The National Guard Doesn’t Deploy and Other Myths That Are Simply Not True
I have been a National Guard spouse for four years now. After years as an active duty spouse, I am very aware of the differences, even if some of them don’t apply to me directly. There are a lot of myths about the National Guard and Reserves life out there that simply are not true.
I think a lot of them are there simply because people don’t know any National Guard or Reserve families or make assumptions based on things they have read or heard about in the media. Whatever the reasons, this post is all about those myths as well as the truths behind them. I asked my Facebook group, and other National Guard and Reserves spouses told me what myths they have encountered over the years:
One weekend a month, two weeks a year
Okay, let’s talk about this. You have probably heard the tagline about the National Guard or the Reserves as being just one weekend a month, two weeks a year.
What really happens? Well, one weekend a month can be anywhere from 1 day to 4 or 5. Usually 3-4 days. So a weekend, plus a day or two.
The two weeks a year is usually more like 3 or 4, sometimes more than that. We are right in the middle of AT season right now, and service members are training for way more than two weeks at a time.
This also doesn’t account for any extra training or schools they might do during the year.
They don’t deploy
Yep, heard this one plenty of times and it isn’t true at all. While it is true that some Guard units haven’t been deployed for some time, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen or won’t happen. Back when we started the Iraq war, I remember hearing about so many of the National Guard units deploying for up to 18 months.
These days, the National Guard deploys pretty much anywhere that active duty might go. Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and even Europe. They don’t just stay within their state, they go out into the world, wherever they are sent.
Being in the Guard or Reserves is easier
I will say that our National Guard experience has been easier than our Active Duty experience. But from talking with other spouses, this isn’t true for them or even necessarily the norm. This depends on so many things.
There is nothing easy about being a National Guard or Reserves spouse. There are a lot of things that they have to deal with that active duty doesn’t. There are different ways to serve your country, each other their own struggles.
For some, a typical month would include 50-60+ hours in a civilian job, a drill weekend, and then 50-60+ hours in the civilian job. This is all without a day off in between. Talk about being burned out from work.
40 years for retirement
Another myth is that to receive retirement as a National Guard or Reserve service member is by serving 40 years, double the time it would take an active duty service member. But that isn’t true.
What is true is that your service member will not receive their retirement until they are 60, in some cases 50. And they also will need 20 years of qualifying service. A qualifying year means 50 retirement points. This article, Guard And Reserve Retirement explains more.
That they don’t miss as much
I am not sure why people have the idea that National Guard or Reserve service members don’t miss too much. They can miss plenty. And it seems like anything important will take place during a drill weekend.
Bosses have to give you the time off, so everything is cool
Legally, your boss has to give you the time off you need to go to drills and training as well as deployment. They can’t fire you because of your military service. However, that doesn’t mean they have to be nice about it. Employers have been known to be quite rude about service members having to take time off.
And when it comes down to it, in some cases, these men and women might have to take vacation days when they do have to go somewhere. This means that they don’t have any left for a vacation with their family. This causes all types of frustrations. While there are good employers that value and respect military service, not all of them do, and that can cause a strain on the whole family.
We get all the same military spouse benefits
There are a lot of military spouse benefits out there for those married to those who serve. However, not all are available for the National Guard or Reserve spouse. Things like the spousal preference for finding a job and MYCAA have limitations that can leave us out. That can be frustrating as you are trying to work on your own career around military life.
We shouldn’t miss them because they are only gone for a few weeks
Another idea we hear is that we don’t have a right to miss our spouses because they are only gone a few weeks. The reality is, missing your spouse is missing your spouse. And when you are not used to something happening, it can make it that much harder.
I have been through a 15-month deployment and AT is still really difficult for me. I like having my husband around on a daily basis, and when he is gone, I miss him terribly.
We also need to remember that since National Guard and Reserves can and do deploy bother overseas and within the US, for months at a time, National Guard spouses, as well as Reserve spouses, are missing our loved ones just like active duty does.
That we have a lot of money
Okay look, how much money a National Guard family makes depends on so many things. It depends on what the service member does for a civilian job, what the spouse does for a job, how often they deploy, and at what rank. In some cases, a deployed service member will bring in more than what they would at their civilian job, in other cases less.
That National Guard and Reserves spouses are not real military spouses
Okay, hearing that as a National Guard spouse I am not a real military spouse is frustrating. And it simply isn’t true. While our spouse’s work hours and time in uniform might look a little different, they are still very much a part of the US military. Please don’t question that, or assume we are less than. We are not.
Are you married to a member of the National Guard or the Reserves?