Air National Guard

I am seriously considering joining the Louisiana Air National Guard in the next 2 years (I have another year of Americorps and a semester or two of college to finish up first). I’ve interviewed with the recruiter and started preliminary paperwork. I haven’t signed anything nor have I had a physical yet. I have discussed this with a few friends, including Agent Foxtrot (who is former Air Force) to get their opinions, but no one I know has been in ANG before. Here’s the basics of what I know:

– I will do Basic at Lackland AFB in TX for probably about two months (currently it’s 7 weeks but the recruiter told me that Basic Training is supposed to be increased to about 2 months by the time I sign on).
– After that, I’m off to Tech School. This early in the game, there’s no telling what job I will end up with.
– I will be enlisting for six years. This is one weekend a month/few weeks a year, with a possibility of being deployed.
– I will be living in New Orleans, LA. I will receive education benefits. I will not be living on base (I will be responsible for providing my own living arrangements).

I would like to request some thoughts/advice from former or current ANG members. If you were in LA ANG that’d be ideal, but I’m not holding out for that. I just want to know what life will be like, things the recruiter didn’t tell me about, that sort of thing. If you are not a current or former ANG member, I will welcome your input if you are respectful of me and my ability to make an adult, informed decision for myself. I’m not trying to be rude, but I don’t want to be dog-piled by a bunch of people telling me what a terrible monster I am for even considering military service. I am fully aware that I may be deployed to a war zone. I am also willing to accept the military’s risks along with the perks.

Our very own Airman Doors, USAF is in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, but he’s in class. I’ll make sure he sees this.


I don’t meet your first qualification, but I probably qualify for the rest. The ANG is like the national guard, which is like the reserves, and I was an Army reservist before I went regular army (i.e., full time). During my reserve time, I spent a lot of time at the Michigan ANG base that’s very, very close to my home.

In my experience, it’s like playing soldier for the weekends only. You’re a civilian in every respect, except you carry a military ID that allows you onto bases and the use of their facilities (gyms, auto crafts, etc.). One weekend a month, you show up and do your job, or if not your job, some type of busy work. Those two days are typically – but not always – eight hour days. Two weeks in the summer (again, typically) can be mind dummingly boring, or can be fun, depending on the unit that you belong to.

Now if you’re made active, that all changes. You’re part of the regular air force then.

Back when I was in the reserves, we were a military intelligence unit with the main goal of being ready to spy on the Soviet Union. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait… and we did nothing. I went regular then, but it actually took so long the 100 hours war was over before I was part of the regular army. That, plus my reserve unit reported me AWOL for several months after I was already regular army.

Military service is great. There’s risk, and as long as you accept it, it’s a fine career. Even as an ANG member, you still can live as a civilian.

Not anymore, at least not with my unit.

OK, here’s the deal (or at least it was with me):

You sign up for a job before you leave. You will be placed in a slot on the Unit Manning Document by your unit pending the completion of BMT and Technical School. As you will already know what you’re going to be doing before you leave, you won’t have to worry about getting put into a job you don’t want, don’t like, or can’t do. You’ll probably go through MEPS for your physical unless you’re flying, which is not likely if you’re joining the Louisiana ANG because they have nothing but Fighter Wings and you’re not going to be an officer.

Next: BMT. If you’re lucky you’ll go right away. Some of us couldn’t be that lucky. The ANG gets a limited number of slots for schools, so maybe you’ll go fast and maybe you’ll wait 8 months like I did. Be flexible. BMT is what you make of it. I loved it in retrospect, but it was rough when I was actually going through it. No big deal, everybody does it, get it done.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll go right to Tech School. Again, I couldn’t be so lucky. You might have to wait a bit for that, too. If you don’t go right away you’ll go to UTAs (Drills) and get a feel for your unit for a while, then it’s off to Tech School.

Tech Schools are of varying lengths, so I can’t tell you how long yours will be. They have what is known as the Phase program. Everybody starts in Phase 1, which is restricted hours, no off-base privileges, and uniforms 24/7. After a few weeks you’ll get more and more freedoms, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you’re ever really free, if you know what I mean. Anyway, do your PT like a good little Airman, don’t wash out and the next thing you know you’re done.

After you get home you’ll have “seasoning training”, where you learn the ins and outs of your particular job. This can take up to a year. Unless your unit is super strict about every little thing you’ll be able to unwind and bond with your fellow servicemembers. Just learn your job and learn it well.

After that, other than your required commitment and your training requirements (which may end up being much more than the one weekend a month/two weeks a year), your life is yours. Don’t do drugs, don’t get arrested, pay your bills, and have fun in school.

