The US National Guard is the country’s primary federal and state military reserve force, which is composed of two divisions—the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the Air National Guard (ANG). The service offers incentives and other benefits, and allows individuals to serve the military on a part-time basis. However, the National Guard is not for everyone, considering the possibility of deployment and time commitment, along with the benefits it offers. With this in mind, you should know its pros and cons to come up with the best decision before committing to enlist to it.
List of Pros of Joining the National Guard
The National Guard offers you opportunities to pursue higher education. For instance, it gives you 100% federal tuition assistance to pay for your schooling. And if you have taken out a student loan already, you will still be eligible for the service’s student loan repayment program, to help you repay such debt. You can also apply for its Montgomery GI Bill, which provides you a monthly stipend while you study, or the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which covers your tuition and provides an annual stipend for your books. Your eligibility for these programs will vary depending on the amount of time you served and your job.
2. Job Training
One of the best benefits you get from enlisting to the National Guard is its paid job training. To be eligible for this, you must qualify for your desired job with an adequate score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, which is a requirement you should take prior to enlistment.
With this benefit, you can choose from various careers, including military police, aviation, engineering, medical services and even special forces. Take note that your job training can only be received after completing the basic combat training, where you learn tactical, marksmanship and combat skills.
3. Good Opportunity for Personal and Professional Development
Joining the National Guard should be a great decision to make, considering that it can help you develop personally and professionally. You would become a much better person. The service will give you some of the most challenging times to help you achieve this and experience a positive change in morale.
4. Work Hours and Pay
Because the National Guard is a part-time commitment, it allows you to continue or pursue a civilian career. After completing your trainings for basic combat, advanced skills and job, you will work one weekend per month in addition to two full weeks every year for the service. You will be paid based on your position and rank for the days you work. Moreover, the part-time schedule will give you a lot of time for your family and civilian life.
5. Greater Stability
The National Guard can provide you with greater stability while studying business than the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Upon commissioning, you will agree to a military service obligation (MSO) of 8 years, which you can choose to fully or partially complete. If you leave active duty before the 8-year mark, you can just serve the remaining time in the IRR.
By joining the guard or reserves, you will be granted by your unit between one to two years of stabilization, which is state-dependent, meaning that you are guaranteed to not be deployed during that period of time. If the state in which you are studying in offers 2 years of stabilization, you can complete your degree without having to worry about being recalled to deploy midway through. This is certainly a big plus for you as member of the National Guard. Aside from this, you will be given the incentive to join the guard or reserves while still on active duty. Your guard or reserve recruiting counselor can offer an MSO reduction incentive, which will cut your remaining service obligation in half. This means you can feasibly complete your obligation for military service by the time you leave business school.
List of Cons of Joining the National Guard
One potential disadvantage to enlisting in the National Guard is time commitment. Once you join the service, you cannot simply quit if you do not like it. During your enlistment process, you should commit to serving for 3, 6 or 8 years, so make sure you are prepared and committed to completing several years of service.
Another disadvantage of the National Guard is the possibility of being deployed in other countries. For example, you might be ordered to help with responding to natural disasters or you may even be deployed to camps where there are international conflicts. These duties might expose you to hostile fire and other dangerous conditions. Aside from this, you will also be away from your family and civilian job for several months at a time. Though you are paid for the time of your deployment, you are compelled to spend time serving under dangerous conditions.
3. Slow Promotion
It is known that promotion in the National Guard is slower than other military services in the US. Because of its structure and size, it needs less people to get promoted every month than the country’s regular army does. If you joined the Army Reserve or went active duty, you would get promoted faster.
4. Low-Quality Equipment and Training
Despite the benefit of training the National Guard offers, its quality of training and equipment is said to be low. This is due to the fact that it is doing so many deployments, and the budgets for equipment and training are sometimes smaller than they would be for the active duty soldiers or the reserve. If you want to go the citizen/soldier route, it is recommended to go into the reserve, instead of the guard, due to the budget factors stated above. However, this does not mean that the National Guard is a low-quality organization at all. Rather, it is a group of high-quality NCOs and officers.
While serving the National Guard might require you much effort and commitment, it would still be manageable like any other career. Just weigh down the pros and cons mentioned above to come up with the best decision.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.