What to Know Before Joining the National Guard

Joining the National Guard is no joke, and is not for everyone. Here's what to know before you make the leap.

The National Guard is often billed as "military lite" by many people, and recruiters often frame it as a good part-time way to enjoy military service without having to disturb your overall lifestyle. To a point, this is true. People who serve in the National Guard do typically start out part-time and also get paid around $600 per month. 

However, military service is not for everyone — and for some, it may be a major mistake. Here's what you need to know before joining the National Guard. 

First off, you CAN get deployed into war.

If you thought that joining the National Guard meant that you'd be immune to serving in Syria or Afghanistan, you're wrong. A large portion of the people who are currently fighting in the war are National Guard members — not Army or Navy.

So, that part-time job could become full-time fairly quickly. Moreover, it may mean that you'll end up seeing the ugly side of war. If you are okay with that possibility, then you might be alright joining the National Guard. 

Since 2001, around 50 percent of all people who are part of the National Guard have combat experience. So, the chances of you going to war are much higher than you'd believe. 

You will not have as much control over your life as you do now, if you choose to sign up.

When you sign up for military service, regardless of which branch, you're making a huge, huge commitment. Your life is no longer your own; you will have to follow orders regardless of what you want to do. 

Sometimes, you will not feel comfortable with those orders. They may require you to move far away from home, or may even require you to help quell protests that deal with something you believe in. 

Moreover, you will have to give up a weekend every month — and that's actually a much larger commitment than it sounds like. National Guard members have to be part of the guard for around eight years, after all. 

Additionally, civilian companies might not want to hire National Guard members because they know that they may be deployed at any moment. So, having a "normal" job won't often be as easy as you'd hoped. 

Any relationship you have will have to struggle with these issues in order to survive. So, military girlfriends and boyfriends may have a harder time than you'd believe — even if you're in the  National Guard. 

You can't quit.

Once you join, you cannot back out of the time you signed up for. This is not a normal job. You can't just say, "I quit!" If you do, you can go to jail for going AWOL. 

At best, you're looking at a dishonorable discharge. At worst, you may end up being court martialled. Think about that before you join. 

You will need to be in good shape in order to join — and actually make it through basic training.

Not everyone can join the National Guard. If you're in poor physical shape, or if you fail the ASVAB test, you can't get in. Even passing basic training can be too much for some, so even if you do decide to ,join, there's still a chance that you might not ever actually make it in. 

Basic training is brutal and demanding, and it will make you build some muscle — big time. If you love working out, you'll love it. If you hate working out, joining the National Guard might not be a good option for you. 

Joining the National Guard isn't something everyone can do. However, if you can't pass the test the first time around, you might still be able to make things work out the next time around. 

Certain things can bar you from joining — many of which may be beyond your control.

Many people who want to join can't actually pass the requirements necessary for the National Guard. Many of the requirements aren't actually health-related, per se. Here are some of the other disqualifiers:

  • Single parents are generally disqualified unless the other parent is willing to take custody. 
  • People who have mental health histories might also be turned away, depending on the illness.
  • Drug users and sex offenders are generally not seen as acceptable, either. 
  • Exceeding the maximum weight limit for your age also can disqualify you. 

Simply put, a career in the National Guard isn't always easy. It's not always doable, either. If learning this gives you more respect for veterans, good. It should. 

However, for the right person, it can be a rewarding way to live your life.

You would be surprised at how many people have claimed that joining the National Guard, or joining the Army, has changed their lives for the better. If you're looking for structure and a chance to make a huge difference, then this is the right career for you. 

Now Reading
What to Know Before Joining the National Guard
Read Next
National Guard Requirements