Joining the military as a Reservist means serving your country while maintaining civilian employment and a mostly civilian lifestyle outside of monthly and annual duty requirements. But before people make the choice to join the military as a Reservist, they naturally want to know what their chances of deployment might be.
That depends greatly on the nature of the Guard unit you join, current events and national security requirements, and a variety of other factors but there are some general guidelines published by the various service organizations that can give you an idea of what to expect.
The Reserve Components Of The United States Military
The U.S. military’s Reserve components include:
- Army Reserve
- Navy Reserve
- Marine Corps Reserve
- Air Force Reserve
- Coast Guard Reserve
Each one has its own rules for Reserve mobilization and deployments.
What The Army Says About Reserve Deployments
According to the Army official site, Reservists may be called to duty by the President with or without a national emergency or declaration of war.
Army Reserve troops activated for duty within the U.S. (subject to certain restrictions under federal law) or deployed abroad are required to report but such mobilization does not automatically mean being sent into hostile fire or a war zone; Reserve deployments are commonly done for humanitarian reasons.
According to Army.mil deployments for Army Reservists have similar features to active duty deployments, but there are Reserve-specific areas “including a phase in which the Soldier’s unit demobilizes, or returns back to Reserve status.”
“Once activated and deployed, Army Reserve Soldiers receive the same pay as Soldiers of the same rank on Active Duty,” says Army.mil.
What The Navy Says About Reserve Deployments
The United States Navy Reserve is quite direct when discussing the possibility of Reserve deployments:
“As a Reservist, you could potentially be deployed while serving your country. There is no formula for determining who will deploy or when, where or for how long. It comes down to what occupational specialties and operational units are needed at any given time, and who is best qualified and ready to serve those needs.”
When members of the Navy Reserve get deployed, they are considered to be on Active Duty status, earn active duty pay and benefits, and sailors who are on a deployment lasting 120 continuous days or more earn the ability to take advantage of a Navy Tuition Assistance (TA) Program.
Prior service Navy Reserve applicants can be awarded a “guaranteed initial deployment deferment for periods of up to two years” but you will need to discuss this with your Navy Career Counselor.
What The Marine Corps Says About Reserve Deployments
For a variety of reasons, it can be difficult to find general information about United States Marine Corps Reserve deployment policies – the Marine Corps official site seems designed to encourage potential new recruits to get their specific information from Marine Corps recruiters, but documents published online by the Defense Department include the following about Marine Corp Reserve deployment and training policies:
“Marines in the Reserve maintain civilian commitments but are ready to support the Marine Corps in major combat assignments, humanitarian efforts and national emergencies. They must live up to the same standards as all Marines.”
Reserve Marines attend the same 12 weeks of Recruit Training “and are required to meet nearly identical eligibility requirements.”
The Marine Corps Reserve mobilization and deployment process is described as “very efficient” by the Marine Corps official site, adding “Marine Reserves were at their designated Reserve Unit at an average of six days ready for deployment and within an average of 32 days after receiving an activation order, Reserves were in theater to complete their mission.”
The U.S. Marine Reserve also places an emphasis on timely demobilization. “As soon as mission is complete, Reserves are brought back to their Reserve Training Centers to ensure demobilization requirements are completed quickly and efficiently, so they will be able to transition back to their civilian lives smoothly.”
What The Air Force Says About Reserve Deployments
The Air Force Reserve recruiting official site says deployment potential can depend on the service member’s chosen military career field, known as an Air Force Specialty and given a code number known as the AFSC, or Air Force Specialty Code.
Other deployment variables will include the unit you’re assigned to, mission requirements, and the needs of the Air Force “at any given time.”
The Air Force Reserve official site adds that in general terms there is no set deployment schedule for reservists. “It isn’t unusual” the site claims, “to not be deployed at all. If you get deployed once in six years, that would be typical, but it could be more than that.”
For those who do wind up deployed, the Reserve mission may be in a support function, but some military specialties are described as “more combat oriented” including Security Forces. “Air Force Reserve members have to be willing to bear arms as circumstances require: for example, if you were assigned to an installation that came under attack.”
What The U.S. Coast Guard Says About Reserve Deployments
Even though the Coast Guard is typically thought of as being a stateside operation, there are opportunities to deploy at home and overseas depending on circumstances.
In general, the Coast Guard Reserve official site says that those who join as Reservists can expect to be working “side by side with full-time Coast Guardsmen. No matter what mission, you’ll typically serve two days a month and two weeks a year at a base near your home. Receive training in such diverse fields as computer processing, mechanics or communications.”
Coast Guard Reserve deployments are basically considered extended duty “away from your home base.” Some duty can be aboard Coast Guard cutters lasting three months or longer, but other deployment duty can be as short as a few days or weeks.
Some Coast Guard Reservists may be assigned to augment Port Security Units (PSU), which are described as “expeditionary forces primarily responsible for providing the Department of Defense layered defensive protection utilizing both waterside and landside security forces.” The Coast Guard Reserve official site describes PSUs as “…expeditionary units and are routinely deployed overseas in support of the Department of Defense.”
How To Join The Reserve
Joining a Reserve unit will depend greatly on the policies of the branch of military service you are interested in. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard all have their respective individual Reserve Recruiters and you can learn more by looking at the official site for your respective chosen branch of service.
You can also talk to a Military Personnel Flight, Unit Orderly Room, Sergeant Major, First Sergeant or First Individual to get more information on Reserve recruitment contact numbers in your local area.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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