What Does the National Guard Do?


The National Guard was established in 1636 and is the oldest division of the United State's Armed Forces. There are two sectors of the National Guard--Air National Guard and Army National Guard. The dual mission of the National Guard is to protect life and property in individual states, and to protect the nation by being prepared to defend the United States worldwide.


  • The National Guard began in colonial times, when the militias helped to win the Revolutionary War. In the 19th century, the militia made up the majority of the troops, compensating for the small size of the regular Army. They helped during the Mexican War, Civil War and the Spanish-American War. The militia was called the National Guard after 1903, and officially became the reserve force of the United States Army. The National Guard was involved in World War I and II, the Cold War and the Vietnam War.


  • The National Guard is the only branch of the military that is required by the constitution. It is different from the rest of the military because the Guard answers to both state and federal governments. They may be called upon to defend their state at home or to defend their country overseas. Members of the National Guard have assisted in Iraq, with cleanup following Hurricane Katrina and during the aftermath of September 11th, 2001.


  • Soldiers in the Air Guard usually join the unit closest to their hometown, and work one weekend per month and a 2 week period per year. This follows the initial training period of about 8 ½ weeks. The same basic training applies to members of the Army National Guard. The total enlistment period is 8 years, but soldiers have the option of serving a minimum of 3 years and then becoming the part of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).


  • When people enlist in the National Guard, they pick a job considered a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). There are over 200 choices in 24 specialty areas, including aviation, infantry, religious support and medical. After Basic Training, Guard Soldiers go on to Advanced Individual Training (AIT), where they start hands-on learning for their selected career. The jobs undertaken while in the National Guard provide members with transferable skills that apply to careers in the private sector.


  • Soldiers are deployed as needed by the Governor of their state or the President of the United States. Deployments are situational; state active duty usually lasts 15 to 60 days, and federal deployments typically last at least 12 months. Guard members can elect to volunteer for active duty assignments with varying deployment times. Deployment locations can be anywhere the governing bodies determine that the Guard is most needed, whether at home or abroad.

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  • Photo Credit Flickr.com: The National Guard
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