The National Guard: Jobs, Pay and Financial Benefits

by Guest Blogger on June 22, 2009

Here’s a job hunting tip: how about thinking outside the box? Today, we explore an unconventional career opportunity: joining the armed forces of our country. What is it like? Our contributing writer, Rachel Strong, gives us a peek into what the National Guard is all about. She is the extremely proud wife of a National Guard soldier.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, all branches of the United States Armed Forces (Army, Air Force, National Guard, Army Reserve, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard) saw a dramatic increase in recruitment. But over the subsequent years, military recruitment has dwindled to the point that the controversial stop-loss program was implemented.

Today, with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost or looking uncertain each month and the world looking more and more dangerous, military recruitment has taken another upswing — even in a time of war. A career in the military will not only offer a paycheck, but also specialized training and even college tuition money (or student loan program pay-off) through the G.I. Bill. One of the easiest ways to serve not only your country but also your community, and still keep your day job as long as you still have it, is through your state’s National Guard.

What Is The National Guard?

The National Guard is the longest-standing military force in the New World; it started in December, 1636. Today, every state has at least one standing citizen-soldier Army National Guard battalion, and many have more than one, along with an Air National Guard as well. The Guard has helped fight in every war, and has been called upon to protect national borders; to assist in fighting wild fires, hurricanes, and floods; and to aid in search-and-rescues.

About Basic Combat Training
After signing up for an eight-year commitment, citizen soldiers in any state’s National Guard program are shipped to one of the Army’s five sites for Basic Combat Training, or BCT (not “Boot Camp” — that’s with the Marines and Navy). There, the citizen is transformed into soldier. You’ll have to meet physical tests and requirements (in the form of push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run) in order to pass BCT, and go through various weapons training, obstacle courses, and in-classroom training.

About Advanced Individual Training
Once trained as a soldier, the Guardsman will move on to the more specialized Advanced Individual Training (AIT): his or her “job” in the Guard. A Guardsman can specialize in any one of a variety of roles: he or she can become a religious chaplain, cook, intelligence officer, a musician in the Army band, a mechanic (both light and heavy vehicles) or anything in between!

How Much Do Soldiers Earn? Plus Perks of Joining The National Guard

So if you become a Guardsman, what’s in store for you?

1. You get active-duty non-combat pay starting at $1,400 a month (base).
During BCT and AIT, the soldier earns active-duty non-combat pay, which starts at $1,400 a month before additional allowances (such as family separation, housing, and clothing). While state taxes are withheld from a soldier’s active-duty pay, many states will exempt an active duty resident soldier from paying those taxes, making for a happy tax day (for more information, check your state’s tax code or speak with the local recruiter).

After a soldier returns from training, they return to their normal, civilian, lives: home, work, school, kids — only reporting for duty one weekend a month (earnings start at $175 for two days’ work) and two weeks in the summer (earning $1,300+). Unless called up to active duty by the state’s governor, a Guardsman will never have to use his or her combat or AIT skills except for the two-week refresher course in the summer… and to scare off any potential suitors for his or her daughter. Nothing says “Better keep your hands off her!” like meeting him at the front door in full combat uniform holding an M-16 combat rifle.

2. There’s a signing bonus.
Within 30 days of returning home after AIT, the Guardsman will find a nice deposit in the bank account: the first half of his or her signing bonus. Depending on the specialty chosen when the Guardsman enlisted, the signing bonus can be anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000: the amount depends on what specialties are required by the Army at the time. The second half is given on the Guardsman’s third anniversary.

3. Your college education and past student loan debts are covered.
Also, within 30 days of a soldier’s return or the one year anniversary of his or her enlistment date, whichever is sooner, the National Guard will begin paying for their college education (for up to four years of full-time college, up to about $5,000 a semester) and/or paying off previous student loan debts.

4. Your day job is protected.
While the soldier is required to leave work for initial training (six to nine months), deployment (up to a year), annual training (two weeks, usually in the summer), or weekend drills (about 36 hours), employers in the US are also required to hold positions open until the soldier returns. National Guard soldiers are guaranteed jobs when they return home. The Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office on any military base is ready and able to defend a Guardsman’s job to the fullest extent of the law.