Oh, and if the phone rings with your boss telling you to go right now, pack your stuff and go. That’s the deal you signed up for. If you can’t handle that, don’t bother signing up. There are enough people that try to bail on deployments that the Guard doesn’t need another one. If you do end up going, you’ll be federalized and will be considered a member of the Regular Air Force. In that case, play it 100% straight. The UCMJ has teeth and Active Duty people sometimes have a problem with Guardsmen. As per everything else, deal with it. Such is life. Just be the professional that you know yourself to be and there won’t be any problems.

Good luck. If you have any questions about my experiences with the ANG, don’t hesitate to ask.

Dave, TSgt

How much fun was that to get sorted out?


First, thank you for choosing to serve your country, Mississippienne. The ANG is lucky to have you.

Second, I would second what Airman Doors posted about the training. I did the on site portion of my training at Lackland AFB ( I work in mental health and got to work with some of the people who had psychological conditions that kept them out of the AF.)

I would advise you to carefully read your contract. There occasionally will be typos that can affect your pay grade. For example, you have two years of college completed, in the Army Reserves, you would be enlisted at the pay grade of E-3, or the rank of PFC. The people at the MEPS are so used to typing PVT, grade E-1 that they may make that typo. Doesn’t happen too often, but it did with me and I made sure I got it fixed before I signed. I had a bachelors degree and came in as an E-4 Specialist.

In the Guard, you will be responsible for paying your own rent and paying for your meals etc. You will, however be paid at the full time rate during training. A lot of people seem to think that we still pay the ANG rate during Basic Training.

I don’t know why you chose the ANG instead of the full time AF, but I respect your decision to serve.

SSG Schwartz

I guess I shouldn’t have left out that oh-so important part about training, since at that point it’s obviously not a weekend job during that point! Just to be clear, no, you don’t get basic training and your job training on the weekends!

In my case, I was still in high school when I joined the reserves. At the time (and probably still today) there’s something called “split option” training, meaning you go join a reserve unit (even if you’re going regular army, as you’ll see), attend drill until your basic training slot opens up, leave basic training, finish high school, and then attend AIT (the Army’s job training). At this point if you’re regular, you stay in, or in my reservist case, go back to your reserve unit. That’s when it becomes a weekend job.

In my case when I went regular, I went to another AIT, because my original job was stupid and I only took it to be in the MI unit with hopes of being sent to Monterrey for a year to learn Russian.

The penalties for AWOL in the reserves (at the time) were surprisingly little compared to the regular forces. All in all given that it was a huge government bureaucracy, it was pretty simple – I worked with my personnel group (S1, S2? I can’t remember), and sent a registered letter containing my activation orders to my unit’s HQ, and they eventually sorted it out.

cough cough

This is GQ, so I’ll simply say that you’re not correct anymore when it comes to numerous jobs and we’ll leave it at that.

Not to be critical of your choises, but why the reserves and not the full Air Force. If you are going Air National Guard then you must have an intrest in flight, right? I am a private helicopter pilot, I tried to join the ANG (I’m too old to go regular AF rant for another time) so that I could fly relief for Ike in Houston. Apparently reservests are not allowed flight time. If you are truly interested in flying then the AF is the way to go, plus it’s a full time paycheck. If not then why the ANG?
Also, military trained pilots make a pretty decent wage in the civilian world.

Not true. I generally fly at least once a week. While I am not a pilot, I do have pilots that accumulate a considerable number of hours every year. I generally get more than 200 hours a year flying.

The potential exists for pilots to do well in the civilian world, but over the past few years the legacy carriers have been furloughing pilots in large numbers, so they end up doing most of their flying with the unit. We have guys that work for FedEx and UPS that do well and the people with seniority with the airlines are pretty secure, but our younger pilots often find themselves in a pretty tenuous position.

Regardless, people that enlist do not become pilots, so it’s not applicable in this case.

I need to check into that, the recruter told me that there wasn’t a chance to get any flight hours.:smack:

That may be true for fixed wing pilots, the helicopter industry is booming right now. A helicopter pilot with 1000 hours can make up to $100,000 /year depending on the type of experiance. :(Sadly I only have 200 hours and all in piston day VFR, when I get my commercial I will be at the bottom of the pay scale.

I wasn’t being snarky and thought I was agreeing with you… are you saying there are jobs where no training is required after basic, other than training during drill? That’s definitely GQ worthy. Do tell.

I want to thank everyone for the fantastic information! Keep it coming. Also, I was pleasantly surprised not to get any “omg youre gonna have to shoot Iraqi babies!!!” comments. I’m really glad to get some good advice from people who’ve been there. I have one friend who’s a Marine, but I haven’t told her my plans for ANG yet, because she’s a very gung-ho Marine and she’d just tell me I need to join the Marines. :stuck_out_tongue:

As for becoming a pilot, I’m not terribly interested in flying the aircraft (I wouldn’t mind flying in them, or working on them) and besides, I don’t think my vision is good enough, anyway.

