What are the Different Types of National Guard Enlistment?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2019
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The United States National Guard offers enlistment options for those with no prior military service and people with prior service who meet certain guidelines. One-year trial programs and accelerated promotion opportunities are available for some recruits. Cash bonuses might be available for enlistees who possess skills in areas the National Guard needs. These include National Guard enlistments in the reserves when active duty is completed.

New recruits can sign on for eight years in the National Guard, with some of the commitment served as a reserve. The active duty requirement for National Guard enlistment ranges from three years to all eight. A recruit may serve part of his or her time in the reserves, which requires periodic training and availability for a national emergency.

People who enlist in the accelerated promotion program can use college credits to enter the military with a higher rank. This National Guard enlistment option is also available to high school graduates who earn credit in a reserve officer training program as students. The opportunity also extends to recruits who have earned a Boy Scout Eagle award or a Girl Scout Gold Palm award.


The trial program allows National Guard enlistment for a shorter period of time. It applies to someone entering the military for the first time and to those who re-enlist in the military. Veterans with 10 years or more service are eligible for a one-year trial stint in the National Guard. If someone has amassed fewer than 10 years' active duty, the trial period runs three years.

The National Guard offers cash incentives to attract enlistees in areas that are hard to fill. A bonus might be available to recruits who have skills in a designated unit or in the unit where they are assigned. These bonuses apply to new enlistees and those who re-enlist. States determine the positions that need qualified individuals where bonuses apply. A monthly bonus might be paid to someone for National Guard enlistment in the reserves after the completion of active duty.

The National Guard is the oldest branch of the United States military. It stems from the formation of militias that provided defense against Indian attacks when colonists came to North America. When the U.S. Constitution was drafted, it gave each state the power to organize armed militias in cooperation with the federal government.

These militias assisted armies that fought in the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, and part of the Civil War. Legislation in 1903 changed the name to the National Guard and created the reserve program. The Air National Guard was established to support the U.S. Air Force in 1947. Guard members commonly respond to terrorist attacks, crises, and natural disasters.


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