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The National Guard, the oldest component of the Armed Forces of the United States and one of the nation's longest-enduring institutions, celebrated its 370th birthday on December 13, 2006. The National Guard traces its history back to the earliest English colonies in North America. Responsible for their own defense, the colonists drew on English military tradition and organized their able-bodied male citizens into militias.
The colonial militias protected their fellow citizens from Indian attack, foreign invaders, and later helped to win the Revolutionary War. Following independence, the authors of the Constitution empowered Congress to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia." However, recognizing the militia's state role, the Founding Fathers reserved the appointment of officers and training of the militia to the states. Today's National Guard still remains a dual state-Federal force.
Throughout the 19th century the size of the Regular Army was small, and the militia provided the bulk of the troops during the Mexican War, the early months of the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. In 1903, important national defense legislation increased the role of the National Guard (as the militia was now called) as a Reserve force for the U.S. Army. In World War I, which the U.S. entered in 1917, the National Guard made up 40% of the U.S. combat divisions in France; in World War II, National Guard units were among the first to deploy overseas and the first to fight.
Following World War II, National Guard aviation units, some of them dating back to World War I, became the Air National Guard, the nation's newest Reserve component. The Guard stood on the frontiers of freedom during the Cold War, sending soldiers and airmen to fight in Korea and to reinforce NATO during the Berlin crisis of 1961-1962. During the Vietnam war, almost 23,000 Army and Air Guardsmen were called up for a year of active duty; some 8,700 were deployed to Vietnam. Over 75,000 Army and Air Guardsmen were called upon to help bring a swift end to Desert Storm in 1991.
Since that time, the National Guard has seen the nature of its Federal mission change, with more frequent call ups in response to crises in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the skies over Iraq. Most recently, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, more than 50,000 Guard members were called up by both their States and the Federal government to provide security at home and combat terrorism abroad. In the largest and swiftest response to a domestic disaster in history, the Guard deployed more than 50,000 troops in support of the Gulf States following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Today, tens of thousands of Guard members are serving in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the National Guard continues its historic dual mission, providing to the states units trained and equipped to protect life and property, while providing to the nation units trained, equipped and ready to defend the United States and its interests, all over the globe.
The Guard answers the call, at home or abroad.
The incredible versatility of the National Guard enables its troops to respond to domestic emergencies, combat missions, counterdrug efforts, reconstruction missions and more—all with equal speed, strength and efficiency.
Whether the call is coming from the state governor or directly from the president of the United States, Guard Soldiers are always ready and always there.
You'll serve your community, your state and your country.
As a Guard Soldier, you can expect your primary area of operation to be your home state, following the leadership of your state adjutant general and governor. This may include community efforts, responding to wildfires or floods. Or, it may include serving overseas, training foreign forces.
You will also be prepared to mobilize when directed by the president. This may include overseas service or domestic, such as serving along the U.S.-Mexico border.
So, what does the National Guard do? Whatever is needed, wherever it is needed.
Am I eligible to join the National Guard?
Most people between the ages of 17 and 35 are eligible to join the National Guard. However, we do have strict guidelines. Read on to see if you meet the minimum requirements, as well as the physical, education and aptitude requirements for Guard service.
- Be between the ages of 17 and 35* (unless you have prior U.S. military service, certain linguistic skills or a specialized professional skill, such as a chaplain, lawyer or certain medical specialties)
- Be a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident alien
- Meet necessary medical requirements and moral requirements. For a list of legal violations which will permanently disqualify you from serving, click here.
Physical Fitness Requirements
Guard Soldiers need to be in excellent condition, and fall within certain ranges of height and weight, to fulfill the physical demands of military service. To see if you comply, fill in your information here.
National Guard Parents Video
It's only natural to be concerned any time your child makes important choices about their future. But we think you'll see that the Guard can be one of the best steps your son or daughter can take.
Can the Guard help with college?
We can pay up to 100% of your child's tuition.
In most states, the Guard can cover up to 100% of college tuition. Your child may also qualify for an additional $333 each month for expenses with the Montgomery G.I. Bill —plus another $350 with the Army National Guard Kicker . There are also Guard scholarships to help pay for school. And we can even help students earn their GED with our GED Plus program. Or for students who have dropped out within 10 credit hours of graduating, they may be eligible for a second chance to earn their diploma through the Guard's Patriot Academy.
Your child can serve while they're in school.
With a commitment of only one weekend a month plus two weeks of training in the summer, your son or daughter will be earning a degree, earning Guard pay and experience, and taking a huge bite out of their college costs.
Guard Soldiers are often better students.
Many young people actually do better in college after they’ve been through Guard training and gained additional discipline and maturity. This translates into better time-management skills, better grades and better opportunities after graduation—both in the Guard and in civilian life.
How will joining the Guard help them get a job?
The Guard teaches valuable job skills.
With several career fields and over 150 job specialties to choose from, your child will have no trouble finding a job specialty that fits their passion. And we don't just give them jobs—we pay them to learn skills like leadership, team building and self-discipline that will serve them in any career.
Your child can work and serve in the Guard at the same time
With the Guard’s typical schedule of one weekend a month plus two weeks of training in the summer, Soldiers can easily maintain a civilian job while they serve. That means they can use their Guard training to land a good civilian job and bring home a second paycheck for part-time Guard service.
