It’s been nine years since I became a National Guard spouse when my husband went from the active duty military to the National Guard. Nine years of drills, annual training, and all things National Guard. Unlike many National Guard families, we live near a military post, Fort Campbell. He was stationed here when he was active duty and we stayed. We definitely live in a military town, and have access to many of the same things active duty military have.
We can and do shop at the Commissary, attend events on post, and many people we meet are associated with the military. They are either other military spouses, military brats, or veterans. Most people around me know a little bit about the military lifestyle, which I know isn’t always the case when you are in the National Guard or the Reserves.
Service members in the National Guard serve in the military, however, their day-to-day lives can look a little different. If your spouse serves in the National Guard, they will most likely also work a civilian job. As a National Guard family, the military is around, but not necessarily on a daily basis like you might find if you were an active duty family.
If your service member is thinking about joining the National Guard or the Reserves after active duty or thinking of joining to start their military career, I hope you are able to find this post helpful.
Sometimes the military is in your face
There are times when the military is going to be in your face. The Guard does deploy, and they also go away to train. AT or Annual Training is the “two weeks a year” part of the deal. Although sometimes AT is longer than two weeks. For us, it has been anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
Sometimes my living room is filled with camo as my husband sorts his gear for a drill weekend or other types of training. Sometimes we are waiting on military orders. Sometimes this life feels similar to when he was active duty. The key word here is sometimes.
Sometimes we are a lot more civilian
There are times when we are a lot more like a civilian family. While drill weekend is once a month, sometimes there can be six weeks in between drill weekends. This means that we don’t think as much about the military as other times. Life is pretty much him going to his civilian job, and not much going on with the military, even though the military is always still in the back of our minds. Every year seems to be a big mix of both military and non military seasons.
The news isn’t your friend
The news could mean activation. The National Guard could get called to help with a hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster. They could get called to help with any type of unrest or anytime they are needed. This can be with very little notice and you will have to change your plans. This is one of the hardest parts of Guard life for me. Activation doesn’t happen too often but I always have it in the back of my mind, especially when planning vacations or other important events.
Create your own drill weekend fun
Creating drill weekend fun is good for you. I never love when my husband is gone. I am pretty sure drill weekend always falls on the most inconvenient weekend of the month, but I also enjoy creating traditions while he is away. I will order my favorite food one night or binge a specific show I only watch when he is gone.
You can and should enjoy that time as much as you can, instead of just dreading the times they will be away. Use those weekends or trainings to work on yourself, and make memories with friends or your kids. This will make your life as a National Guard spouse a bit easier.
National Guard spouses do get some benefits
Us National Guard and Reserves spouses do qualify for some of the same benefits active duty spouses do. When looking at spouse programs, finding out that we can’t qualify for something is frustrating. Our spouses serve too. However, some programs do include us. Here are a few of them:
- MyCAA provides military spouses with up to $4,000 in financial aid to pursue a license, certification, or associate’s degree. MyCAA is available to National Guard and Reservist spouses when their service members are on Title 10 orders. MyCAA is for spouses whose service members have ranks between E-1 through E-6, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 through O-3.
- Tutor.com is a free online tutoring website to include college and professional subjects, available 24/7.
- Most military discounts that offer the discount to spouses include National Guard spouses, such as the amazing Disneyland military discount.
- Hire Heroes USA provides free job search assistance to US military members, veterans, and their spouses.
- Blue Star Families and Military OneSource are also available to us.
Not everyone’s experiences as a National Guard spouse will be the same. Some service members train more than others. But joining the National Guard or Reserves can be a good career move for some service members.