I Joined the Air National Guard

by Ryan Guina

Last week I joined the Air National Guard. If you aren’t familiar with how the military is structured, the National Guard is part of the military Reserve Corps. It is a reserve component of our military that is often used to fulfill needs at the state level, or augment our active duty military. Some Guard members work in a full-time capacity, but for the most part, it is a part-time job often advertised as “one weekend a month, two weeks a year.”

While it can be considered a part-time job, the state or federal government has the right to call you up to active duty in the event of a state or national emergency. This can include being activated to respond to natural emergencies such as floods, tornadoes, and similar events, or it can mean being called up to serve on a deployment in a war zone. In other words, it’s a part-time job, with a serious commitment. I served over six years in the active duty Air Force, so I’m fully aware of the commitment involved.

Why Join the Air National Guard Now?

I joined the Air National Guard

I joined the IL Air National Guard

I’ve been out of the military over 8 years now. I loved my time in the service, but I was ready to move on when my enlistment ended. I was burned out from frequent deployments and travel and I wanted to start a family and settle down. After I separated from the military I worked for a federal contractor on Air Force related logistics projects. It was a great way to leverage my military expertise and still be around a mission I supported.

Eventually I started my own business and went the full-time entrepreneurial route. This was (and still is) an amazing blessing, as I get to set my own hours and work schedule, and I work from home and get to see my children grow up in front of me. But it also comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges I struggle with is not being around professional peers on a daily or even weekly basis. On a professional level I also miss being part of something bigger than myself (I am active in church, but there is a professional element that is missing).

Joining the Air National Guard is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time (a few years now), and things finally came together (you can read the details of my journey here). I’ll start off by saying joining the military, even on a part-time basis, isn’t for everyone. But it has its share of benefits if you are and your family are able to handle the lifestyle and obligations. Again, the commitment isn’t one to take lightly, and it is one my wife and I discussed at length before I applied to join the ANG.

As with everything there are pros and cons. I’ll lay out a few aspects of the commitment, and some of the benefits. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have if you’re interested in joining the Guard or Reserves, or even active duty military.

Commitment – Time and Family

The biggest thing I considered was the commitment of joining the ANG. I signed a 3 year commitment, which was the minimum for my situation (prior active duty service, changing career fields). The three-year term includes a technical training school where I will learn my new job. This will last about 7 weeks, which isn’t too long in the grand scheme of things (many schools are several months; some are almost a year). But it is located in Biloxi, MS, which is a two day drive. I won’t be able to take my family with me, so this is a big sacrifice as far as my wife and I are concerned.

Thankfully, the time commitment will taper off after the 7 weeks of separation from my family (though the risk of being called up is always there). The standard training commitment is “One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year.” In other words, I will report to my unit one weekend a month for training. I will also have a 15 day period each year where I will report to the unit. This can sometimes be broken into chunks, though some units require or prefer the time be done at one time.

The unit I joined is also a 3 hour drive from my home. That makes for a long drive each month, particularly in the winter months, but it’s not that bad. I work from home and don’t drive much, so I actually don’t mind getting behind the wheel for a few hours every once and awhile. The unit puts me up in a hotel and I get to deduct my mileage and travel expenses on my tax return, so it works out a little in my favor at the end of the year.

Again, the biggest sacrifice here is being away from my family.

Benefits – Pay & Retirement

There are some benefits that come with joining the Guard or Reserves. The first that comes to mind for most people is pay. I will receive pay for each month I serve. At my rank and time in service, I should receive a about $385 per month (2014 pay, adjusted annually for inflation), and around $1,450 for the 15 day training period. The total cash benefit should be just north of $6,000 per year. That isn’t a huge sum of money, but it also comes from working only one weekend a month, and two weeks a year. Military pay is based on rank and number of years served, so not everyone would receive this amount of pay – some would get more, and others less (I also have room for advancement in rank and responsibility, so this amount should gradually increase over the years). Here is a Guard pay calculator for more info.

I will also be working toward a pension, which is something I would otherwise not have access to. Active duty military members can earn a military pension after 20 years of active duty service, which they begin receiving right after they retire. It’s possible for some people to begin receiving a pension as early as age 38 if they joined at age 18 and retired immediately after reaching 20 years of service. Members of the Guard and Reserves also have to serve 20 years to qualify for a pension and other retirement benefits. However, those benefits don’t start until age 60, with a few exceptions.

Based on my active duty time already on the books, I will need to serve an additional 13 or 14 years to qualify for a pension, then wait a little more than a decade before I would be able to begin receiving those payments. It’s a long-term payoff, and one I haven’t committed to just yet. My plan is to do my 3 year commitment, then reassess based on how much I enjoy the service, and how it works with our family life. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by the possibility of receiving a pension when I’m 60.

Military retirement also comes with health care benefits, again, starting at age 60 for the Guard and Reserves. This could very easily be worth more than the monthly pension. I’m 34 now, and I have no idea what health care will cost when I am age 60, other than “expensive!”

Benefits – Low Cost Health Insurance

Health insurance is a huge topic right now, and rightly so. It has never been so expensive, or so confusing. As a self-employed individual, I pay a lot for my health care coverage. Joining the Air National Guard will give me access to TRICARE Reserve Select, which is a health insurance plan offered by the military. The cost for an individual is roughly $52 per month, and it is about $204 for a family (see rates). This is an incredibly good deal, especially compared to the current prices I pay.