5. You get military discounts.
Other benefits of the National Guard include military discounts; many national and local companies still offer wonderful discounts for military personnel. Other perks include:

  • the ability for the Guardsman and their dependents to use any base/fort/installation’s commissary and exchange (where food can be purchased at cost, plus a 5% restocking fee, while everything else is found at a greatly-reduced price)
  • camaraderie and support for both soldier and family
  • banquets and cookouts
  • and the ever-fun “running around and playing soldier for a weekend, like when we were kids”.

6. Then there’s combat pay.
Especially in wartime, the risk of being deployed to a combat zone for a lengthy amount of time is real. However, there is a financial benefit for the soldier and the soldier’s family. With deployment comes extra training and extra drills, which are well-compensated. With deployment also comes combat pay. Many of these “combat areas” are also “tax exempt” areas, where federal and state income taxes will not apply, leaving more money in the pocket of the soldier, or those at home waiting for the soldier’s return.

Where To Go From Here?

While more and more people are leaving organized political parties and simply calling themselves “American”, I believe that being ready to defend your state and its constitution and being able to call your governor the commander-in-chief may be the most American thing anyone can do. More information can be found through this link or at your local recruiting office.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeff Rose June 30, 2009 at 9:08 am

I joined the National Guard in 1997 to help pay for my college. Reflecting back it was the best decision I ever made. The discipline and leadership skills I gained have proven to be invaluable. I did my initial 6 years and then reenlisted for another 3. Unfortunately, during my second term I was deployed and sent to Baghdad for a year (2005). I say “unfortunately” but it really did help for my wife and I to get ahead financially. I now retired having served 9 years in total.

While the overseas pay is nice, it does come with extreme risk as I was just recently reminded. A buddy of mine who I served with in Iraq volunteered to redeploy to Afghanistan. Last Friday, he and another soldier were killed when a IED struck their Humvee. He was 26 and married with a 16 month old daughter.

If you have a love for your country, then the military (national guard) might be the direction for you. Just realize first what you are getting yourself into.

2 SVB June 30, 2009 at 9:13 pm

That’s an amazing sacrifice you’ve made — pay is great, but it is a highly hazardous job, and can have difficult moments . I commend you for joining the National Guard and taking the risks you took. I am truly sorry to hear about your friend…. so young… .:( You are right — people should weigh these risks carefully, as they are very real. And am grateful to all those who have stepped up to the plate to represent and defend our country in other parts of the world.

3 Chris Radich July 31, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Enlisting in the military no matter what branch or job can determine your future. I have currently served 3.5 yrs, been to Iraq and decided to come to Afghanistan for a back to back tour. I have seen many people die, many accidents happen, and many families torn apart due to being in a combat environment. But in all reality what is the point of working a 9-5 job that does nothing for Our Great Nation? Granted I am not into politics and never will be, but after being in both wars I noticed how many freedoms we all have taken for granted. If you join the military expect it to be life changing in almost every way. Honestly it does not matter if you held a CEO job where leadership was your strong point, this job will be able to teach you more about who you are, what your life’s really worth, and foremost who the important people are in your life. Trust me if you want to become a better person in general join the military….
Scouts Out

4 edric gowdy August 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm

national-guard (reserve) chaplin. how to become one? prior service (7 years) u.s. navy…

Ed: I don’t allow phone numbers given out here. Sorry!

5 Brian R. February 19, 2010 at 3:05 am

I just got back from OSUT training in Sept. 17th 2009. I graduated a scout and am very proud. I joined because it would break the door down so that I could get into the military before I finish college. Military is my dream and college is just the back up plan I have in case something goes wrong. I hope to active duty and serve in Hawaii or Germany someday. My unit isn’t deploying now, and I am really desperate to go. As soon as I get my cac set up again, i’m volunteering for combat unit that goes to afghan. Hopefully after college, i’ll be in active duty. God Bless this country. I’m a Puerto Rican American, and am very proud to been born within this country’s states. Go U.S.A. Army. Thanks for letting me get the foot in the door National Guard.

