Join the National Guard

To ensure you have the latest information on current eligibility standards, you will need to contact your local recruiter. While much of what you see below doesn't change much, the opportunities for getting a waiver for a disqualifying mark varies depending on what recruiting region you are in and the current state of the economy.

Success in any branch of the Military depends on a good education, and a high school diploma is most desirable. Candidates with a GED can enlist, but some services may limit opportunities and you will likely need to have 15 college credits in addition to your GED. It is very difficult to be considered a serious candidate without either a high school diploma or accepted alternative credential. In any case, staying in school is important for entering the military. Learn how you can afford to earn college credits to better your ability to get a job in the National Guard or other military service.

As part of the entrance process for any service, prior to Boot Camp, you will receive a physical exam. During that exam you will be asked about your overall health.

A criminal record may disqualify you from military service. If you have a criminal record you need to talk to a recruiter in order to evaluate your particular situation.

  • Age - You can join at 17 with parents' permission or 18 up to 35 years of age at the time you ship to MEPS.
  • Citizenship - You must be a US citizen or a legal resident alien with documents to validate your status.
  • Criminal Record - The National Guard isn't accepting those with a felony conviction. Old criminal violations may be overlooked if enough time has passed and you have maintained a good record since then. If you have been convicted of a crime (not including minor traffic offenses), please take a look at this list of disqualifying crimes to see if even your misdemeanor conviction is bad enough to keep you from enlisting.
  • Education - High school diploma is required in most states. Those with a diploma must score above 31 AFQT on the ASVAB and those with a GED need to score 50 or more AFQT.
  • Physical Health - You can download pdf copy of the physical fitness standards to see how well you need to perform in the three events - push-ups, sit-ups, and 2-mile run. The National Guard uses the same height/weight standards as the US Army.

    Joining the National Guard FAQs

    Q. Can I serve full-time in the Guard?
    Yes. The Guard has several types of full-time employees. Within each state there are full-time personnel who manage the day-to-day operations of the units in their state or territorial Guard. These soldiers serve in a status known as "Title 32," which refers to the section of the US Code that they are governed by. In addition to their full-time positions, these soldiers serve with a unit in a traditional status (drilling on weekends) as well. These positions are managed by each state's Military Personnel Office, part of the State Area Command (STARC). There is also a federal active duty force, which is centrally managed by National Guard Bureau and the Army National Guard Directorate in Washington, DC. These soldiers serve in a "Title 10" status and are not required to drill with units. The core of the Title 10 force is stationed at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, VA, a few miles from the Pentagon. Additionally, there are Title 10 officers serving across the nation and worldwide as an interface between the Guard and other agencies.

    Q. Do I have to go to Basic Training?
    If you have never served in any branch of the military, you will have to attend the Army's eight-week basic training. In addition, you will have to attend a period of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) which teaches your specific Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). The length of AIT varies widely with MOS.

    Q. How long do I have to join for?
    If you have never served in any branch of the military, there are several enlistment options. Initially, soldiers can serve for as little as three years, with longer periods available as well. Some benefits are based upon the length of your initial enlistment. Veterans who have served in any branch of the military have additional options available to them including a "Try One" program which allows a veteran to serve for only one year on a trial basis before committing to a full enlistment. A recruiter can provide further details.

    Q. How will my membership in the National Guard affect my civilian job?
    Generally, membership in the Guard has a positive influence on civilian jobs. The skills and leadership you acquire are sought after by many employers. Some soldiers find their civilian and military jobs complement each other, while others seek to add diversity to their lives and skills by serving in a capacity quite different than their civilian occupation. Regardless, your membership within the Guard should not have a negative impact on your civilian employment. There are federal laws prevent employers from discriminating against an employee due to his or her membership in the National Guard. In addition, if you are called to active service, your employer is required by law to allow you to return to the same job you had when you left. The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve organization has a web site located at http://www.esgr.org/ that can provide additional information.

    Q. Once I join the Guard can I switch jobs or units?
    Transfers within the National Guard are handled within the units involved on a case-by-case basis. Factors such as unit needs, individual skills, unit locations and career goals are considered. If you move more than 50 miles away from your unit you may transfer to a closer unit. If you move to another state or territory, you can transfer to the Guard of that location.

    Q. What are the qualifications I must meet to join the National Guard?
    The National Guard has physical, academic and legal qualifications. You must be in good health and have no major physical handicaps. The minimum age to join the National Guard is 17. Persons under age 18 must obtain the consent of a parent or legal guardian. You must be either currently in high school or have a high school diploma or GED. You must also obtain a minimum qualifying score on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery exam (ASVAB). Soon after you contact a recruiter, they will administer this test to see if you are qualified. Your ASVAB score will also determine which MOS's you are qualified for. Finally, you must have no major criminal convictions. This information is only a basic outline of the qualifications. Before enlisting you will be receive a detailed medical examination and background check. Your recruiter will provide you with more exact information and make recommendations regarding your qualification status.

    Q. What are the service obligations in the National Guard?
    Army National Guard members are required to attend one drill weekend each month and one annual training period each year. Weekend drills are usually scheduled over one weekend - a Saturday and Sunday each month, but can occasionally include reporting for duty on Friday night. In addition, units have a two week annual training (AT) period every year which is usually scheduled during the summer. Initially, all personnel are required to attend initial entry training (IET), which can usually be scheduled to meet civilian occupation scheduling requirements. Duration and location of IET varies according to career specialty - a recruiter can provide specific information for each Military Occupational Specialty.

    Q. What jobs are available in the National Guard?
    The Army National Guard offers a large selection of specialties (MOS's) throughout a range of skills divided into three major categories: Combat (Infantry, Artillery, Armor, Aviation, Air Defense), Combat Support (Engineer, Chemical, Military Police, Signal, Military Intelligence, Civil Affairs) and Combat Service Support (Finance, Public Affairs, Personnel, Supply, Maintenance, Transportation). Different MOS's have different qualifications and your recruiter can help you determine which MOS would be best suited for you. Read more about jobs you can do in the National Guard.

    Q. What benefits are there in belonging to the National Guard?
    The Guard offers a series of benefits ranging from competitive pay and education assistance to insurance and retirement benefits. A broad range of skills are learned through schools and job training, and leadership opportunities are numerous. Beyond these tangible benefits, most Guard members agree that the greatest benefit is the opportunity to serve their country, state and community. Find out more about the benefits you get as a member of the National Guard.

    Q. What type of opportunities exist for women interested in serving?
    The majority of military occupation specialties (MOSs) are open to female soldiers, with exceptions in the combat arms fields. The Guard is a diverse force with an increasing proportion of female soldiers each year.

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