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Unread 08-04-2014, 11:54 PM   #1
zander21510
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Questions about the National Guard/Army Reserves

So recently I've been pondering the idea of joining the National Guard or one of the reserves. Five years ago I was seriously considering going active duty in the military after high school to serve my country, gain some discipline and some unique experience, and help pay for school. But once I met my girlfriend (who I have been with for ~4.5 years now and will marry in a couple of years), i shifted to going to the same college as her, getting my degree and the rest is history. I never really let go of the idea though.

Now I'm about to graduate with my B.S. in Management Information Systems, and I'm intent on marrying, starting a career and a family. I started looking at joining the National Guard or one of the reserves to serve my country. I was hoping some veterans or current reservists/guardsmen could answer some of my questions because I could only find so much online and I don't want to waste a recruiters time only to back out.

1: Time commitment. I read about the basic time commitments each month and year, I'm confused/curious about the initial training commitment of 6 weeks or so of boot camp, do I get paid during that time or do I hold a job or what? Also, I know it's my responsibility mainly to balance work and duty, but what obligations/law is there to protect me from getting fired or losing my job because I was called into service or some unforeseen incident?

2: Officer program. I'm interested since I will have my degree to try and get into the officer program. How difficult is it? Is it harder to juggle civilian work and an officer position?

3: Location. It's pretty important to me to stay in North Texas for my future family, my girlfriend has to be here for at least the next 5 years to finish her PHD. I know there is a National Guard station in Ft. Worth and a few reserve stations around here, is relocation something I should be worried about? Will my initial training be somewhere outside of North Texas?

If I think of more I'll post, any help would be greatly appreciated. I never got over the fact I didn't decide to join the military sometimes, but I'm very happy with my girlfriend and life even though I still want to serve. Thanks.

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Unread 08-05-2014, 09:30 AM   #2
jmspradl
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My background is similar to yours, so I'll try to help out. I didn't get into the National Guard until several years after college, and had a family and civilian career established. I went in as an officer candidate.

1. The time commitment is more than 6 weeks for initial training. Basic (BCT) is 10 weeks long. You will get paid as an E-4 since you have a B.S. You will get paid like any other active duty soldier - base pay, BAH, etc. If you go enlisted you will also go to AIT, which will vary in length depending on which MOS (job) you choose. If you go in as an officer candidate, you will likely go back home immediately after BCT and prepare for OCS - more on this below. After OCS you will go to BOLC for your specific branch. BOLC can last from 2-3 months all the way to 18ish for pilots. I'd estimate 4-6 months on average though.

2. Going in as an officer candidate can be very easy or very hard depending on your state. I'm not familiar with TX so I can't answer specifically. Some states will let you have a shot if you meet the minimum requirements (age, education, etc.). Others are more competitive and require board interviews and a selection process. Once in as an OC, you will go to BCT and most likely return home to prepare for OCS. The Guard has 3 options for OCS - Federal, Accelerated, and Traditional(State).

Federal OCS is the exact same course that active duty OC's go through at Ft. Benning. It is 12 weeks long, and you will train Monday - Friday on most weeks. If you are lucky and can afford to be away from work/family for 3 months, do this. I say lucky because some states rarely send OC's to Federal OCS, while others send OC's all the time. Again, not sure how TX works.

Accelerated OCS is an 8 week, Guard specific OCS program. It takes the 12 week Federal course and crams it into 8 weeks. This means training 7 days a week, all day, every day. This would be my #2 recommendation. Again, some states don't send OC's without previous military experience to this course, but some do.

The third option is traditional or state OCS. This option will minimize time away from work/family and is run by your state. You would attend a 2 week Phase 1 course, usually during the summer. Phase 2 would be one weekend a month drill in your home state for the next year or so. You will probably have some homework to do between drills as well. Phase 3 is another 2 week course. This option is obviously the longest route to earning a commission, but minimizes interference with your civilian life. Some states require all non-prior service OC's to do traditional OCS.

3. If you want to stay in a specific area, the Guard is the way to go. I'm sure there are armories all over TX. Which exact unit you are in will be determined by what MOS (enlisted) or branch (officer) you choose. This brings up another point to consider. If you enlist, you choose an MOS and are guaranteed that slot as long as you complete BCT & AIT. As an officer, you are not guaranteed any specific branch or job. You may have to compete for a certain branch/slot or you may be able to simply choose from open 2LT slots in your state. This will vary depending on how your state runs things. Back to location, the Reserves typically has far less location than the Guard. You may end up in a unit near you, you may not. The Guard gives you much better chances of being somewhere close to home after initial training.



Now for some additional advice. By far the most difficult and stressful part about the Guard or Reserves will be balancing your military career and civilian life. Most positions will have much more work to do than "1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a year". If you're an officer or NCO, you will have work to do between drills - planning and coordinating training, conference calls, emails, etc. You will likely drill on some week days, which probably means missed civilian work. My unit has 3 and 4 day drills regularly (Fri-Sun or Thurs-Sun). There are a couple months with no drill though. This can strain your relationship with your civilian job at times. Some employers are very helpful and supportive of the Guard/Reserves. Others are not. As a member of the Guard/Reserves you will be protected by USERRA, but that doesn't mean your employer will like it or make it easy on you. Not saying this to turn you away, just something to be aware of. Overall though the Guard/Reserves can be a great experience, but you will typically get out of it what you put in. That's why some make a career of it, and some do their time, get out, and never look back.

