The National Guard is part of the U.S. military that serves both local communities and the nation as a whole.
Members of the Guard are called to respond to domestic crises, overseas conflicts, and other missions as needed.
National Guard service members often attend college or have civilian jobs while simultaneously undergoing part-time military training.
Here are 15 National Guard benefits you probably didn’t know about.
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1. Extra Income
National Guard members are paid for their service, including for time spent in training, weekend drills, deployments, etc.
Specific pay levels are determined by the member’s rank, job/MOS (military occupational specialty), and education level.
National Guard pay increases with rank and time in service.
Therefore, joining the Guard can significantly add to a member’s overall income.
2. Opportunity To Learn Skills And Trades
Finding solid employment can be difficult with little to no prior work experience.
In addition, many entry-level jobs do not provide long-term opportunities to learn significant skills and trades.
The National Guard offers a variety of opportunities for training in trades and learn skills that are easily transferred to the civilian job sector, while paying for your service as well.
This may include jobs in the fields of mechanics, medicine, telecommunications, and others that are available to fit nearly all interests and skill levels.
Along with such learning opportunities for skills and trades are the qualities of leadership and discipline that are developed as a significant part of serving in the National Guard.
These qualities are highly desirable in nearly all professional settings within the civilian economy.
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3. Education Benefits
The National Guard offers education benefits in more than one way.
For those who are in college, being part of the Guard allows for generating income as well as offering time to pursue a degree that other types of employment would not.
In addition, many states offer tuition waivers for those serving in the National Guard.
Members earn G.I. Bill benefits for their service, and if their unit is federally activated or deployed, members earn the same education benefits as active duty soldiers.
There are education benefits offered by the VA in addition to financial support for undergraduate and graduate degrees.
These additional benefits include:
- Vocational and technical training
- Licensing and certification tests
- On-the-job training
Depending on your National Guard service, you may be eligible for these benefits and more to enhance your education.
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4. Health Care Services
Eligible National Guard members have access to affordable healthcare coverage under Tricare.
Tricare is the Department of Defense Military Health System that provides health benefits for military personnel, dependents, retirees, and eligible members of Reserve Components.
Such health care benefits and services through the National Guard and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may include:
- Inpatient hospital care
- Outpatient medical services
- Pharmacy services
- Dental care
- Preventive health services
5. Potential Veteran Status
Previously, those serving in the National Guard were considered veterans only upon serving 180 days or more in a federal status outside of training.
For example, these 180 days would have to be served during wartime deployment, responding to a national emergency, etc.
However, a recent law now grants official veteran status to National Guard members who have served for 20 years or more.
This veteran status comes with many benefits and entitlements for the service member and their dependents as well.
6. Unique Life Structure
Though balancing a civilian career and/or education with a commitment to the National Guard can be challenging, it offers a unique life structure.
Essentially, Guard members can pursue different career paths within the civilian and military worlds at the same time.
This can provide invaluable life experiences and relationships.
In addition to extra money, job skills, etc., members of the National Guard can also take pride in their unique service to their communities and the country.
7. Life Insurance
There are always extra risks involved when it comes to any type of military service.
Therefore, service members are offered life insurance programs to protect financial security for them and their families.
National Guard members with at least 12 periods of inactive duty training per year are covered by SGLI (Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance).
8. Burial Benefits
The VA provides memorial services and reimbursement burial costs to eligible veterans and their dependents.
This means that eligible National Guard members who reach veteran status can receive burial benefits that include:
- burial in a national cemetery
- inscribed headstone/marker
- allowance for partial reimbursement of burial and funeral costs
- Presidential Memorial Certificate
- American flag to drape over the veteran’s casket
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9. Protected Civilian Employment
Most people choose to join the National Guard part-time, allowing them to maintain another part-time or full-time civilian job simultaneously.
Part-time Guard members typically work for a single weekend each month and two weeks during the year.
This allows for members to focus on another career and/or secondary education.
In addition, your civilian employment is protected even if your Guard unit is deployed during an emergency or war.
Employers are prohibited by law from firing those who are away from their jobs due to active service in the National Guard.
10. Deciding On Military Service
For those who are considering active military service but are unsure whether that path would be a good fit, service in the Guard can help with this decision.
The National Guard allows for part-time military service and a view into the experience of military life.
For those who fulfill their Guard commitment and decide that active duty service is or is not a good fit, they have made strategic considerations to help in making such a significant life decision.
11. Home Loans
Eligible National Guard members can qualify for a home loan guaranteed by the VA.
A VA home loan is a benefit that is designed to help military service members and veterans purchase, retain, or adapt a home.
Certain conditions must be met for eligibility among Guard members.
12. Community Belonging
Most National Guard units are made up of local community members.
This enhances a feeling of community belonging in addition to opportunities for building relationships and a stronger society for everyone’s benefit.
Unlike full-time active duty service in the Armed Forces, those in the National Guard are able to serve where they live without the added pressure of moving away from family and friends.
13. Networking Opportunities
The National Guard offers excellent opportunities for professional networking.
Most fellow members serve part-time and in the same state in addition to having various backgrounds and civilian careers.
Therefore, this diversity among the Guard members and their education levels, careers, etc., is a great way to make unique professional and personal connections.
14. Travel To Other Areas
Active duty members of the Armed Forces often relocate several times, moving to different areas of the country and across the globe.
With the National Guard, there are opportunities to travel to other areas without making a move.
Many people in the Guard travel for basic and advanced individual training, and some commute to different parts of their own state for drilling and/or training.
Though this type of travel is different from being on vacation, it does provide opportunities to visit other geographical areas, meet diverse people, and interact with other cultures.
Guard members can also potentially be deployed to countries around the world.
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15. Opportunity For Service
The National Guard offers an opportunity for service for civilians who feel called to military duty but may not be able to serve full-time in the U.S. Armed Forces.
National Guard members are part of a proud history of citizens who balance civilian and military life.
Their dedication to service, training, and mission readiness is an essential element of the U.S. military as well as local, state, and national security.