However, I will need to look into it a little more before signing up. You must use a primary care manager and get a referral for each specialist visit, and you have to use everything in your network, or the prices go up. There aren’t a large number of local providers in my area who accept this plan, so we need to research our options before making the switch.

Benefits – Education

Illinois is one of the few states in the US that offers free college tuition at state universities for members of their Army and Air National Guard units. I believe I have to serve one year before I am eligible for this benefit. I already have the GI Bill, which I would be able to use, but this benefit would allow me to use the free tuition and save the GI Bill, and possibly transfer those benefits to my children. Transferring the GI Bill to my daughters would be huge – as would getting a free master’s degree. I have considered getting an MBA or some other advanced degree, but haven’t committed to it in the past. Having the opportunity to do so at little out of pocket cost (books, fees, transportation, etc.), makes this a much more enticing proposition.

Intangible Benefits – Personal and Professional

As I mentioned at the beginning, I miss the professional aspect of working with a team. There are few team environments like the military, and I miss being part of a unit and working toward a larger goal. This excites me to wear the uniform again. The sense of camaraderie the military provides is also something you won’t often find outside of the military. I’ve missed that for a long time.

A secondary aspect is the requirement to stay in shape. I’ve been slacking on this the last couple years, and recently I started working out again. I’ve lost a couple pounds, gotten stronger, and can run a couple miles now with no soreness or other ill effects. Joining the ANG means I will need to stay on top of this to continue meeting fitness requirements. I like the fact that I will now be held to a higher standard because it keeps me accountable.

This isn’t a Free Ride

I know I painted a pretty picture of the benefits, but that doesn’t mean this is a free ride. I interviewed with several people at the unit and one thing that impressed me was the seriousness and professionalism they all exhibited. There is a real mission at hand, and always the possibility of being recalled for either a state or federal mission. (The Guard technically works for the state, but can be called up to active duty by the federal government; the Reserves only work for the federal government, so they wouldn’t be called up for state issues). The state mission includes natural disaster planning and response, including things such as tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, etc. The federal mission is anything that affects the security interests of our country. Having already served in active duty Air Force, I’m well aware of the risks and commitment required to serve.

This Can Be a Great Opportunity, But it isn’t for Everyone

You don’t have to join. I’m not calling anyone out. I’m simply sharing my thoughts for why I decided to join. I’ve had several people ask me if they should join. The simple answer is: it depends. It depends on your age, where you are in your personal and professional life, how your spouse or significant other would handle it, whether or not you have children, whether you have prior service in the military, how long ago you served, and many, many other factors.

It could be very difficult to join if you have no prior military service and are well-established in your career, because you would need to take several months off to go to Basic Military Training, followed by tech school to learn your job. It could easily require a 4-12 month commitment just to get trained, depending on your job. However, if you are prior service, you may not be required to go through basic training or even tech school, and may be able to basically walk right into a unit and start doing your old military job again. The break in your home life and professional life might be minimal.

On the other hand, there are younger folks who are looking for some direction, a steady paycheck, or a way to pay for school. Joining the military can be a great way to do that. That was the route I took, and I have no regrets. I traveled the world, got a free college education, met my wife, and more or less had the time of my life. If you are considering joining the military, don’t take the decision lightly. Read everything you can and talk to everyone you know who has served. Then make the best decision you for your situation.

Published or updated August 14, 2014.
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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kirsten

Both my parents were in the Air Force. I thought I’d go to the academy just about all my life, but decided against it last minute (had 3 nominations – VERY last minute). I have thought about joining the guard or reserves all my life, especially now that I want to stay home with my kids. The pay would be helpful. But then there’s the IF I get called up… Kinda defeats the purpose. On the other hand, I would really like to serve. Thanks for giving such a great rundown on all the benefits!


2 Ryan Guina

Kirsten, joining the Guard or Reserves may be a possibility for you. But it’s something you would need to think and pray about long and hard before deciding. I had the benefit of being prior service, so I don’t have to go through basic training again. That saved me over two months of separation from my family. After basic training is tech school, which can be anywhere from 2-12 months, depending on your job. So the upfront time commitment can be difficult, especially with young children. Of course, as you mentioned, there is always the risk of being called up. You would need to have a plan in place to make that period work for you and your family. If you think it might be a good fit for you and your family, then call a recruiter and ask for some basic information. You can go from there. Best of luck, whichever decision you make!


3 Jon @ Money Smart Guides

This is a great break down not only of what the potential benefits are, but also how seriously you need to think about joining before making a decision. While it might not seem as though you would be called into action, in reality, there are all types of reasons why you might – one only has to look at the current situation in Ferguson for an example.

One question – can you be called to help in other states? I vaguely remember National Guard members here in PA going to Louisiana after Katrina hit. Not sure if that was required of them or they went voluntarily.


4 Ryan Guina

Thanks for your comment, Jon. There are definite pros and cons, as well as risks. Being a prior-service active duty member, I have a good understanding of what that entails. So I made an informed decision based on my experiences and what I know about the service. As far as being called up to help other states, that would normally be on a volunteer basis. I can see a state calling up some Guard members if there was flooding or storm damage near the state border or if it is in their territory. But for something like Hurricane Katrina, that would likely be a volunteer basis.


5 Anne @ Money Propeller

Interesting. I know exactly what you mean about needing to be around peers. I don’t think I could do the self-employed-at-home thing forever, I would need a coworking space or something like it, preferably with professionals, as you mentioned.
A friend’s boyfriend is still in the reserves for the retirement and benefits packages. He’s so “done” being in them, but financially it makes a ton of sense for him to hang on for a few more years.


