10 Myths About The National Guard and Reserve Lifestyle

I’ve put off writing this for a long time, for a lot of reasons. As the SO of an Army  National Guard soldier, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what he does and how it’s different. I’ve also gotten a lot of assumptions thrown at me about what people believe he doesn’t do. So allow me to set the record straight, and give some credit to the other Guard/Reserve families out there. Here are the 10 myths I’ve heard about the National Guard and Reserve lifestyles.

1. They have special rules.

Wrong-o! This varies from branch to branch, but in our case when it comes down to big decisions, they answer to the “big Army”, which they’re no less a part of. PT guidelines are the same, so please stop saying that they get to be lazy compared to active duty service members. Marksmanship requirements are also the same, along with promotions.

2. They don’t deploy.

I respond to this with my favorite saying: They’re all fingers of the same fist. They deploy the same as any other part. Because when a unit deploys, they’re considered active status, regardless of being Guard or Reserves. Every military member signs up with the possibility of deploying; that’s not a choice you can opt out of.

3. Deployments are shorter.

If I have to hear this again.. I’m telling ya. No. Deployments, like everything else, are dependent on what is needed in a certain area. If a unit of the Air Force gets deployed, that unit could include active duty, guard, and reserve service members. And they’ll stay for as long as they’re needed, whether that be six months, or 18. And the training for deployment is the same too.

4. Jobs are very limited.

Jobs are regulated according to needs and demand across the entire branch. If you’re an Army National Guard soldier in Tennessee, than they’ll give you options based on what’s needed on the base you report to. If you’re an active duty soldier in the Army, you choose an MOS and you get stationed where that occupation is needed. The two work in reverse from each other, but the end result is the same.

There are some jobs that aren’t available to Reservists, such as certain infantry units. But there are still tons of MOSs to choose from. And just like all recruits, the ASVAB test is required to determine what is available for each individual.

5. You can move whenever you want.

We would live somewhere else if that were the case. Once you become part of a National Guard or Reserve unit, you belong to that unit. This means that you belong to a certain state, and you report to the base in that state, similar to any active duty service member. There’s a process where you can change your MOS, or transfer to another state. But this process can take an entire year, and it’s the same process that active duty members would go through to change their MOS.

Reserve service members can move and report to another base as long as their MOS has a unit there. In order to do so, they must cover all movings expenses and complete the necessary paperwork. This process can still take quite a while, but it’s a bit easier than the transition for NG members.

6. They’re just “Weekend Warriors”

You better know what you’re talking about if you want to open up that can of worms. Reserve and Guard service members can be active duty, according to their specific orders. There are certain areas that have a high demand for specific jobs, and they require full time service. This means that they go to work, everyday, and on the duty weekends that have earned them the “Weekend Warrior” stigma. 

Almost everyone on Kyle’s base is on orders for 5 days a week. They can do this their whole career, or periodically throughout the year. Sometimes they end up working for 2 months full time, and then go back to weekends. My point is, it varies entirely. Also, keep in mind that the National Guard and Reservists are signed up for 6 years automatically.

7. They aren’t as skilled.

National Guard and Reservists have to meet the same requirements, especially before and during deployments. They don’t get off easy, because they’re part of the same branch. They go through the same basic training and AIT process to learn their job that any active duty soldier would. It isn’t “easier” to be Guard or Reserves, so stop belittling them.

8. They don’t make as much/They make more than active duty.

Income is solely dependent upon how much they work, and the job they choose. If you’re a full time Guard or Reserve Sergeant in a certain MOS, you make the same as an active duty Sergeant in that same MOS. The pay can vary across branches from Navy, to Air Force, to Marines, and so on but it’s all around the same.

9. They get treated better.

Why would that even happen? There’s no special treatment going on just because someone is in the Reserves or the National Guard. As stated before, the guidelines are the same!

10. The National Guard and the Reserve are the same exact thing.

Actually, they can be quite different. The National Guard is considered “Dual Service”, because they answer to the state and the federal government. The Reserve answers to just the federal government alone. This means that while the Reserve units answer to the President, the National Guard answers to state government. This often gives them more freedom on the home front, but it can be taken different ways. 

Each branch of the military has a Reserve unit, but only the Air Force and Army have National Guard units. In the event of a National emergency, the President can call National Guard units to active duty, which can last for multiple years at a time. The Reserve and National Guard have a lot of similarities in duty, but they’re far from being the “exact same” like many people assume.

I think a lot of people have the assumption that people decide to go Guard or Reserve because they’re “incapable” or “not as valued”, and that’s simply not true. Some of the most skilled individuals come from these parts of the military, and it’s time to stop looking down on them. They chose this path because it was right for them, in the same sense that active duty military choose their own path. It doesn’t mean they’re any less heroic or brave, or intelligent.

Are you part of a Guard or Reserve family, or are serving yourself? What myths have you heard about this lifestyle?

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8 thoughts on “10 Myths About The National Guard and Reserve Lifestyle

  1. We’re the weird hybrid of active duty and Reserve called AGR. My husband has 21 years of service and two deployments. The “weekend warrior” thing really gets under my skin. Reservists not only need to keep their military skills top notch they also need to manage their civilian careers and skills.

    I do want to point out that Reservists can move where ever they’d like but they either need to find a unit close to their new home (not as taxing a task as one would think) or be prepared to cover the cost of travel to your assigned unit. There are also certain MOSs that aren’t available in the Reserves including 11B (infantry) and other combat arms positions.

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    1. Hi Jennifer! I don’t know a whole lot about AGR, but I have heard Kyle talk about it. I think what bothers me most about the weekend warrior phrase is that people say it knowing that it’s insulting.

      I guess what I mean by not being able to move anywhere is that the process can take a long time. We’ve looked into it, and were told it could take a whole year. But I guess that’s to be expected haha. Wow, I didn’t know 11B wasn’t available! My brother is part of the Military Police unit for the Reserves, but Infantry was definitely his second choice. Good to know!

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  2. I honestly don’t know much about military life, so this was all really great information. I would never want to make the wrong statements about our military, since they are such an important part of our Country. They are responsible for our Freedom and safety, and should just be appreciated.

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