Throughout the years, I have been blessed with very close military spouse friends, many of whom vary from each branch of the military, and different stages in their lives. Officer spouses, enlisted, retired, newly married – the list goes on! One thing that I realized at the time was how little each initially knew about the National Guard. I found myself explaining exactly what my husband did, how he serves and why. It served a purpose, a way to bridge the gap between National Guard and active duty spouses.
Would you believe me if I told you that it took me quite a few years before I truly grasped the concept of who we were? I don’t usually admit that, but for the first few years of marriage, I didn’t even consider myself a military spouse. Before my husband deployed for the first time, I couldn’t relate to military life – I didn’t need to. He drilled once a month and went away for training for two weeks out of the year. There was no interruption to our normal lives until he brought home those first set of orders. What I didn’t realize at that time, was that I was about to get a crash course in military life, and finally, understand how important my husband’s role in the military was.
After my husband’s first deployment with the Army National Guard, I decided it was time to not only learn, but to also make a presence in this military world. Mainly because if a National Guard spouse like me didn’t know all that much, how can I blame anyone else in the active duty component to know? I made it a personal mission to not let the presence of the National Guard go unknown.
So you think you know the National Guard? This isn’t about branch rivalry, we all serve our purpose – it is about respect and honoring those who serve, stateside and overseas.
Here are some things that you probably didn’t know…
We Are As Old As It Gets…
The National Guard is the first and oldest military component. This is where the United States military started, to defend the homeland. They were founded on December 13, 1636, and were originally organized for a drill in Salem, Massachusetts as a militia group. They have been serving our country, both nationally and abroad since then.
Weekend Warriors No More…
Originally the National Guard was set to serve one weekend per month, and 2 weeks of annual training. This, however, has changed throughout the years, and today, tens of thousands of Guard members are serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if you are serving in the Active Guard Reserve, you work under active duty orders. This means there are full-time National Guard members working out of units all over. They put on their uniform each day, and go to work, just like active duty members. They are the ones in charge of running the units by leading, organizing, recruiting, instructing and training the part time members. So yes, National Guard members serve both their state and country.
We Aren’t All Soldiers…
When seeing advertisements for the National Guard, you may think the Guard is made up of all soldiers, don’t be fooled, the Guard isn’t only Army. The National Guard is made up of two branches, Army and Air Force, known as Army Guard and Air Guard. We each serve our purpose in the National Guard, just like every branch of the military. And although both branches are very different, we proudly serve in the Guard together, we are family.
Guard and Reserve, Yes There is a Difference…
Sometimes the National Guard gets confused or combined with the Reserve component. That’s okay – but there is a difference. Now that you know who the Guard is and what they do, you will notice that they are very different from Reserve. The Reserve component is governed by the federal government, while National Guard is state and then the government. That makes the Guard a dual service. The Reserves is prohibited from responding to disasters stateside. The Air Force does also have a Reserve component. If you are a part time member of the Guard or Reserve, then your military obligation is the same; one weekend a month and a two week training a year.
The Sacrifice of Pay…
Many National Guard service members that are not Active Guard Reserve, which means they only drill monthly, take a pretty massive cut in pay when activated or deployed. A majority of these service members have careers in the civilian world and ones that pay very well. My husband took a $20,000 pay cut when he deployed for a year. Sometimes this can leave National Guard families in a bind since they don’t realize the impact until after their loved one is gone. National Guard service members aren’t serving for the money; they serve their state and country.
Overall, we are a pretty cool branch with tons of history. We are also a very tight knit community, we stick together. We are proud to serve our state and country, “Always Ready Always There”.
What else about the National Guard can you share?
National Guard families, need resources? Check out our Guard Guide 101 here!