6 Ryan Guina

Anne, I’ve thought about finding a coworking space for the environment. I would have to travel a bit to find something affordable though, so that would be a consideration. The added cost of rent, commuting, and the occasional meal out would likely have a large impact on my budget. Those are the main reasons I haven’t gone to a coworking space.

I can understand someone being “done” with the military. I felt that way when I left active duty. I was burned out and didn’t want anything to do with the military for awhile. But it was nice to have a breather and realize I could still have some of the benefits of serving, without having to serve full time. The Guard and Reserves offer much more flexibility in that regard. It’s a smaller time commitment, and it’s also possible to go into the Inactive Ready Reserve (basically just deactivate for awhile to take time away from the military). Some people are also able to take correspondence courses while in the IRR to earn enough points to count toward retirement, even though they aren’t doing the “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” routine. On the flip side, they give up the pay, and many of the benefits they have access to, including health care and other benefits. But that could be a way to continue working toward retirement while also taking a breather from the traditional routine.


7 Romeo Jeremiah

Again, Ryan, congratulations. I’m glad this worked out for you and your family.


8 Ryan Guina

Thanks, Romeo. I appreciate the advice you gave me when I was sorting through the paperwork! I hope to see you next month at FinCon. 🙂


9 Alexis

Reading this article was so motivational and inspiring. Good for you and your future endeavors.


10 Chris @ CentsToMe

Thank you for your service!


11 Ryan Guina

Thanks for your support, Chris!


12 Damien

Thanks for this information. I’m 36, married with 2 kids and am currently an air traffic controller with the FAA. I’ve always had the Air Force in the back of my mind. I wanted to fly F-16s but my eyes started to deteriorate below 20/20 in my early 20s. So now that I’ve enjoyed some success in my life, I really want to give something back to my country…my country that allowed me these opportunities. Serving means something completely different to me now then it did when I was just 18. Back then it was an opportunity to build my future, build a career, but now it’s purely about giving back and doing my part. I realize now how fortunate we all are to live in a land that rewards hard work, a land that provides opportunity and freedom for all. America isn’t perfect but it’s worth fighting for. The only thing holding me back is financial obligations when I’m gone for the first 4 months. I’d have to choose a job with a short tech school duration. That and being away from my family. The FAA Academy was 18 and a half weeks long so I know how it is to be away from my wife and kids for awhile but at least I was able to call home everyday, I don’t think basic allows phone calls right? Would my federal service with the FAA count for anything? Any further advice would be appreciated, thank you sir for your service!


13 Ryan Guina

Thanks for sharing your story, Damien. Speaking from experience, I can tell you it is much more difficult to join the military when you are at a more advanced stage of your personal life and career. The time away from home is difficult, as is the time away from your job. The job may be easier to manage because you work for the government. But that doesn’t mean it will be well-received by management or coworkers (this really all depends on your work environment more than anything).

To your questions: You wouldn’t be able to make daily phone calls in basic training. You would be able to make a few phone calls throughout training, but they are irregular and short in duration. Basic training ranges from 2-3 months depending on the branch of service, then you would have tech school. Those range from 6 weeks, to several months, depending on the job and branch of service. You can have a phone in tech school.

So far as I am aware, your federal service won’t have a major impact on you joining the military. It may make it easier to get in as an Air Traffic Controller, but I don’t know the details for that training course. The bigger concern is your age. 36 isn’t old (I’m 34), but the military does have age limits for new recruits. Age limits vary by branch of service and 36 is above the age limit for some branches of the military. There are sometimes age waivers depending on the branch of service, the job, and other factors. You would also need to pass a physical fitness test and a health history screening. In other words, you can’t just sign up and go to training the next day.

My advice would be to contact a recruiter for your desired branch of service (keep in mind that recruiters for the Guard and Reserves are often different from active duty recruiters). Explain your situation and ask if you might be a fit. They will give you the required information you need to be able to make the decision then to apply if you decide to do so.

Best of luck!


14 Damien

Thanks, from what I’ve read my basic training would be 8 weeks and the age limit is 39. I’m in fairly good shape and workout/run regularly. I wouldn’t apply for an atc job with the guard as the training would be too long. Thanks again.


15 Joe Lynch

Ryan, great article! I just recently turned 21 and my one buddy just graduated from the Air Guard and is stationed at the Willow Grove base, Horsham, Pa. My other buddy is also in tech school for security forces and loves it. I have been thinking about this on and off. I’m young, I live with my Mom, Dad, and brother. I know my work would understand after I talked it over with them. I still have that gut feeling of “What do I do”. I feel like I would regret not doing it. I wanna prove to myself and everyone that I can. I want that feeling of accomplishment.


16 Ryan Guina

Joe, serving in the military is an awesome experience. I have no regrets about joining, and I know I would have regretted it had I not served. It sounds like this might be a good career option for you.

I recommend talking it over with your friends who are serving to see how they like it and get their feedback. That will give you a better idea of what it’s like, compared to asking a recruiter. As for me – I enlisted in the active duty Air Force a year after high school, which was the right move for me at the time. I went in full-time, traveled the world, and had an amazing experience. I’m married and have a family and a business now, so full-time active duty is not an option for me. The part-time commitment offered by the Guard and Reserves was a much better option for me. So take some time to think about your goals and objectives. You might find the allure of the full-time active duty is a better fit for you, or you may find the part-time commitment of joining the Guard or Reserves is a better fit. Best of luck!


