never served in uniform but want to join the Army National Guard, you will be subject to the following requirements:
- Be between the ages of 17 and 35
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Be at least a junior in high school, or have a high school diploma or a GED certificate
- Achieve a minimum score on the ASVAB test
- Meet medical, physical and moral requirements
These standards apply regardless of what state you wish to serve in, and additional standards may apply depending on state law, changes to recruiting practices, executive orders, etc.
If you wish to serve as a prior-service military member, your requirements include:
- You must qualify for “non-regular retired pay” by age 60
- Must meet height/weight and current medical requirements
- You must meet education standards for the MOS or option for which you enlist
- You must have a current DD 214, NGB22 or discharge order and have an approved DD Form 368 Conditional Release
There are additional rules in some cases. They include:
- Attending a six-week Basic Combat Training (BCT) course at Fort Leonard Wood depending on the length of your break in military service.
- If you apply with a break in service of over 10 years, you will be required to retake the ASVAB.
Prior service military members will need to discuss the rank issue – what rank you will enter National Guard service in – with a Guard recruiter. These standards are subject to change, are adjusted due to updates or modifications in service regulations, and may also be adjusted to meet changing mission requirements.
Army Guard Time Commitments
Army Guard time commitments are generally described on the Army National Guard official site as being one weekend per month along with a two-week training period each year. “For most of the training weekends, you’ll be with us Saturday and Sunday only, though occasionally you’ll be asked to report for duty on a Friday night,” according to the Army.
Scheduled training described as “Annual Training” may require slightly longer times depending on the nature of your military job. Other considerations may apply, especially in times where the Governor of the state requires activation of Army Guard units.
Duration Of Commitment
Newcomers may enlist for as few as three years, “with an additional commitment to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)” according to the official site. IRR Soldiers are not required to perform training with a unit while in IRR status, but they may still be mobilized for an emergency.
Prior-service military members may be subject to different commitment requirements depending on current policy and other factors.
Joining The Air National Guard
Like the Army Guard, learning how to join the Air National Guard depends on whether or not you are a prior-service military member or whether you are coming into the Guard with no military experience.
In general, the requirements to join the Air National Guard without prior military service will include the following:
- Be between the ages of 17 and 39
- Be a legal resident of the USA
- Have a high school diploma or equivalency
- Pass a medical screening
Those who are still in high school and interested in National Guard service must be seniors.
For those who wish to join the Air National Guard with prior military experience, the following general requirements will apply:
- Honorable Discharge from active duty service
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must have performed work in the Air Force Specialty Code the service member is re-entering military service with; this work must have taken place during the last enlistment served as active duty
- Must have an “adjusted age” of 39 or lower
The adjusted age issue may sound more complicated than it really is. To calculate your adjusted age, “take your chronological age and subtract actual time in service credit. The result will be your adjusted age” according to the Air Force official site.
Prior service military members will need to discuss what rank may be awarded upon entry into Air National Guard service with an Air Guard recruiter.
These standards are subject to change, are adjusted due to updates or modifications in service regulations and may also be adjusted to meet changing mission requirements.
Air National Guard Time Commitments
The Air National Guard official site declares, at the time of this writing, that ANG service is part-time, generally consisting of one weekend a month “and a few weeks a year, at a minimum.”
Guard units are called in for support in times of need by the Governor of the state. Other considerations may apply, especially in times where the Governor of the state requires activation of Army Guard units for natural disasters or other pressing needs.
Duration Of Commitment
Those who wish to join with no prior service will enter the Air National Guard People with an eight-year obligation, but the last two years of that obligation are in the IRR, and in that status do not train but are subject to recall. Prior service military members should ask a Guard recruiter about current enlistment policies for prior service military as these are subject to change based on mission requirements and other variables.
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