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Is The National Guard Worth It?

Joining the military is a major decision that requires careful consideration of the benefits and drawbacks. If you’re considering joining the National Guard, you’re probably wondering – is it worth it?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: the National Guard can be a great opportunity if you’re looking for part-time military service, educational benefits, and supplemental income. However, it does require a significant time commitment and the possibility of deployment.

The Pros of Joining the National Guard

Part-Time Military Service

One of the biggest advantages of joining the National Guard is the opportunity to serve part-time in the military. Unlike active-duty service members who are on duty full-time, National Guard members typically serve one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer.

This allows individuals to pursue their civilian careers or education while still fulfilling their military obligations. It offers a unique balance between military service and personal life, making it an appealing option for many.

Educational Benefits

Joining the National Guard comes with a range of educational benefits. One of the most well-known benefits is the Montgomery GI Bill, which provides financial assistance for education and training expenses.

This bill offers up to 36 months of education benefits, including tuition, fees, and a monthly housing allowance. Additionally, some states offer additional educational incentives for National Guard members, such as tuition assistance programs or scholarships. These benefits can greatly reduce the financial burden of pursuing higher education.

Extra Income

Another advantage of joining the National Guard is the opportunity to earn extra income. In addition to the regular pay received for monthly drill weekends and annual training, National Guard members may also be eligible for various bonuses and allowances.

These can include enlistment bonuses, reenlistment bonuses, and special duty pay. The extra income can provide financial stability and help individuals achieve their financial goals.

Gain Job Skills and Experience

Joining the National Guard offers valuable job skills and experience that can benefit individuals both during their military service and in their civilian careers.

National Guard members receive extensive training in various fields, such as combat, leadership, technical skills, and teamwork.

These skills are transferable to a wide range of civilian occupations, making National Guard service a great way to enhance one’s resume and increase job prospects. Furthermore, the discipline and work ethic developed in the National Guard can positively impact an individual’s professional growth and success.

The Cons of Joining the National Guard

Time Commitment

One of the main drawbacks of joining the National Guard is the significant time commitment required. Unlike other branches of the military, National Guard members have both a civilian and military obligation.

This means that they must balance their military duties with their civilian jobs and personal lives. The National Guard typically requires one weekend a month and two weeks of annual training, but there may be additional training and deployments that can take up significant chunks of time.

Possibility of Deployment

When joining the National Guard, there is always the possibility of being deployed. While this may not be a concern for everyone, it can be a source of anxiety for those who have family or career commitments that could be disrupted by deployment.

The unpredictable nature of deployments can also make it difficult to plan for the future and can be emotionally challenging for both the service member and their loved ones.

Put Career Plans on Hold

Joining the National Guard can sometimes require individuals to put their career plans on hold. This is especially true for those who are pursuing careers that may not easily align with their military obligations.

For example, if a National Guard member is in the middle of pursuing higher education or professional training, they may need to take a break or modify their plans to accommodate their military commitments.

This can delay their career progression and potentially impact their long-term goals.

Can Be Dangerous

Serving in the National Guard, like any branch of the military, comes with inherent risks. National Guard members can be called upon to support domestic operations during natural disasters or civil unrest, as well as overseas deployments.

These situations can expose service members to dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations.

While the National Guard provides training and support to mitigate these risks, it is important to recognize and be prepared for the potential dangers involved.

What to Expect in the National Guard

Joining the National Guard is a big decision, and it’s important to know what to expect before making a commitment. Here are some key aspects of being in the National Guard:

Basic Training

Just like any branch of the military, National Guard members undergo rigorous basic training. This training is designed to prepare individuals physically, mentally, and emotionally for the challenges they may face while serving.

It includes physical fitness exercises, weapon training, and classroom instruction on military tactics and procedures. Basic training is a transformative experience that builds discipline, teamwork, and resilience.

Advanced Individual Training

After completing basic training, National Guard members move on to advanced individual training (AIT), where they receive specialized instruction in their chosen military occupational specialty (MOS).

This training varies depending on the specific job, but it typically includes hands-on instruction and practical exercises to develop the skills necessary for the role. AIT is crucial for National Guard members to become proficient in their assigned duties.