17 Tiffany Hanekamp

My husband is thinking of joining the air national guard and it terrifies me but I want to be supportive. Could your wife email me and tell me how you being in the Air Guard effects her and your children?


18 Bob

I have a burning desire to enlist in a military reserve of some kind. I have no prior military training other than ROTC when I was in high school. I now am 27 have a family and have a business that does need my attention at least 4 days out of my work week. I have weekends and could dedicate a month out of every year to the service that I join. I am apprehensive about joining due to possible deployment. Really looking for a situation that would grant me military training and participation without the risk of deployment. I would have no problem being a “reserve” with deployment only for home soil crisis situations. I’ve heard people that join the army reserve can deploy just as long as active duty members which I think is crazy. I would love to do exactly what they advertise, a weekend a month and 2 weeks a year or something similar. Willing to be there when needed but it sounds like it’s just a way for the military to recruit. I have been intrigued by special operations forces since I was a kid and would be willing to get that deep into training. I have looked into SWAT but it looks like you have to be a police officer full time to be accepted into that program. The idea of being on an “on call” unit like that would be perfect. Just called upon when needed. Don’t even need pay. I make enough. Just don’t want to be gone for a year at a time. I could do a month maybe two. That’s it. Let me know what you have encountered I would much appreciate it. I work from home and can relate how you have a desire to be a part of something larger. Let me know. Thanks.


19 Ryan Guina

Bob, I can understand how you feel. But the military is a little different than what you describe. Let me break it down as best I can. First, if you join the military, you would have to go through Basic Training or Officer Training. The time varies from around 2 to 3 months, depending on which service you join. After that, you would be required to attend your technical training, which is where you would learn the training specific to your military job. In general, this can range anywhere from 2 months, to over a year, depending on the complexity of the job you join. So the minimum initial time you would be away from home would be at least 4 months, but probably a little longer, depending on your job.

After that, your time commitment will vary depending on the operation needs of your unit. Some units don’t deploy often, so your likelihood of being mobilized is very small. But it is always possible. Other units have very frequent rotations and deployments. The best way to get a handle on what to expect is to speak to a recruiter. They can give you specific information about their unit, their operations tempo, job openings, and the required training time for those jobs. They can even arrange an opportunity for you to interview with people in jobs you are interested in so you can learn more about their day to day operations and what would be required of you should you join.

At this point, speaking with a recruiter should be your next step. They will be able to give you a realistic idea of the expectations of their new military recruits. And I would recommend speaking with recruiters from different branches of the military, as their jobs, roles, and operations tempos will all vary by branch of service and unit. So don’t assume the Air National Guard is the same as the Air Force Reserves, or that either of those are the same as the Army National Guard, Army Reserves, Navy Reserves, Marine Reserves, etc.

Once you have a good understanding of the expectations that will be placed upon you, then you will have a better idea if this is something you should pursue. But above all, speak to your spouse before you make the final decision. The military can be difficult and you want to ensure your entire family is on the same page. Best of luck.


20 Alyssa Cavner

Thank you for this great article!
I’m a 20 year-old in college and am really interested in joining the military to help pay off my loans and pay for my current and future schooling, to get some medical work experience (I’m really aiming for a medical job in the military), and to just help people out! I don’t have a family of my own yet, but I do live with my parents and brother right now so I know working overseas/being deployed wouldn’t be a super big deal but I just can’t decide if I want to go guard or active duty?
I still have two years left of my undergraduate but I’ve heard that you can take classes while active duty… what are your thoughts/opinions?


21 Ryan Guina

Alyssa, deciding between Guard/Reserves or Active Duty is a big decision. When I first enlisted, I opted to go active duty because I wanted an adventure, and I wanted to see the world. I was able to do more than I ever dreamed, with trips to 30+ countries in my 6 years on active duty. I also completed my bachelor’s degree during that time frame. So yes, college can be done while you are on active duty. But you may have to get creative to do it. I worked the midnight shift so I could take night classes, and I took online classes while I was deployed. You may or may not be able to find a degree program with that kind of flexibility if you have a specific degree in mind.

When I joined the Guard after a break in service, I didn’t want to go back on active duty due to my business and family commitments. So the Guard was the best option for me at that time. Being young and not having firm obligations gives you the opportunity to go either way. Just keep in mind that a 4 or 6 year commitment sounds like a long time at first, but it goes by very quickly.

Also, it’s very easy to go from active duty to the Guard or Reserves after you fulfill your initial obligation. But it can be almost impossible to go the other way, and go into active duty from the Guard or Reserves. There are some exceptions, but they are few and far between.

You can certainly hold out for a guaranteed job in the medical field in both the Guard or active duty, but your options may be limited depending on which jobs are available at your prospective Guard or Reserve unit.

In the end, this is a decision you will need to make for yourself. If you are looking for a possible career and don’t mind going where the military sends you, then active duty may be the way to go. If you want to remain at home, but want a taste of the military without the full-time obligation, then the Guard or Reserves may be the right option. Best of luck with your decision!


22 jamiyl thorne

Hi Ryan, I’m a 39 soon to be 40 year old truck driver. I was in the Marine Corps between 94 to 01. Thinking bout joining the National Guard as I feel my life is going nowhere. How hard will it be for me to join, being that I been out and my age?


