So you’re considering joining the Army National Guard? It’s a big decision that requires some research and understanding of how this branch of the military functions so that you can figure out if it’s the best choice for you. The National Guard is different than your typical active-duty branch, although you can still be active duty depending on the circumstances. Let’s dispel the common questions surrounding this branch of the military, as well as look at what types of jobs are available.
First things first, what does the Army National Guard do?
The jobs can be as exciting as you want them to be, but each requires a different type of training and skillset. At its most basic level, the National Guard is a reserve unit that can serve both the federal and state governments. Army National Guard soldiers are under the control of the governor of the state where they are located but can be activated by the federal government as well. With the National Guard, you live in the state that you are serving, as opposed to being moved around the country (or out of the country) if you were solely under the control of the federal government.
The total enlistment period is eight years, but soldiers can serve as little as three to six years and are on IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) for the remaining time. IRR soldiers don’t train but can be called on in the event of an emergency. Soldiers are required to report to one drill weekend a month, plus a two-week training once a year, typically during the summer.
Army National Guard responds to state emergencies, humanitarian services within the state, or potentially nationally. They can also be activated by the federal government and deploy internationally. Deployment should be expected in most cases, as it is a common part of joining the military.
Does the Army National Guard go to war?
They can, but they can also deploy on humanitarian missions. Most units are on a deployment cycle of every five to six years, give or take some years based on the type of unit it is. When considering joining, deployment is a natural part of this process. It helps to go in expecting a deployment rather than dreading it.
Deployments are an incredible opportunity to experience cultures and different parts of the world that you might never encounter. It’s an opportunity to serve your country, and although challenging at times, it is a life-changing experience that opens the door for further opportunities professionally and financially.
What types of jobs are available?
There are different branches within the Army National Guard that offer a little bit of something for everyone. Let’s take a look at a few that might pique your interest.
Intelligence. Military intelligence is an exciting field of work. It’s what many people envision when they think of action movies involving the CIA and spies. It’s not explosions and smoke like Hollywood makes it out to be, but it is an opportunity to put your skills to the test. Some jobs you might find within intelligence are signal analyst, cryptologic linguist, geospatial intelligence imagery analyst (analyze overhead and aerial imaging), and counterintelligence agent.
Transport. Transportation specialists are an essential part of the National Guard. It takes strategy, communication, intelligence, strength, and energy to move equipment and personnel stateside or beyond. Guard drivers may respond to natural disasters or other emergencies which requires the ability to operate high-water vehicles and watercraft during rescue efforts. Interesting jobs within transport are watercraft operator or engineer, railway equipment repairer, cargo specialist, and marine deck officer.
Aviation. Some people join the Army National Guard with the sole hope of becoming a pilot. Pilots might be assisting during combat, delivering troops, offering disaster relief, and so on. Aviation is successful because of all of the moving parts that allow pilots to get up in the sky. With this career path, you might enjoy a job as a helicopter pilot, helicopter repairer, air traffic controller, crew chief, and many other options.
Admin and Relations. Maybe jobs like flying helicopters, attempting rescue missions, and collecting intelligence sound too risky. You enjoy communications, numbers, and logistics more than the action. There are opportunities for those left-brained business people to contribute in a massive way, but more behind-the-scenes. Some jobs in the admin and relations career path are paralegal specialist, public affairs mass communication specialist, or maybe even an Army National Guard band musician (who’d have thought?).
How is pay determined?
A question that often comes up when looking at jobs within the National Guard is how is the pay? Let’s break it down.
Pay is predetermined based on time in service and rank, generally speaking. You can come in with college credits, which can sometimes boost pay if the credits can be transferred towards time in service. If you come in with a bachelor’s degree, becoming an officer is an option that will increase your rank and pay. Certain specialty occupations can increase pay as well.
When figuring out pay, it’s always best to speak with a recruiter about your career path interests and qualifications so that you can get a clear idea of what your pay will look like at any given time. All soldiers receive a base pay – the base salary that is determined by rank and length of service.
Some other contributors to how much you’ll get paid will have to do with whether you are married, if you have children, the cost of living where you live, if you are on active duty or not (you can receive BAH or Basic Allowance for Housing), special pay (depends on your occupation), and so on. There are a lot of factors that go into pay, but for the most part, you can figure out your base pay depending on your rank and length of service.
Specialty Careers in the Army National Guard
There are a variety of specialty occupations within the Guard. The most common are within the medical field, law, and as a chaplain.
JAG Corps Attorney. If you have an interest in becoming a lawyer, or already are a lawyer, this could be the specialty track for you. They offer legal support for the military relating to criminal law, civil and administrative law, labor and employment law, contract and fiscal law, among other categories.
Physician. Maybe you have dreams of becoming a doctor. Imagine becoming a physician without having hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Of course, joining the military shouldn’t be a light decision based solely on financial reasons, but it’s definitely a huge perk. You could serve the Army National Guard as an allergist, a vascular surgeon, or any other medical specialty. Health care providers can receive loan repayment assistance of up to $250,000 with a seven-year service commitment.
These specialty programs oftentimes offer financial incentives so that you can earn more.
Choosing a career with the Guard
When choosing a career, it’s important to find a job that truly interests you. And not only that, you want to ensure that you find a job that has transferable skills in the civilian world. There isn’t much call for combat-related jobs outside of becoming a police officer. Of course, those jobs are essential for the military, so make sure you truly enjoy it and find value in it.
You can join the military as a junior or senior in high school, but you don’t have to be within this age range to join. People in their twenties and thirties join all the time and excel at the work. Maybe you already have a bachelor’s degree, are 32, married, and have kids. Does the Army National Guard interest you? Go for it! There are so many opportunities for people of varying ages and abilities to find their place in this branch of the military.