One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year

One of the unique aspects of serving in the National Guard is the part-time commitment. National Guard members typically serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year. During these periods, they participate in training exercises and drills to maintain readiness.

This allows individuals to balance their military obligations with their civilian careers and personal lives. Additionally, National Guard members receive pay and benefits for their service, making it a rewarding experience both personally and financially.

Possibility of Deployment

While the National Guard is primarily a reserve component of the military, there is always the possibility of deployment. National Guard units can be called upon to support both domestic and overseas missions.

In recent years, National Guard members have been deployed to assist in disaster relief efforts, provide security in conflict zones, and support humanitarian missions. The potential for deployment adds an element of unpredictability to serving in the National Guard, but it also offers opportunities for meaningful service and personal growth.

Who Should Join the National Guard?

The National Guard offers a unique opportunity for individuals who are looking to serve their country, gain valuable skills, and receive excellent benefits. It is an option that appeals to a wide range of people, each with their own motivations and goals. Here are some groups of individuals who should consider joining the National Guard:

1. Those Looking for Part-Time Service

The National Guard is a great option for individuals who want to serve their country on a part-time basis.

Unlike active duty military service, which requires full-time commitment, the National Guard allows individuals to maintain their civilian careers while still fulfilling their military obligations. This flexibility is particularly attractive to those who have family or professional responsibilities that they cannot leave behind.

2. Students Seeking Educational Benefits

For students who are looking to further their education, the National Guard offers a range of educational benefits that can help make that dream a reality. The Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill provide financial assistance for tuition, books, and housing expenses.

Additionally, the National Guard offers the State Tuition Assistance Program, which provides funds to cover the cost of tuition at state colleges and universities. These benefits can greatly reduce the financial burden of obtaining a degree.

3. Those Needing Extra Income

Joining the National Guard can provide individuals with a reliable source of extra income. In addition to receiving a monthly drill pay, National Guard members are eligible for a variety of bonuses and allowances.

These financial benefits can make a significant difference in someone’s overall income, especially for those who are looking to supplement their existing job or need to support a family.

4. People Interested in Public Service

If you have a passion for public service and want to make a difference in your community, the National Guard is an excellent option.

National Guard units are often called upon to respond to natural disasters, provide humanitarian aid, and support local law enforcement. Being a member of the National Guard allows you to serve your community directly and make a positive impact in times of need.

Alternatives to the National Guard

While the National Guard can be a valuable option for those looking to serve their country and gain valuable skills, it is not the only path available. There are several alternatives that individuals can consider, depending on their interests and goals. Here are some alternatives to the National Guard:

Active Duty Military

One alternative to the National Guard is joining the active duty military. Unlike the National Guard, which typically requires part-time service, active duty military service involves full-time commitment.

This option allows individuals to immerse themselves in military life and receive comprehensive training. Active duty military personnel often have access to a wider range of career opportunities and benefits.


The reserves provide another alternative to the National Guard. Reservists are part-time military personnel who are typically required to serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

This option allows individuals to maintain civilian careers while still contributing to the defense of their country. Reservists often receive training and benefits similar to those in the National Guard, making it a viable alternative for many.


AmeriCorps is a national service program that offers individuals the opportunity to serve their communities through various projects. Members of AmeriCorps can work in areas such as education, disaster relief, public health, and environmental conservation.

While it may not provide the same level of military training as the National Guard, AmeriCorps offers a chance to make a positive impact and gain valuable skills.

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is another alternative to the National Guard that focuses on international service. Volunteers in the Peace Corps work in developing countries to address issues such as education, health, and economic development.

This option allows individuals to immerse themselves in different cultures and make a lasting difference in the lives of others. While it may not provide the same level of military training, the Peace Corps offers a unique experience for those seeking to serve.

Ultimately, the decision to join the National Guard or explore alternatives depends on individual interests, goals, and priorities. It is important to carefully consider all options and choose the path that aligns with one’s values and aspirations.


Deciding whether to join the National Guard depends on your personal situation and goals. While it requires sacrifice, the National Guard can provide part-time military service, educational benefits, extra income, job skills, and a sense of service to your community and country.

Do your research, weigh the pros and cons, and consult others to determine if joining the National Guard is the right choice for you.

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