23 Ryan Guina

Hey Jamiyl, I’ve known a few people who had long breaks in service. I was out for 8.5 years before I joined the Air National Guard. I’ve known people who had breaks in service that were over 14 years. So it can certainly be done. The main concerns you will have were your original separation code (or reenlistment code), your health, and your ability to pass a fitness test. If you had an Honorable discharge, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about on the first item. The next thing is the health exam at MEPS. If you are in good health and can pass the physical and the fitness test, then you are a good candidate to join the service. I would contact a recruiter at the closest base to you and get the process started. They will help you with everything you need to do to get your application in. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!


24 Peter Dixon

Hi Ryan,
Thank you for your advice on talking to as many people in the military as I can. I’ve realized that’s what I need to do more of.

I’m 23, a year out of college, and in between full time jobs and still figuring out where I want to go with an aerospace engineering career. I’m also considering joining the ANG because I’ve had a desire to fly military jets (fighter or heavy) since I was a little kid, but don’t want to sacrifice an engineering career for full time active duty. I don’t have any prior military service. I’m also still figuring out when and where I’ll go to grad school, so I don’t even know where I’ll be a few months from now or where I’ll settle down. As a result, I’m very hesitant to join because I feel like I don’t have enough information to make a decision to commit for eleven years (including flight training).

It seems the sooner I get started the better, considering the longer I wait, the more years during which I would have to serve with a family to worry about, which would be probably sometime in my mid thirties.

While I know there’s a sacrifice involved, I’m still wondering how, if at all, the ANG would affect my engineering career options. How many employers actually accept an employee deploying for long periods every so often? Do you know any guys for which the ANG stunted their full time career advancement, or would becoming an officer and a pilot in the military instead be seen as a plus by gaining that military experience?

I know these are really specific questions, but if you know any pilots that fly with the ANG, or any engineers that are in the ANG, that would be great if you could ask them!

Like I said, I don’t feel like I have the information to make that commit decision yet, but I’m going to the recruiter’s office tomorrow morning, so after thinking a bit it seems like I’m rushing into this a little fast. I would think the recruiter would only want to talk to me if I’ve made more of a decision? I wanted to go in to first take the depth perception test to see if my eyes are even good enough. I’m also really near sighted and would have to get PRK eye surgery, and if my eye’s depth perception isn’t good enough, there’s no sense in even thinking about PRK.

These are only the potential downsides… I would love to have a flying career for something larger than myself, and it’s something I’ve really thought about doing for a long time. Thank you for reading this, and thank you for your service!


25 Ryan Guina

Peter, lots of questions here, so I’ll answer as best I can. Regarding the recruiter – no, you don’t have to have your decision made when you speak with a recruiter. Their job is to give you the information you need to make the decision. Some may try to talk you into joining, but many of them will stand back and let you make your decision. Be sure to visit with a recruiter who specializes in onboarding officers. Some recruiters may try to get you to go enlisted, when you really want to be an officer (in the Guard or Reserves it can sometimes be easier to go enlisted first, then try to commission; however, that will delay the commissioning process by at least two years, something you need to avoid if you want to become a pilot). Finally, don’t be afraid to visit recruiters at different units, even if it means driving several hours or even going to a different state. Each unit will have different openings, and you may have t o travel to get what you are looking for.

Becoming a pilot isn’t easy. In fact, it is incredibly competitive, regardless of whether or not you go active duty, Guard, or Reserves. But it can be done. Make sure you have the physical qualifications and your academic and extracurricular records are strong. If you don’t yet have a Private Pilot’s License, it may be worth spending the money to get one, or at least getting some hours under your belt. This will do two things – (1) show the board you are serious about flying, and (2) give you the opportunity to make sure flying is something you want to do. I took a few hours of lessons and decided flying wasn’t something I wanted to pursue in the military (I enjoyed the flying, I just realized there is a lot more to the flying than I wanted to deal with).

The 10-11 year commitment is a big deal, so you are right to consider that before you jump in with both feet. But I wouldn’t make a life altering decision based on what “could” be. Chase your dreams and go from there. The rest will work itself out.

Regarding balancing an engineering job with a flying job – I can’t answer from personal experience. But I can tell you that anything you do in the military that can have a positive impact on your day job would be sought after by employers/ Yes, they could potentially lose you for a few months, but they can also gain some valuable experience having you as an employee. The answer to your question is some employers would look at this as a definite plus, while others would be neutral and a small percentage may look down upon the prospect of potentially losing you for some time. Engineering is a growing career field, and I think you will do fine either way.

Get started now – as I mentioned, pilot slots are highly competitive, and even if you get one, you would probably start 6-12 months after you get accepted. And you may also need the PRK surgery for your eyes, so you would need to get the surgery, heal, then apply. So you are realistically looking at 1-2 years before you could actually start Officer Training School, the UPT and everything else. (this is a rough timeline; a recruiter would be able to give you a more accurate timeline).

I hope this helps. Best of luck and please let me know if there is anything I can do!


26 Peter Dixon

Thank you so much Ryan, this really helped!


27 Trevor

Hi Ryan,
I left a comment before but I am not sure If it submitted properly….I am in the process of enlisting in the ANG and now I am undecided if I should go through with it or not, I am just not sure if its right for me or not, the main reason I wanted to join was because I am sick of working at dead-end jobs and I wanted more direction in my life and I also did not want to go into debt to earn a bachelors degree which doesn’t guarantee you a job or anything, I know you learn many skills and the benefits are good but I am still undecided, my ultimate goal is to own my own business of some sort and be my own boss so I think maybe the military could interfere with my long term goals but I also would only be part-time so maybe I could work something out, I also read an article describing why not to join the military: https://wisesloth.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/5-reasons-not-to-join-the-united-states-military/ some advice would be greatly appreciated thanks so much!


