I have been an Army National Guard spouse for about 18 months now, and in that time, my husband has been to many weekend drills and one two-week AT (Annual Training.) He has not been deployed with the Guard, or called away to help in a natural disaster, even though the possibility is always in the back of my mind.
If you are new to the Guard life, you might not know exactly how everything works. You might have a lot of questions about how the monthly drills work, about pay, how Annual Training works, and what your spouse’s role might be. Here is the low down on what you need to know about the National Guard and your spouse:
The Role of the Army National Guard
The first thing you should know is that the National Guard answers to both state and Federal governments. This means that they can be called up by the governor of the state or by the President of the United States. They can be called to deploy overseas or to help their home state during a natural disaster or other type of emergency. Sometimes they get called in to help other states that need extra help.
Preparing yourself for any of these assignments is a good idea. Every time I hear about a natural disaster of some kind in or near our state of Tennessee, I wonder if he could be called up to help. I think that keeping the idea in mind will make it easier if it ever happens. You can’t exactly plan for this but you can be aware of the possibility.
My husband has a monthly drill every month of the year. Sometimes he has three weeks in between, other times a month, and even possibly six weeks between drills. He gets a calendar ahead of time which is helpful, but the dates can also change. The calendar will allow you to plan ahead, but don’t forget that the dates could change. Some drills are just two days, some are three, and about twice a year they have only been one day on the weekend.
Depending on where your spouse has to go for their drill and the unit they are with, they might be able to come home at night. I wouldn’t count on that, but it is a possibility and something I didn’t realize myself until after my husband joined. They will also be paid based on the amount of days they have for drill for the month. So the pay will be different monthly. You can figure out the exact pay using the Pay Calculator.
When you think of the National Guard, you hear the “One weekend a month, two weeks a year” slogan. So what is the “two weeks a year” all about? This is when they go to their Annual Training and are gone for two weeks. My husband goes out of state for this. He had to pack all of his gear and prepare for two weeks of Army training.
If you have never been without your spouse for more than a weekend, the two weeks might seem rather difficult. You can plan to visit family or friends during that time or have someone come visit you. You will want to keep busy and if you can fill your calendar with things to do, the two weeks will go by much faster.
Depending on your spouse’s regular everyday job, saving some extra money during this time is a good idea. They might have to miss a paycheck and you will need to have some savings if this happens. You know your own situation, so think about what you might need to do to make sure you don’t have to go through a pay day without getting paid. Your spouse should get their drill pay within about a week of coming home from AT, but sometimes it takes longer.
Family Readiness Group
You should check and see if your spouse’s Guard unit has an FRG (Family Readiness Group.) I did not know we had one until last year’s Christmas party. They let us know we could always reach out to them if we needed help. Ours did not have regular meetings, but some FRGs might. You will want to check and see what is available to you. It’s nice to be able to make friends with those who are also married to someone in the Army National Guard.
The Army National Guard life can be very different from other branches of the Military. I hope this post can help you prepare and understand how it works a little better. Good luck to you as you start this new chapter of your life.