What Is The Difference Between National Guard And Reserves?

If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between the National Guard and Reserves, you’re not alone. These two components of the United States military often lead to confusion due to their similar roles. However, there are significant differences that set them apart. Here, we dive into these distinctions to shed light on both the National Guard and Reserves.


To start our journey into understanding each component better, let’s take a quick look at their origins. The history of the National Guard dates back to colonial times when militias were formed to defend settlements from potential threats. This tradition continued throughout American history, evolving into what we now know as the modern-day National Guard.

On the other hand, Reserve units were created in 1908 under legislation signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. These units provided a way for civilians with specialized skills or training to support active-duty military forces during emergencies or conflicts.


National Guard

The primary role of the National Guard is to serve as a reserve force for each state’s Governor, ready to respond during natural disasters, civil unrest, or any situation where additional resources are required within state borders[^1^]. The key distinction here is that governors have control over deploying National Guard troops within their respective states.

Additionally, the National Guard can be called upon by the President of the United States to supplement regular military forces during national emergencies[^2^].


The Reserve component, however, plays a different role altogether. Their primary purpose is providing support in times of war or national defense emergencies. [^3^] Unlike the National Guard deployed primarily within state lines, the Reserve units directly fall under federal control, allowing them to be used globally wherever they are needed most [^4^].

Although they may seem similar so far, one notable difference between the two is that National Guard members can be activated for state or federal duty, while Reserve members can only be activated for federal service[^5^]. This distinction allows the Reserves to focus entirely on their role in national defense.

Composition and Recruitment

National Guard

The National Guard consists of both Army and Air Force components. Each state has its own National Guard unit, which mainly operates under its governor’s control. These units are composed of part-time soldiers who balance military obligations with civilian careers[^6^].

One unique feature of the National Guard is that they receive both federal and state funding. As a result, National Guard soldiers often train one weekend per month, called “drill weekends, ” with an additional two weeks in summer for annual training activities^[7]^. This schedule enables them to maintain their military readiness while continuing to fulfill their obligations to their employers or educational institutions.


In contrast, Reserve units fall exclusively under federal control within the Department of Defense (DoD). While there are Army Reserve units and Air Force Reserve units, [^8^]they operate as one unified entity, distinct from each branch’s active-duty forces.

Unlike National Guard personnel who serve part-time, Reservists have differing levels of commitment depending on their specific role. Some Reservists may serve full-time, [^9^]while others may dedicate specific periods as needed. [10]

Moreover, unlike many National Guardsmen who belong to specific states, anyone from across the United States can join a Reserve unit. This provides greater flexibility and options for potential recruits looking to serve in a military reserve capacity while serving nationally rather than solely within one state[^11^].


National Guard

Both the National Guard and Reserves prioritize training; however, the nature and extent of this training differ between the two components.

The National Guard undergoes similar basic training to active-duty personnel, with the first ten weeks focusing on military discipline and familiarization with equipment[^12^]. Following basic training, National Guard soldiers proceed to Advanced Individual Training (AIT), which varies depending on their chosen Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)[^13^].

Additionally, each National Guard unit conducts regular local or regional exercises to refine its readiness in state-specific situations, such as responding to natural disasters or providing aid during civil unrest. [^14^] This specialized training ensures that units are prepared for any emergencies that may arise within their respective states.


In the case of the Reserves, the focus is primarily on maintaining a higher level of strategic flexibility. Reserve units prioritize their training efforts towards maintaining combat readiness and honing specific skill sets that align with potential national defense scenarios [^15^].

However, due to not being geographically bound by individual states, Reserve personnel can participate in joint exercises alongside both active-duty military forces and other reserve components from different regions. This exposure provides valuable opportunities for cross-training and strengthening coordination between various service branches [16].


National Guard

National Guard troops can be activated either at the state or federal level, [17]depending on whether they are called upon by a governor or directly by the President[^18^]. When activated at the state level, National Guard members typically provide assistance within their own communities during emergencies like hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods.

At the federal level, however, the President may deploy National Guard troops beyond state borders. Such deployments have happened throughout history—most notably during times of war or when additional support was required domestically^[19]^.


Unlike the National Guard, [20]Reservists are exclusively structured for deployment at a national scale[^21 ^22], even though Navy Reserve units do occasionally support international missions[^23 ]^. In times of conflict or war, Reserve units can be activated and deployed globally to supplement active-duty forces.

There have been numerous instances in which Reserve personnel served alongside their full-time counterparts in various theaters of operation, making significant contributions to national defense objectives. Their capability for rapid mobilization directly contributes to the overall readiness of the United States military[^24^].