28 Ryan Guina

Trevor, there are many reasons to join the military, and many reasons not to join the military. The article you linked to gives some interesting observations, many of which are based in truth, but exaggerated (in my opinion). My military experience was good. As I mentioned in the article, I joined active duty and served 6.5 years. It was an amazing time for me, and gave me the opportunity to see the world, earn my degree, and save money. At that point, I had had enough, and I became a civilian. I joined the corporate world for a few years, and now I run my own business. My military experiences had a direct impact on my civilian career, and now my self-employment.

But that is no guarantee everyone else will have a similar experience. Much of the experience is what you make of it. There are certain things you cannot control, but many things you can control. As with all things in life, you need to work hard at controlling the things you can control and setting up the rest of your life to minimize the risk of the things you cannot control.

If you want to join the military, then go for it. As you mentioned, you have been working a series of dead-end jobs. At worst, the military can give you the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience, while earning decent pay and benefits. It’s not a life-sentence, and you can get out of the military after you finish your commitment. But at best, you can discover amazing new opportunities, travel, earn money, get a college degree, meet new people, and potentially stay in long enough to earn a retirement pension along with other life-long benefits.

Think through your goals and then decide if the military can help you achieve them. If it all adds up, then go for it. If you decide it doesn’t, then you don’t have to join. Best of luck with your decision.


29 shelby marion

Great article. As for me, I am active duty navy looking to discharge honorably and go part time air national guard. I will be a full time student using the post 9/11gi bill. In between semesters i will lose my housing allowance (a main source of income). My question is, How easy/difficult would it be to go full time in between school semesters?


30 Ryan Guina

Shelby, it really depends on your unit and your job. A lot of units are getting hit hard with budget issues right now, and are running out of funds by the last fiscal quarter (or generally toward the end of summer). But that doesn’t mean that would apply to the unit you wish to join. The best thing to do is contact a recruiter where you are considering joining and ask for more information about their unit, available jobs, and work load. Also keep in mind that you will most likely need to attend a Technical School to learn your new job. You may be able to schedule your Tech School during the summer or your down months, but it may not always be possible to do that. You will need to coordinate with your recruiter and the the base Education and Training Office for more information. Best of luck!


31 Annie

I enjoyed reading your article and definitely glad I stumbled upon this. I’m 27 yrs old, got my BS in biology and now working full time. Now I’ve been interested in pursuing a military career joining the air national guard, hopefully going in as an officer. I do not know anyone besides a friend who is active duty in the marines as an officer, that has experience in going through the process of officer training in the air national guard. Becoming an officer is definitely a job I want to do. Joining the military has always been in the back of my mind, being able to just serve in such a larger capacity and breaking past my limitations. Building up leadership skills is also something I would love to grow in. Also I definitely feel that these skills I learn in the military will help me in my everyday civilian life.


32 ANG_NoPriorDuty

I have not served before but I am going for ANG. I have a concern about paying my rent since I am on a 1 year lease. I am the primary earner. So I am just wondering how quickly the pay kicks in? I am trying to save ahead of time but I am concerned, any insight is helpful. I should be going in as a E-3 rank. Thanks in advance.


33 Ryan Guina

You will start receiving pay about 2 weeks after you join. Typically pay dates are the 1st and 15th of the month, unless that date falls on a weekend or holiday. In that case you will receive your pay on the preceding business day. Your first check may not be a full check, depending on the date you begin basic training (for example, if you start on the 7th, then you would only have one week worth or work when the first pay date rolls around). Your recruiter should be able to give you a good idea of what to expect regarding when you will receive your pay, and how much it will Be. Best of luck!


34 Kasha

I’m considering joining the military but I’m having trouble choosing which is for me. So far I’ve spoken with an army national guard recruiter. But I have many more people I wish to talk to before making my final decision. My primary reason for wanting to join is to finish school and travel the world. I love adventure and experiencing new things.. But the whole combat thing scares me.. I hate violent acts. But I would like to learn defense mechanisms. I was leaning towards the army national guard until I realized that I want to travel the world. And I know the guard works for that state… What would b my best bet?


35 Ryan Guina

Kasha, look into the Air National Guard, which is usually sent into combat with less frequency than the Army National Guard (depending on your job, and your unit, of course). There are many opportunities for learning a transferrable trade and for travel and education. The best thing to do is speak with recruiters from several units to learn more about the unit missions and available jobs. Then you can determine if there is a match for you. Best of luck!


36 G

Do I get job faster if I join the Air National Guard?


37 Ryan Guina

G, that is a very open-ended question, and one that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. By definition, the Air National Guard is a job, albeit a part-time job. However, you would be required to attend Basic Military Training, which is about to months of initial military training. This is full-time work, with full-time pay. That is followed by tech school, which can be anywhere from 2 months, to a year, depending on your job. Again, a full-time job with full-time benefits. Then you would begin your monthly drills, and annual training. This is the “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” most people think of regarding the Guard and Reserves.

Will this help you land a full-time job? Maybe. It depends on your current skills, the type of skills you learn in the military, available jobs in your area, and many other factors. But in general, you can learn marketable skills through the ANG. Many bases also have full-time jobs available to members of their unit, either as a Technician, which is a civil service job during the week, and military during drills, or as a full-time military member. These positions vary by unit.

