Joining the Army National Guard

Army National Guard soldier prepares for airborne operation
A Utah Army National Guard soldier prepares to conduct a static airborne operation over the drop zone, Global One, Fairfield, Utah, March 15, 2012. (Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards/Utah National Guard)

For more than 360 years, the citizen soldiers of the Army National Guard have rallied around the flag when their country needed them. Not only has the Guard played key roles in every conflict in United States history but also has responded to natural disasters and civil emergencies.

For more on general Guard benefits and pay, see the Guard Help Pages.


If you are interested in joining the Army National Guard, you must:

-- Be between the ages of 18 and 35 (you can be 17 with a parent's signature). Prior service age limits differ.

-- Have a high school diploma, although in some instances, GED certificates can be accepted.

-- Pass a physical.

-- Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which will determine career paths available for consideration. To learn how to get a good score on the ASVAB, go to the ASVAB section.

Education Benefits and Skills Training

Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve -- The MGIB-SR allows you to attend school full time while serving in the Reserve or National Guard and get more than $10,000 for school in addition to your paycheck and any other educational benefits you may be eligible to receive. For more on the GI Bill for Selected Reservists, go to the Reserve GI Bill section.

Reserve Officer Training Corps -- Hundreds of colleges and universities offer Army ROTC as an elective course for college credit. Through ROTC, the Army offers merit-based scholarships. In addition to tuition and fees, the Army pays ROTC students a monthly allowance for living expenses. There is no military commitment for the first year in ROTC. The leadership and management training ROTC provides can serve as the foundation for future success in either a military or civilian career.

Tuition assistance -- The Army National Guard could reimburse you up to 75% of tuition costs for as many as 15 credit hours per fiscal year.

Loan repayment program -- The Guard can help soldiers pay off student loans if they attended schools on an approved Perkins, Stafford or other Department of Education Guaranteed Student Loan. Soldiers can qualify to have their loan repaid at the rate of 15% of the loan for each year of reserve duty, up to a maximum loan repayment of $20,000, depending on Military Occupational Specialties.

Education and learning facilities -- Most Army posts have education counselors who help soldiers identify their goals and determine how best to reach them within the Army Continuing Education System. Counseling services include academic and vocational planning, testing, college application processing and financial aid advice.

Foreign languages -- Most Army Education Centers on major posts have language labs where you can study new languages. The Army also has linguistics schools that offer more in-depth, specialized training to people interested in pursuing military assignments that require language skills.

State-specific benefits -- National Guard members also may receive additional tuition and education benefits, depending on their state. Be sure to ask your local recruiter about state-specific education benefits.

College credit by exam -- Members of the Guard also can take advantage of free College Level Examination Program tests (CLEP). For every test you pass on a particular subject, you can earn up to six transferable college credits.

Promotions and Career Path

The Army National Guard bases its promotions on a system called Select, Train, Promote and Assign.

Prior service -- The prior service career path for those enlisted in the Army National Guard is just like that of the regular Army from ranks E-1 through E-9. Whatever branch of the service, the Army National Guard will take into consideration your job skill and rank at your time of discharge. In many cases, if you were discharged with a rank of E-6 or below, the Guard can enlist you at the same rank. If you are prior service enlisted wishing to gain a commission in the Army National Guard, you are encouraged to pursue advanced leadership roles. The option of State Officer Candidate School, which allows candidates to continue civilian employment during this period, is also available. Training usually is held one weekend a month and during two 14-day periods, usually in the summer. The course is for one year, and the curriculum is very demanding.

For the Officer Candidate School enlistment option, you must:

-- Have completed 60 semester hours from an accredited college before enrollment.

-- Have applied for this program before your 29th birthday. (There are a few exceptions for people between the ages of 30-34.)

If you are an officer, your prior-service experience and leadership can be put to use in the federal and state missions of the Army National Guard.

The Army National Guard Experience

Lifestyle -- You can get training in career skills, educational opportunities, adventure and excitement, money and a feeling of satisfaction from serving your country. Since the Army National Guard is local, you also can get satisfaction in helping your neighbors and community.

If you are 17 years old and in high school, you can join with your parent's consent. Basic training and specialized individual training can be arranged during summer breaks so as not to interfere with your school or college career.

Obligation -- You serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Your initial training will be broken into two parts. The first part is basic training, where you learn how to be a soldier. Here, you receive instruction in military courtesies and history, as well as solving field problems and qualifying with an M-16A2. The second part consists of specialized training in your chosen occupational skill. These two parts can be split so you can do the first part one summer and the second part the next summer.

Drills -- A drill consists of two days of training per month. Your pay will be adjusted automatically for cost-of-living increases. You'll get pay increases for every two years of accumulated service and may earn special duty pay. To calculate your drill pay, visit the Drill Calculator.

Annual training -- Annual training is held for two weeks per year. Depending on the unit and your specialty, you could be stationed at a shore location, with an aviation squadron or aboard ship.

Travel -- You will have the opportunity to travel on duty and off. You qualify for military space-available travel within and between the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. For more on military travel options and benefits, see the Travel Center.

Base privileges -- As a member, you can access all recreational facilities on military bases, such as gyms, tennis courts and libraries. You and your family can enjoy unlimited access at any Military Exchange nationwide. Army National Guard members and their families are entitled to use base commissaries for up to 24 days annually, plus any days spent on active duty. For more on recreational and family benefits, see the Guard Family and Individual Help page.

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