Joining the Army National Guard

Army National Guard

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Welcome to being a National Guard wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, or in some other way interested in the National Guard!  My name is Danielle and my boyfriend Clark is in the Army National Guard, and while I don’t believe that I am an expert by any means, I am going to tell you about our experiences so far.  I figure I should start at the beginning, so here are our experiences with Clark signing up for the National Guard.

When I met Clark, he told me it was his dream to join the military, but his parents agreed to pay for a good chunk of his college if he would go to college instead of joining the Army – so that’s what he did.  Four years later that desire to serve his country had not left him, but the timing never seemed right for him.  We talked about it, and I told him that I would be supportive regardless of what he decided to do, but I would prefer the National Guard to the “regular” Army so that I would be able to pursue my career as well.

So began the trips to meet with his recruiter as well as trips to Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). During the daunting process of signing up for the military, recruiters are a great source of information since they have been there, done that. I think that Clark got very lucky with his recruiter – he seemed like a straightforward guy who didn’t want to get people to join just to hit bonus numbers.  He really wanted people to be confident with their decision.

Anyone that is looking to join the military has to go through a physical examination, take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and have a pre-enlistment interview.  Unfortunately for Clark, they didn’t have any job openings that he was interested in and he left MEPS thinking he was putting the military on hold.  He knew what he was interested in and decided to hold out until that position became available.  He kept in contact with his recruiter and eventually the Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) he wanted was available, and he finally signed up.  His days at MEPS were long and boring – full of physicals, shots and being asked a million questions – but it was all part of the process.

One of the unique things that the National Guard offers is the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP).  This program offers recruits the chance to begin their weekend drill with other new soldiers who have not gone through Basic Combat Training (BCT) or are between BCT and their Advanced Individual Training (AIT).  This gave Clark the opportunity to learn the basics of the Army before heading off to training.  It was a great jumpstart for him to learn the way he should behave as a soldier.  There were also opportunities to get promoted before going to basic training and physical training (PT) was offered two days a week to give opportunities to prepare for the stresses of BCT.  During his RSP weekends he did a variety of things from paintball to ruck marches to lots of physical training.  He had a lot of fun during RSP though, despite how strenuous it was.

After Clark spent a few months drilling at RSP, it was finally time for him to attend BCT.  Before he left, there was an enlistment ceremony that I attended with his parents.  Here they swore in and left for BCT.  Let me tell you, saying good-bye to him in front of all those people was NOT easy!

When Clark joined the National Guard in April 2009, I was very involved in his decision to join. I strongly recommend that you stay very involved in your significant other’s decision to join.  I am a firm believer that when one person joins the military, their entire family joins.  The decision to go is theirs, but you will be at home when they are gone trying to live your life the best you can.  The National Guard is still the military – yes you hear “one weekend a month, two weeks a year,” but don’t forget that the National Guard still deploys.

I frequently hear “I could never do that” and “I don’t know how you deal with him being gone,” but I have learned how to answer that.  I respond by telling them that I couldn’t imagine telling the man of my dreams that he can’t pursue his dreams to defend his country because it would be too hard for me – I could never be so selfish because I know he never would tell me that I couldn’t fulfill my dreams.  I have found that my answer tends to give people a new perspective on being a family member of someone in the military.

There are a lot of pro’s and con’s to National Guard vs. Reserves vs. active duty Army.  Stay tuned to learn some of the differences so you can answer frequently asked questions like “He’s in the Reserves, right? That’s the same as the National Guard” and “Why is he deploying if he is in the Guard?”

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2 Responses to “Joining the Army National Guard”

  1. Leomarys says:

    Absolutely loved this article/blog! My husband joined the National Guard October 2009 and it was great to read this. This is the very same situation that I am going through and I cannot wait to hear some of the different responses to the frequently asked questions. Thank you.

    • Danielle says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed. Stay tuned for more!

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