Hopefully I didn't ramble too much and this was helpful. If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to help any way I can.
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Unread 08-18-2014, 11:06 AM   #3
zander21510
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Thanks for the info it was really helpful. I have been discussing it still trying to get a feel for what my family and everyone thinks, they asked a good question, a few what ifs:

1. What if there is a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado, or some sort of crisis like the one in Ferguson or on the border where the governor sends guard troops? How does that work? Kind of a "luck of the draw" where it depends what unit you are in and what kind of notice would you get for something like that?

2. What if a war escalates like Iraq or Afghanistan where they send the national guard overseas? How likely/common is/was supplementing active-duty troops with guardsmen that during a war? Do you do the same work as the regular Army?

Thanks again for all the help the advice is really helpful
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Unread 08-18-2014, 10:22 PM   #4
nwiTJdave
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zander21510 View Post
Thanks for the info it was really helpful. I have been discussing it still trying to get a feel for what my family and everyone thinks, they asked a good question, a few what ifs:

1. What if there is a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado, or some sort of crisis like the one in Ferguson or on the border where the governor sends guard troops? How does that work? Kind of a "luck of the draw" where it depends what unit you are in and what kind of notice would you get for something like that?

2. What if a war escalates like Iraq or Afghanistan where they send the national guard overseas? How likely/common is/was supplementing active-duty troops with guardsmen that during a war? Do you do the same work as the regular Army?

Thanks again for all the help the advice is really helpful
I can't answer number one, but for number two, the National Guard saw heavy deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Its hard to say for future call-ups as every engagement requirements are different, but I would say they will see heavy use again. The work done is the same as the active duty troops. There is usually a buildup prior to the deployment (any where from 3 to 6 months) that will get the unit up to speed on their specific mission task. I was an active duty Marine but we were stationed on an Army FOB in Iraq and we worked everyday along side members from the Iowa and California guard.
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Unread 08-21-2014, 10:36 AM   #5
jmspradl
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zander21510 View Post
Thanks for the info it was really helpful. I have been discussing it still trying to get a feel for what my family and everyone thinks, they asked a good question, a few what ifs:

1. What if there is a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado, or some sort of crisis like the one in Ferguson or on the border where the governor sends guard troops? How does that work? Kind of a "luck of the draw" where it depends what unit you are in and what kind of notice would you get for something like that?

2. What if a war escalates like Iraq or Afghanistan where they send the national guard overseas? How likely/common is/was supplementing active-duty troops with guardsmen that during a war? Do you do the same work as the regular Army?

Thanks again for all the help the advice is really helpful
1. This only applies to National Guard, as they have a dual mission (state and federal), not Reserves. The type of disaster/crisis will normally dictate what type of unit gets involved. For example, in Ferguson, an MP unit would more likely be activated than say a Signal unit. Major disasters such as hurricanes would require more man power and could mean the type of unit you are in is irrelevant - a Signal soldier could clean up debris the same as an Infantry soldier. Since these types of situations can occur with little to no warning, you could be call today and told to report tomorrow or the next day for duty, if needed.

2. The Guard/Reserves played a huge role in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I saw a stat once that said the Guard had more soldiers that deployed in the GWOT than the Active Duty. They Guard/Reserves are still playing a role in Afghanistan. My state actually just had an Engineer unit return from a one year deployment, doing base teardown. I would expect the same in future conflicts. And yes, the Guard/Reserves do the same work on deployment as Active Duty would.
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Unread 09-01-2014, 12:21 PM   #6
rdujeep
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I can expand a bit further on #1.

So the Governor of a state can call up individual units - ie an MP unit for Ferguson-type events OR he can utilize the state call up list. This is a roster that soldiers volunteer to be added on. This list is used in states of emergency (hurricanes, etc). They usually don't have an entire unit add themselves to the list, so if the list is activated the soldiers are told to go to a central armory for that location and there they will link up with command and get their mission. Being called up to state active duty is normally a voluntary thing and soldiers do get paid and in my state they get recognized if they serve on a call up.

For point number 2, the Guard brigades are aligning themselves with a complimentary active duty counterpart. The idea on this is when both brigades are mobilized for a deployment, they'll undergo the same training with the same instructors & POI in order to have common SOPs. Count on there being deployments, especially if you become MI (Military Intelligence), CA (Civil Affairs), EN (Engineer) and of course combat arms. Since you're male, if you decide to go the officer route, at least one of your 3 preferred branch choices must be combat arms - and you may not get what you want.


For what its worth, I have 18 years in the Army, both Active & Guard time. I was an NCO (11B) and am now an officer (11A). I'm an infantry company commander and I'll just say this, if you're going to do it, do it for the right reasons (Country, Duty, Destruction of the country's enemies), and do it all the way.
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Unread 09-02-2014, 05:24 PM   #7
lindel
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that the Guard is only activated for national service at the convenience of the Governor, meaning that the Governor has to give his blessing before a Guard unit becomes an active military unit.

8 years active duty Air Force and 4.5 years TXANG in Garland, TX.
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