National Guard

Both National Guard and Reserve components provide benefits designed to attract prospective recruits. One notable advantage offered by the National Guard is the availability of state-level tuition assistance programs varying from state to state. These programs are beneficial for Guardsmen who wish to pursue higher education while serving part-time in their respective states[^25^].

Additionally, National Guard members are also eligible for federal education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill® Selected Reserve or Post-9/11 GI Bill®, enabling them to cover a percentage of their educational expenses through these support programs^[26]^. Moreover, the National Guard offers comprehensive healthcare coverage for its members and their families at little or no cost providing an added layer of security[^27^].


Similarly, [28]Reservists receive access to invaluable career development opportunities and educational assistance, such as tuition reimbursement programs connected with Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). This allows Reservists’ pursuit of higher education by minimizing out-of-pocket costs[^29^].

Furthermore, like their National Guard counterparts, [30]Reserve members are eligible for federal education benefits, including those provided by VA education loan repayment options that assist in easing financial burdens associated with student loans [31]. Additionally, being part of a reserve component can enhance one’s civilian career prospects, as veterans often possess skills useful within both military and non-military sectors.


In conclusion, [32]while both the National Guard and Reserves share some similarities—such as being comprised of part-time military personnel—they have distinguishing features that set them apart. The National Guard primarily focuses on serving within state boundaries under the control of each state’s governor, while Reserves operates at a national level and falls directly under federal jurisdiction.

Moreover, [^33]^their respective roles, recruitment processes, and training programs differ, reflecting the unique requirements of each component. At their core, both the National Guard and Reserves contribute significantly to national defense by providing support in times of emergency or conflict[^34^].

So whether you’re considering signing up for the National Guard or exploring Army Reserve opportunities, to ensure you make an informed decision![35]

[35]: Here are some interesting facts about both components:

Interesting Facts

  1. The National Guard traces its roots back to December 13, 1636.
  2. Two U. S presidents, George W. Bush and George H. W Bush, served in the Texas Air National Guard.
  3. Reserve units often specialize in specific tasks such as combat support or medical services.

Stating Some Quotes!

  • “The citizen-soldier; who serves his country best is not he who has done his greatest amount of fighting but he who has done his best against temptation. ” – Lawrence J Peter
  • “Throughout history, reserve forces have proven essential for maintaining our nation’s security strategy. ” – Joe Heck
Providing Statistics:
Component Approximate Number
National Guard Over 350, 000
Army Reserve Over 190, 000
Air Force Reserve Around 70, 000
Recommended Readings

If you found this article intriguing and want to delve deeper into understanding these two components further ![36]

Enjoy exploring your options and discovering new ways to serve your country!

FAQ: What Is The Difference Between National Guard And Reserves?

Q: What is the difference between National Guard and Reserves?
A: The National Guard and Reserves are both military reserve components, but key differences exist in their mission focus and chain of command.

Q: Are National Guard and Reserves part of the same military branch?
A: Yes, both the National Guard and Reserves are components of the United States Armed Forces.

Q: Does one serve full-time in either the National Guard or Reserves?
A: No, serving in the National Guard or Reserves is generally a part-time commitment alongside civilian careers.

Q: Do members of the National Guard get deployed internationally like those from the Reserves do?
A: Yes, while deployments vary by unit and circumstance, both active duty Reserve forces and certain units within the Army or Air National Guard can be deployed overseas.

Q: Can anyone join either the National Guard or Reserves regardless of age?
A: Age requirements may differ slightly between each component. Generally, individuals aged 17 to 35 can join with parental consent for enlistment purposes; however, there may be exceptions based on specific circumstances.

Q: Are training programs different for those joining the National Guard than those joining the Reserves?
A: Training programs for both components broadly align with regular active-duty service; however, nuances exist depending on specific roles within each component.

Q: Are there any benefits unique to joining either the National Guard or reserves as opposed to active duty service?
A: Both offer distinct benefits such as access to education/training opportunities, healthcare options, retirement plans—however specifics may differ depending on individual circumstances.

Q:Is transitioning from active duty service to either the guard or reserves common among military personnel?
AYes, ransitioning from active duty service to either component is fairly common and allows for continued service while pursuing civilian careers. The option to transfer is contingent upon meeting certain criteria.

Q: In case of a national emergency, are National Guard and Reserves obligated to serve?
A: Yes, during times of domestic emergencies or crises, both the National Guard and Reserves can be called up by federal or state authorities to assist as required.

Q: How long is the commitment when joining either the National Guard or Reserves?
A: Typically, initial enlistment contracts are for eight years but may vary based on individual circumstances and requirements. Service obligations can be served part-time alongside civilian commitments once initial training is completed.

Please note that these answers provide general information about the differences between the National Guard and Reserves; specific details may vary depending on your country’s military structure. It’s advisable to consult official sources or reach out to recruiters for accurate and up-to-date information in your region.