The Guard gives Soldiers an opportunity to network and earn benefits.
Your son or daughter will be serving with other Soldiers in related career fields in their own community and state. And they'll be eligible for benefits like health and life insurance, discount shopping privileges on base, VA home loans and much more.
How do I know if my child is ready?
We will equip every Soldier physically and mentally.
Your son or daughter will be in the best physical shape and be equipped to tackle even the toughest challenges. By attending the Guard's RSP program, they'll have a good idea what to expect at Basic Training . And many students actually do much better in school after completing their training. You'll see the skills and priorities they learn—like discipline and motivation—help them develop as individuals, team players and strong leaders.
Your child may be asserting their independence.
By showing an interest in serving, your son or daughter is telling you they are ready to spread their wings. It may be tough to let them go, but with your support and the Guard’s training, they will make you proud.
What about my child's safety?
The Guard trains Soldiers to take care of themselves.
Guard Soldiers train alongside active duty troops. They learn the same combat skills, and use the same weapons and techniques. In other words, every Soldier is physically and mentally prepared for the challenge. And as their skills develop, they can qualify for specialized schools. From challenges like Airborne or Ranger school to language, leadership and management courses, the Guard will help your child develop strength, character and self-reliance.
Most Guard training and deployments occur near home.
Most weekend training takes place with a unit close to the Soldier’s home. And while Guard troops can be called up to serve overseas, they're more often mobilized to assist during domestic emergencies or natural disasters in or near the Soldier’s home state.
Looking for a way to pay for school? The National Guard has you covered, with benefits like:
- 100% Tuition Assistance—up to $18,000 over four years
- The Montgomery GI Bill
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Army National Guard Kicker
- National Guard Scholarships that can pay up to full tuition plus an allowance
- The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)
Read on to see how the National Guard can pay for college and put cash in your pocket.
Federal Tuition Assistance
The Guard can pay up to 100% of your college tuition and general fees, up to $4,500 per year—that’s up to $18,000 over four years. The amount is based on in-state public institution tuition rates, and can be applied to the other financial assistance programs listed below.
In addition, many states also offer college funding such as State Tuition Waivers that reduce a percentage of the cost of tuition even more. Ask your recruiter about state tuition assistance.
Note: Federal Tuition Assistance is based on funds availability and is issued on a first come, first served basis.
Montgomery GI Bill
In addition to paying your college tuition, we’ll send you a monthly expense allowance of over $300—about $11,000 over a four-year period. Best of all, this money is sent directly to you (not to your school) to spend on books, supplies—or anything you want.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
For Soldiers with at least 90 days of Active Duty service on or after September 11, 2001, the Post-9/11 GI Bill can cover up to 100% of your tuition, depending on the length of time you’ve served. You may also be eligible for an annual stipend of $1,000 for books and supplies, and your benefits may be transferrable to your dependents.
Plus, for individuals paying higher private school, graduate school or out-of-state tuitions, the Yellow Ribbon Program may be able to provide the necessary additional funding.
Army National Guard Kicker
The Army National Guard Kicker supplement to the Montgomery GI Bill pays up to $350 per month in living expenses—up to $12,600 over 36 months. You’ll need to apply and qualify for this program.
Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Scholarships
ROTC is a college elective that allows you to earn a commission straight out of college as a second lieutenant in the Army. This leadership program also provides a way to help hold down the cost of college by offering two-, three- and four-year ROTC scholarships, as well as monthly allowances for some cadets.
- A wide range of merit-based scholarships that pay up to full college tuition
- Additional funds to pay for books, supplies and other school fees
- Tax-free stipends up to $500 per month if you qualify
All ROTC scholarships require a service commitment. Your local recruiter or your school's military science department or can furnish complete details.
Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)
For Soldiers and officers who have an existing student loan obligation at the time of enlistment in the Guard, the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) may pay up to $50,000 for certain jobs, with a six- or eight-year enlistment as a member of a unit.
In addition, current Guard members who extend their enlistment contract for a minimum period of six years are also eligible for this program, provided they meet certain requirements, including a qualifying score on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test and being in a valid Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in a National Guard unit.
This incentive is also available to applicants entering Officer Candidate School (you must have at least 90 college credit hours and agree to an eight-year commitment).
Additional Programs and Resources
The Guard has other programs and services to help you earn additional college credits, prepare for your graduate school exam, or even get your GED — all while earning your Guard pay. Learn more about:
For complete details about federal education programs and any funding packages your state may offer, talk to your local recruiter.
The National Guard is more than just a great way to serve your country. It’s also one of the very best places to find excellent career training.
You’ll be paid to learn job skills that fit you and your interests. And you’ll get real-world training you can use right now—along with hands-on experience that will give you a head start toward your career.
Choose from over 150 jobs in fields like medicine, technology, engineering, transportation, communications—serious jobs that can give you a real advantage over the competition. And you can take your career even further with the leadership opportunities available to officers and warrant officers. Your future—it all begins here with National Guard careers.
To find a list of available jobs in your area, check the National Guard's Job Board.
Note: Army National Guard programs and benefits are subject to change. For the latest information, please contact your local recruiter.