6 Marion Miller November 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Well all I have to say is hopefully anyone that joins the Army National Guard is in a unit that makes sure the schooling required to receive their enlistment bonus is completed in the required time, and that they receive pay for their work. I know of some that were told they didn’t offer the schooling during the time limit so they never received their bonus, someone lied. Then they worked at the Armory for a week and a half and then sent home because orders were never signed to approve them working so they weren’t paid. Oh yes, they take care of their own.

I emailed Arlington, VA to inform them of what was going on and they forwarded it to Montgomery, AL but obviously it doesn’t matter how these soldiers are being treated. Someone in the office that is suppose to have orders signed is not doing their job but excuses are told to cover for themselves. We are Americans counting on our military to defend this country and protect us but who wants anyone going to war when we know how their being treated. This might be an isolated case but someone should have to be accountable for their actions, their mistakes, instead of making excuses and blaming others for these men being wronged. All the lies their told to get them to join needs to be stopped, how can God Bless this country when our soldiers are being lied to and not being taken care of. Every site I find that credits the Army National Guard for being so great providing for the one that enlist I will send an email. It’s gone on for to long allowing Americans to be deceived into thinking they should be proud of how military people are taken care of. We are to be honest, treat others right, obey the law and follow rules so what makes the government think their above all this.

Marion Miller

7 Papaboss November 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Your college education and past student loan debts are covered.

Also, within 30 days of a soldier’s return or the one year anniversary of his or her enlistment date, whichever is sooner, the National Guard will begin paying for their college education (for up to four years of full-time college, up to about $5,000 a semester) and/or paying off previous student loan debts.

*”and/or paying off previous student loan debts”…shouldn’t that be stated as OR only? Other sites I have visited for info states OR only.

8 Marion Miller December 18, 2010 at 11:16 pm

It’s nice so much is offered when joining the national guard just hope they folllow through. When the promises and the pay don’t come through don’t let a parent voice their opinion because they’ve had to start handing out money to keep their sons household running, you’ll get grief for that. As long as parents keep their mouths shut and not try to make people accountable for their mistakes everything runs smooth. If too many emails reach a Major then there is retaliation, you’ll be told that’s not allowed but believe me there is proof. When it gets to much the parent are told to quit sending emails to the higher ups, what are they trying to cover up.

9 sgt.Howard Douglas Wilson Jr, December 26, 2010 at 4:36 am

In July 1972 i took basic training at Ft.Knox,Ky.After cmpletion i was a armor crewman,Gaffney S.C for five years.I was given honorable discharge and transferred to the Medical U.S.A.R unit in Greenville,S.C that is my home town.After my six year commitment i re-enlisted for another year.When completed i was issued a honorable discharge.In my possion i have the two honorable discharge document’s and form DD-214.My I.D that was issued was lost in a house fire 17 years ago.What step do i take for a re-issue of my I.D?I would also like to knoe if i earned any benifits for my service of 7 years of non-combat servise.Both the Gaffney Armour and Medical unit in Greenville have either closed or moved locations.Would thank-you for any info, you could provide. Sgt.Howard D. Wilson Jr. 250-98-0758

10 The Smarter Wallet December 27, 2010 at 1:44 am

@Sgt. Howard Wilson,
Sorry sir, we don’t have that info here. This is just a personal blog. Perhaps some other kind commenter can offer some info for you. But best of luck tracking down the information you need.

11 bea April 13, 2011 at 1:26 am

Jeff Rose, if you read this…

What position did you have in the Guard?

I have a MA Degree and am having trouble finding a job (laid off 1 1/2 year ago now able to get stable full-time work since then) and am thinking about joining…Education benefits are great for pursuing my PhD…

It’s a big decision…Trying to gather as much information as possible from all angles…

Anyone have any comments/suggestions?


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