My recommendation: Speak with a recruiter at the base(s) closest to you, and ask about available jobs, training requirements, and possibility of those leading to a full-time job. Best of luck to you!


38 Joshua Schneider

Ryan, I have been looking for the perfect person to ask, and I think you may be the man. I have been curious how the ANG health benefits may be beneficial to someone in business. As well as tax breaks. I do not yet have my business started but I expect to be in full swing in about 2-4 years. I currently have a great job and am doing great for income (car sales) and benefits are good. I serve in my church as well and will continue to do so even while in business. But am considering health care and change of tax responsibilities once my business has started. Point blank, has serving in the ANG been beneficial to a business man/owner? Obviously (as a business owner) we have to pay for our own benefits since we have no employer to match or benefit. I have read in certain states that there are State income Tax breaks for those who serve. Would these two things (ANG health benefits and State income tax breaks) be valuable in a business owners situation? Or, is there enough reward with health benefits and State income tax breaks to make a business owner interested? (besides the excitement of an adventure, these are two reasons I am considering the ANG) Any answer would be greatly appreciated!


39 Ryan Guina

Joshua, I am a small business owner, and I use TRICARE Reserve Select (the National Guard health care option). It has been good for me, as it is much less expensive than buying a health care plan from the Exchange. However, my wife and daughters are on a private health insurance plan, because my wife preferred the options on a different plan. So we have two different health care plans in my family. It saves us some money, but not as much as if we were all on the TRICARE plan. Would TRICARE save you money? Almost certainly. But you would have to balance that with your needs and preferences. If you are a self-employed individual (as I am) and you don’t have other employees, this is a great deal. Once you have other full-time employees, you may have to deal with providing other health care insurance to them, depending on state or local laws. You wouldn’t be able to give them access to TRICARE, as it is only available to military members. But you could always cross that bridge when you get there.

As for running a business and being in the military – that can be complicated. I am fortunate to have a location-independent business that I can run from anywhere I have an internet connection. But a physical business requires your presence, unless you have employees who can run the business in your absence. So keep that in mind, as your training may take you away from your business for some time. Best of luck with your decision!


40 Joshua Schneider

Thank you for taking the time to respond!


41 Fernanda

Hello! Your article is wonderful, great information. I am strongly considering joining the Air Guard. I am 28 married and mom of 2 little boy’s. I have to questions for you:
1: What are the average deployment lengths in the ANG? Are they shorter then the Army National Guard?
2: I was considering becoming a MP or part of the Security Force as they call them, I was told that these type of jobs are one most likely to deploy. That said, considering I am a female and I know there are still some restrictions as to what females can do in the military, if I go to “war” as a MP do you think I would actually be in “close combat”?

Any input of any type female specific would help.


42 Ryan Guina

Fernanda, these are questions you should ask your recruiter, as they will have a better idea of your unit’s mission and requirements. But I can give you general answers. The average deployment length for the ANG is usually around 6 months. This can vary, but 6 months is common. Security Forces may be more likely to deploy than some other career fields, but again, this depends on your unit and what the unit is tasked to do. There are some restrictions for females in combat roles, but most of the branches of service are doing away with those restrictions. So there is no way to predict what your role would be, or how much danger you might be in. This is all dependent upon the deployment location and many other unpredictable factors. Suffice it to say that depending on your location, there may be contact with enemy forces. The best course of action is to speak with your recruiter about typical unit missions, deployments, and available jobs. Be sure to voice your concerns and ask if there are jobs that will fit your needs. Best of luck!


43 Shaneen Rose

Hi Ryan and thank you not just for your service but also answering our questions! I am waiting for a call from an ANG recruiter. My main concern is that I have rent and bills that I am committed to for the next year and I want to join. My son is a teenager and very self sufficient with a great dad that has him half the time and would be happy to keep him while I’m away!
So my only concern after reading through your page is will the training/tech school pay be comparable to a civilian full-time job? At least $1600 per month, say?


44 Ryan Guina

Hello Shaneen, Great questions. I will follow up with a copy of the military pay chart so you can compare the base pay you would receive if you join. But basically, it depends on what rank you come in at – this depends on several factors, including how long you sign up for, if you have any college education, and other factors. If you enlist, you would most likely start anywhere from E-1 through E-3 (E = Enlisted Paygrade, 1 is the beginning pay grade, and it goes up to E-9). There is another pay grade for Officers; these jobs require a college degree and are more selective. The monthly base pay for E-1 through E-3 is:

E-1 = $1,566.90
E-2 = $1,756.50
E-3 = $1,847.10

Please verify this with your recruiter, but you may also be eligible to receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and possibly other benefits while you are at Basic Military Training (BMT). This varies by location and your rank, so I can’t tell you how much that would be. Also keep in mind that you would have to attend a technical training school, usually right after BMT. This can be anywhere from 2-12 months, depending on your career field (most tech schools are in the 3-5 month range).

There are a lot of variables, so you may even want to look into putting your belongings into a storage unit and no longer paying rent. You may have to work with your landlord to be able to do this (such as pay a fee to break the lease), or it may be possible to get out of the lease altogether under the Servicember’s Civil Relief Act (I can’t say for certain if you will be able to get out of the lease, only that there may be a possibility; you can speak with your base legal office if you join).

These are all some topics to consider if you join. Overall, I would say you should be able to bring in close to $1,600 before taxes, just from your base pay. If you receive BAH and other benefits, you should easily clear that amount. I hope this is helpful!


