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Misconceptions of the National Guard

One of the aspects that I have loved about my life has been my role as a military spouse. It has allowed me to travel, meet new friends, and have experiences I never dreamed of. But, it's not always the glitz, glamour and drama that you see in the movies, on TV, or in the videos of surprise reunions all over the Internet.

As an Air National Guard spouse, I've learned that there are many misconceptions about what the modern day military looks like - especially within Guard units.  Here are what I consider to be the top five misconceptions faced by the modern day Guard unit. 

The Weekend Warrior
No longer does the Guard look like an organization who only work one weekend a month and two weeks a year - especially if you fulfill a position that requires you to stay current with training requirements and military readiness. Also, for many reasons, there are fewer support staff available to fulfill needs and responsibilities, thus increasing work demand on those still serving.  This means that, if you are a military member serving as a DSG (Drill Status Guardsman or part time), you will most likely have to go into your unit during non-drill weekends in order to maintain your readiness and/or fulfill job responsibilities.  If you are someone who also holds a regular/full time position outside of the military, it means that you are taking away time from civilian job (often at the sake of your pay and benefits) during the week, as well as increased time away from your family.

The Part Time Minuteman
With more and more people choosing or being forced to leave active duty, there are more people looking at the Guard and Reserve life in order to get to their [Active Duty] retirement (Note: there are differences between an Active Duty and Guard retirement - they are not both available at 20 years of service).  In some areas, this means that there are more people seeking AGR (Active Guard Reserve or full time) positions within units than their are positions available.  Typically, this is a good thing.  You would hope that it means more competition and the best person for the position gets the job.  But, this sometimes doesn't take into account loyalty to a unit (especially for the person who enlisted at 18 and has continued to re-enlist in the hopes of gaining an AGR position or an Active Duty retirement).  It also can mean lower job security for members who do not work in units near their hometown or extended family because bases have been closed or they don't have the specialized positions available for which the member has been trained (often seen within flying units).

The State's Employee
Yes, many aspects of being a Guard member mean serving the state in which the unit resides.  But, more and more (especially with active duty force shaping and equipment changes) Guard units are being called upon to serve the nation and provide support and protection in previously active duty roles.  Guard members are not just sitting at home waiting for the Governor to call them up into action.  They are actively serving and actively being deployed, often times for much longer than "two weeks a year."  Units are being called upon to take on missions that go beyond the state.  After all, while they pledge to protect the state, their primary pledge is first - and foremost - to the country.

Military Family Benefits
There are some amazing benefits military families receive: discounts, travel, healthcare, etc.  But, these are often times only for the active duty families.  Guard families cannot travel Space A.  Healthcare is based upon the status and orders of the military member and, because there isn't always an active duty installation nearby, is often rejected by healthcare providers because of its low rate of payouts.  If you are lucky to be in a unit near an active duty installation with a healthcare system, you may be able to find services.  Otherwise, you may have to drive hours away to see specialists.

The Military Family Community
I have fallen in love with the military community.  Most of the families are amazing people who are quick to make friends and even quicker to open their homes when you're in need.  This is still true within Guard units.  But, as a Guard family, you also have to learn how to work within the civilian world.  Your children will go to schools where they may be the only military child.  Teachers, principals, and counselors will not always know how to deal with issues related to deployment or other stresses military children face.  You may desire seeking employment in your Guard unit's area.  Not all employers will understand why your resume is filled with multiple career changes and changes in jobs.  There will be some who will call you unreliable.  There will be some who say they won't hire you because they just don't want to take the risk of you moving again.  Living a military life in a civilian community isn't easy.  Neighbors and civilian friends will ask questions that make you cringe - often wondering how you do it.  But, at least you'll still have those Guard families who understand. They won't always be your next door neighbors, like during active duty assignments.  They definitely won't get together as often as an active duty base.  But, they hold within them the same duty to friendship as any other military family.

Military service through the National Guard (whether Army or Air Force) definitely has its benefits in providing stability in not changing locations every few years.  And, the Guard units often are exemplary in their capabilities because of the loyalty of their members.  After all, the Guard is Always Ready, Always There.

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