Making up a portion of each branch of the military, Guard and Reserves units serve a vital but often misunderstood role within the Services’ planning and infrastructure. Do you know the facts? Guest contributor Kimberly Suchek is ready to bring you up to speed!
When I began dating my soldier in 1993, I along with others did not know or understand much about the military. Yes, I got that there were different branches (army, navy, etc..), as I had grandfathers and uncles who served — as well as a brother who served both before and during Desert Storm. But I hadn’t a clue as to the difference between Reserve/Guard and the “regular” branches.
I used to only pay attention to the dates my soldier would be gone: one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Then 9/11 happened and my soldier went to war. And he went again, and again, and again.
After more than 14 years of sustained war and multiple deployments borne by less than 1% of the population, we now have an entire generation of military families that still seek answers about war – and the war that comes home with them. In addition, the past decade of war has brought national attention to military families and highlighting the need to better understand all aspects of military life. This was especially important within our civilian work force as many were not aware of the laws regarding Guard/Reserve. Important organizations such as ESGR began to be noticed and called upon.
Sadly, I lived with an Army National Guard soldier and did not understand their place, laws, regulations or how important they are to our country. I didn’t know of the support provided to other branches of military until my husband was called up for war. It all would have made my life and those in our world at that time easier. In case you feel the same, I offer what I learned about the differences between these branches and the important role they play.
A soldier who is active duty works full-time in the military and can be deployed at any time. Persons in the Reserve or Guard are not full-time active duty personnel (unless on orders as a support within the states as AGR/ADSW ), although they can be deployed at any time.
Each branch of the military has a Reserve component under the command of their respective military branch. The purpose of the Reserve is to provide and maintain trained units and qualified persons to be available for active duty in the armed forces when needed. This may be in times of war, in a national emergency, or as the need occurs based on threats to national security. They can be called upon to serve either stateside or overseas. The primary job of the Reserve is to fill the gaps in stateside service positions when the active duty forces ship overseas. Members of the Reserve are required to participate in training drills one weekend a month and two weeks per year.
The National Guard consists of the Army/Air National Guard. When federally funded, the Guard is organized and controlled by state. However, in times of war, the Guard can become federalized and deployed. They engage in a number of activities. During local emergencies, Guard units assist communities endangered by storms, floods, fires, and other disasters or uprisings. Guard units deployed overseas may see combat but also can assist with peace keeping efforts.
As with the Reserve, Guard members are given Veteran status if they have served for 30 consecutive days in a war zone (stateside or overseas).
During the Cold War era, the Reserve was a manpower pool that was rarely tapped. From 1945 to 1989, Reservists were involuntarily activated by the federal government four times, an average of less than once per decade. Since the end of the Cold War, the nation has relied more heavily on the Reserve components. Involuntary activation for contingency operations by the federal government increased to six times since 1990, an average of once every four years, including large-scale mobilizations for the Persian Gulf War and in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks. Additionally, starting in FY 2014, Reservists began to be involuntarily activated under a new authority for “pre-planned” missions in support of Combatant Commanders.
In 1973, the DoD adopted the total force policy, which recognized that active and reserve U.S. military forces should be readily available to support military operations. As a result, reserve forces are no longer considered to be forces of last resort; rather, they are now recognized as indispensable to the nation’s defense from the earliest days of a conflict. In addition, the Reserves’ peacetime support to the active forces has taken on increased importance in areas such as peacekeeping missions, counter-drug operations, disaster aid, and exercise support.
The governor of each state can call state’s Guard units to active duty to help respond and support for domestic and foreign emergencies/disasters. If addition help is needed, a governor can request federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
We’re not done! Check back tomorrow for part 2 and a break down of exactly what being “activated” means for Guard and Reserve service members!
We want to know:
Have you served in the Guard or Reserves?
Meet Your Contributor:
Kimberly Suchek is the author of: Operation Military Resources, which is a book full of over 1500+ resources for all branches of military and their families. She writes a weekly column for Star & Stripes, and is a speaker and freelance writer for various other magazines, blogs and newspapers.