45 Tim

hi Ryan!
i am 38 y.o.
in college, on the way to became PTA (physical therapy asst.) .
but also would love to be a part of ANG (reserve) .
already spoke with ANG representative over phone, soon will be set date to meet with recruiter.
question : is there need for PTA in ANG and do you think – is there a way to combine education (i have another 2 years to go) and “One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year” ANG service and possibility to work, later, as PTA for ANG?
thank you


46 Ryan Guina

Tim, you will need to check with your recruiter regarding job availability. Some units may have physical therapy assistants, but not all bases or units do. If you are able to find this job at a unit, then it’s possible your military training may count toward your civilian training (Air Force tech school awards college credits that are accepted at many, but not all universities). Your recruiter should have more information. Best of luck to you!


47 Francis

Thank you Ryan for your discriptions. This comment is more for me to help process what to do and my gut feels its right. But maybe there are others out there who are also right on the edge. Im 27 and I feel like I am starting over. I was a Dietitian and decided working in a hospital and long term care was not for me. I been thinking for a while what to do and I have always wanted to serve. I tossed around active duty, but now that I think about it I would like to be home with my family and I want to start putting down roots. I think this feels right, training in a new direction, financial support to go back to school, health insurance because I currently don’t have any and a feeling of doing somthing. The idea to be ready, to be there to help in an emergency. I feel a sence of pride when I think that. I understand I can be deployed, I understand it is a commitment, but it feels right. Thank you.


48 Ryan Guina

Thanks for sharing, Francis. Joining the military is a huge decision. But it sounds like you have done a lot of introspection. I wish you the best with your decision. Please feel free to reach out if I can offer any tips or advice!


49 amy

Hi, I wanted to get your advice on if should serve. I am currently in college, a 19 year old female with no major commitments besides family and my dog. I was looking into it because of the loan/college payments, pay, and the opportunity to gain confidence and experience. I’m a CJ major and hope to later do conservation officer work. My concerns are the time commitment/deployment, unsure if I can do the physical needs (I’m 5’2′ and 106lbs), and worried about the stories of assault in the military. Do you think this is something I should pursue? Thank you.


50 Ryan Guina

Hi Amy, military service is, and should be, a personal decision. So don’t let me be the one to tell you whether or not you should serve. That said, it is an adventure, and a worthwhile opportunity for many. I wouldn’t worry about your size – I know many people who have served and are of similar stature. The big thing is being able to pass the physical training test. You can look up the standards online. In the Air Force, it’s a timed mile and a half run, sit-ups, and pushups. Most people who are in reasonable shape can pass the test with the right training.

In your situation, I would visit a recruiter and express your interests and concerns. They can tell you more about the required training, the experiences you may have, career opportunities, education benefits, potential for deployments, and address other concerns. There are many benefits available to members both while they are serving, and some that extend for a lifetime. A recruiter can give you more specific information. Additionally, here is an article and podcast about joining the military. It offers a little more information that may be helpful.

I hope this is at least enough encouragement for you to take the next step and explore the option. Remember, you don’t need to make a decision today, nor should you let a recruiter pressure you (a good recruiter will never pressure you to make an immediate decision). I wish you the best, and please feel free to follow up with any specific questions once you have more information.


51 Elizabeth


I’m currently a single parent to a three year old and a 17 month old. I’m about to be 24 years old in a couple days and I have no certifications, licenses or even a completed associates degree. Honestly, I’m freaking out about how to create a future I should have had long ago for my children. I’ve seriously contemplated joining the air force for a couple of years but at the moment, I have nobody to care for my children while I’m away. Joining the air national guard seems like the best route for me as childcare wouldn’t typically be long term. I know the pay isn’t the greatest but it would certainly help with a light bill or a blown out tire incident. Also, my father has 26 years of service under his belt and I would like to feel closer to military life again as I grew up in it. My question is, would the Air National Guard even entertain the idea of enlisting me or would it be a lost cause? Also, would I be able gain a full time career if it were ever offered or would my single mom of two status hinder that?


52 Ryan Guina

Hello Elizabeth,

Thank you for writing in. The military requires all members with children to have a Family Care Plan. This plan will list who is to take care of the children while the servicemember is performing official duties. When you first enlist, this would include Basic Military Training, which is about 9 weeks, followed by your Tech School, which is where you learn to do your Air Force job. This could be anywhere from 2 months, to up to a year, depending on which job you are hired to do. You would need to have child care for the entire time, as you would not be able to take your children with you during these training courses. The Family Care Plan would also be in place if you were required to attend a different training course, temporary duty assignment, or if you were mobilized for a deployment (some deployments can last up to 6 months).

That disclaimer out of the way, yes, you may be eligible to serve. You would need to contact a recruiter for more specific information. They will ask some personal and background information, including your name, age, height and weight, whether or not you have had any legal infractions, how many children you have, and other information. If all of that information qualifies you for service, then you would be scheduled to take a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which is a military entrance exam. The scores are used to determine which military jobs you would be eligible to apply for. After that, you would go for a medical screening, then apply for a job based on your ASVAB scores and which jobs are available.

And yes, this could potentially lead to a long-term career. There are many Air National Guard jobs that can lead to a job in the civilian sector, or on the base as a government civilian employee, a Technician, or even a full-time member of the Air National Guard.

Again, there are many opportunities. But the first step is to speak with your family to make sure you have someone you trust who would be willing to care for your children if you were called to duty. Then you need to speak with a recruiter to see if you are qualified to serve.

I wish you the best!


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