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Transitioning to the Guard

Reserve a common career path for active-duty personnel

Photo credit: Washington National Guard

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You know the commercials: "Just one weekend a month, two weeks a year ... money for college ... an extra paycheck."

The Reserve and the National Guard suffer a misconception in the public consciousness as being the diet version of the Armed Forces, reserved for everyday people who only want to dabble in military service. Never minding that these brave men and women fulfill the domestic side of our military's pledge to defend us against threats "both foreign and domestic," they're hardly a bunch of "weekend warriors." In fact, more and more military personnel are transitioning to the Guard and the Reserve after their terms of service are over.

For many servicemembers, the Guard and Reserve are the next logical steppingstone in their career paths and transition back to civilian life. The travel requirements inherent in traditional enlistment are absent for all intents and purposes, and there are units stationed throughout the country, so for servicemembers who want to put down roots, there's a degree of permanence not found in standard enlistment.

"Many transition ... because they want to return to their home state. They want to establish a home base to raise a family, start civilian jobs or continue their education," said Capt. Joseph Siemandel, public affairs officer for the Washington National Guard.

While the details vary depending on a variety of factors - like time of transition, the needs of the State, and the military specialty of the enlistee - transitioning active-duty personnel also enjoy signing bonuses, tuition assistance and retirement benefits as well as perks that aren't available to regular enlistees. For instance, the Marine Corps offers the Direct Affiliation Program (DAP), allowing active-duty Marines to transition to the Reserve with an additional six months of full active-duty medical coverage.

Joining the National Guard allows some enlistees to reduce their Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), which makes transitioning servicemembers appealing to recruiters. The National Guard and the Army Reserve share a lot of the same MOS designations that active-duty personnel already have, and there's quite a bit of common MOSs between each Reserve branch and its parent branch. This allows servicemembers to transition and keep working in their fields of expertise, but also ample opportunity for them to retrain into different specialties.

And having the right MOS in the right place at the right time can be very lucrative.

"The intelligence, reconnaissance and aviation fields are particularly in demand at this time," a spokesperson for the Marine Corps Reserve said.

A high-demand MOS can net transitioning servicemembers retention bonuses as high as $20,000 in some cases.

None of this discounts the roles that talents honed in the civilian world play in the Guard and Reserve.

"We have doctors, lawyers, engineers, business owners, IT professionals and many other skills that bring an enormous amount of value to the modern-day battlefield," said the Marine Corps Reserve spokesperson.

Transitioning servicemembers - one foot firmly planted in the military world and the other in the civilian - are huge assets to the Armed Forces' domestic sectors. As with any job, they have the tools and they have the talent, and that's why they succeed.

Servicemembers interested in transitioning should consult their respective branch's career counselors and prior-service recruiters.

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