There are a lot of frustrated service members leaving the active force due to separation boards paying the peace dividend as we shrink across the board. However, there is hope for continued service, and maybe even redemption. Across the Army National Guard right now there is a great need for captains and majors, particularly combat-tested and experienced officers.
I left active duty in 2011 for many of the wrong reasons; thankfully, I made one wise choice by joining the Army National Guard. The Guard provided a comfortable home during my transition as well as continued mentorship and networking opportunities while I moved into the civilian environment. As an active-duty member, it is easy to have a misguided or tainted view of the Reserve component based on misconceptions of capability, performance, and general competence. I was among the worst reserve component “haters,” bashing the weekend warriors who could barely keep up with an active-duty optempo.
However, in the last three years, I’ve learned that the Guard is home to a wide range of professionals who contribute their own active-duty experience, incredible depth of deployment experience, and civilian backgrounds to the success of the organization.
Reserve units are natural hubs of innovation solutions. My low expectations for the unit I joined were blown away when I met a group of disciplined military professionals who balance multiple combat deployments with successful civilian careers and family lives.
Therefore, here are three reasons you should consider joining the Reserve component.
- Retirement: If you are leaving the active force and you aren’t maximizing your savings, you are not ready for the civilian world. It’s brutal out here, and the security that a military retirement will provide your family cannot be underestimated. Additionally, there are numerous financial benefits including the best deal in the military: TRICARE Reserve Select.
- Breadth of opportunities: For officers and enlisted personnel, it is very common for individuals to hold multiple occupational specialties, areas of concentration, or additional skill identifiers without pigeon holing themselves away from future success or command opportunities. I was fortunate enough to switch from combat arms to a new field of opportunity in aviation as a helicopter pilot. Within the National Guard specifically, there are plenty of opportunities within your parent organization and at the state and national levels.
- Continued service and camaraderie: Having a place to vent, to share war stories, and to shoulder the burden with like-minded people of similar experience provides a part-time constant, which is a reprieve from a civilian career or organization that might not understand your background and skill set. There are numerous individuals in the Reserves who have transitioned from active duty and will provide guide and support you through your journey into the wilds of the civilian world. Additionally, the chance to provide for the community in times of crisis is a special opportunity to bridge the civilian-military divide not available on active duty. The respect and appreciation for the National Guard is high in many states where Guard forces saved lives and delivered critical aid.
It is easy to leave the active force with a chip on your shoulder and the gates of post in the rear view mirror, but out in the embracing sunshine of the civilian world, we want you and can help you be a better civilian and military leader.