What is the Air National Guard?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2019
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The Air National Guard is a reserve force under the United States Air Force. Members of the Air National Guard are distinct from members of the Air Force Reserves because their primary duty is to the states where they are stationed, but they can be mobilized and used like regular members of the armed forces as needed. By contrast, members of the Air Force Reserves report directly to the Air Force and the federal government.

Members of the Air National Guard include pilots, maintenance crews, technicians, and other support staff. Units may be based on military bases or at commercial airports, with a number of National Guard units sharing airport facilities in exchange for contributing to maintenance and safety. Although the reserves often tout themselves as being open to people who want to serve “two weeks a year or one weekend a month,” members of the Air National Guard usually must work much more to keep up their qualifications. Many work as pilots in civilian life, and some work as civilian employees of the Air National Guard who can be transitioned into military employees as needed.


In peace time, the Air National Guard units in the respective states and territories of the United States respond to requests from the governor and other state officials. They can be involved in things like public safety missions, response to environmental disasters, wildland fire fighting, and other circumstances in which pilots and air crews would be useful. Governors can also call upon their State Air National Guard to deal with civil unrest, rebellion, and other social issues.

The United States government can also request the services of the Air National Guard. Like other members of the Reserves, people in the National Guard can be called up on active duty and sent to war zones. They can also be used to handle domestic situations and unrest, acting as a rapid response force in the event that the United States is invaded, subjected to terrorist attacks, or involved in other unstable political situations. For example, the President may send the Air National Guard to address a rebellion in an individual state.

This aerial militia has its roots in a number of civilian aeronautics organizations, with the first approximation of a true Air National Guard being assembled in 1916. Since then, the organization has grown significantly. People who wish to join the Guard and Reserves can take advantage of a number of benefits and programs which are offered in exchange for military service.


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