I’m considering the ANG instead of regular Air Force because there’s a higher chance I’ll get to stay in NOLA most of the time instead of being moved from base to base. Of course, I could get deployed, etc. I also considered ROTC and going in as an officer, but right now I’m so sick of college that I think I’m going to need a break once I get my AA.

omg youre gonna have to shoot Iraqi babies!!! :smiley:

In today’s Air Force the vision issue is almost null and void, unless you plan on flying a fighter. I believe that even fighter pilots can use Lasik. The issue with the vision is that “pulling Gees” affects your vision so it is best to have perfect vision going into it. Most everyday piloting situations do not require pulling Gees.

As far as not wanting to be a pilot, it is one of the greatest joys of my life. If I had the opportunity to go back and change one thing, I would have joined the Air Force straight out of HS and stared to fly helicopters then. Now I am old (at least as far as they are concerned) and it is too late.

Not sure about the AF, but in the Coast Guard, you can do what they call “striking a rate.” This basically means on the job training, performing all the necessary qualifications in order to advance a pay grade and become what you will be, in lieu of technical school. A lot of seaman have no clue what they want to do. They can become boat crew qualified, then become boarding team qualified and presumable spend their drill weekend boarding boats and checking for poaching/drugs/faulty equipment, etc.

I go to corpsman school in June, since the health services technician rate isn’t strikeable. But, if I wanted to be, say a yeoman, or a boatswain’s mate, I could show up on my drill weekends, and work on my qualifications. Once I got everything signed off, and finished the time in pay grade, passed any tests, etc., I would then be advanced to E4 and be a Yeoman, BM, etc. I’d imagine “striking” takes a LOT longer to qualify in the Reserves, but I believe it can be done!

They have plenty of things for you to do while you’re fresh out of boot camp and lacking advanced training.

To the best of my knowledge LASIK is not yet approved for pilots or aircrew.

And vision is in fact an issue, one of my guys who passed his pilot board and was about to step to OTS failed his Class I flight physical due to a slight colorblindness problem that did not manifest itself for his entire life until he took the test down at Brooks. In spite of the fact that he has his private pilot’s license with an instrument rating he was rejected on that basis.

You can get by with vision correctable to 20/20 for a Class III, but not necessarily for a Class I.

You would not have been able to fly straight out of high school. You cannot be an officer without a college degree. They may accept you if you have a semester or two to go, but a degree is the minimum requirement to be an officer. Further, the Air Force does not have Warrant Officers, so that route would not have been available to you either.

My apologies, it appeared that you were. “…oh-so important” appeared to be sarcasm.

Few if any of our Services (read: chow hall) people go to tech school, and I do not believe that members of the regional military band go to tech school, either. I may be wrong about that, though. I’d have to look into it, though it’s a minor point at best.

Most jobs require specific training with the equipment/system that you will be using, however. Once that is done you’re on your own and you have only to fulfill your obligation. Like I said, though, that obligation may be much more than one weekend a month/ two weeks a year. If it concerns you greatly that you may have to show up more frequently than that, don’t take a job that demands it or don’t join the Guard.

I was active duty Air Force for 4 years. Had I been wise enough to stay in, I’d be retiring next month. Can’t tell you much about the Guard. Can tell you a bit about basic.

Assuming things haven’t changed all that much in the last 20 years, your friendly recruiter will show you a video about basic training. That video will show a smiling drill instructor greeting you warmly as you step off the bus at Lackland AFB on a bright sunshiny day. That video is 100% bullshit.

You will actually arrive at Lackland in the middle of the night, after a day of processing at your MEPS that started at o-dark-thirty the previous day. When the bus stops in front of your squadron, an enormous man, with a Smoky-the-Bear hat, glowing eyes, and flames coming from his nostrils will leap aboard the bus, launching into a tirade that will use the word “fuck” as more different parts of speach than you’d ever thought possible. He will then give you precisely two fucking seconds to de-ass his goddamn bus and fall in to a ragged formation. In said formation, a half dozen or so other drill instructors will scream obscenity and profanity at you for a half hour that lasts about a decade of subjective time. You’ll then enter your barracks, get assigned a bunk/locker, have all your stuff dumped on your bed and any “contraband” confiscated and likely consumed in front of you. More screaming, much swearing, some processing. You won’t be allowed to sleep until about 5 AM or so…and you’ll get rousted out for breakfast a short while later.

On the first couple of days, you will wonder what the hell you’ve done. Hang in there. The first week is the worst, and it gets better…but never pleasant. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t ask questions. Just follow the crowd and conform, quickly. When you graduate, you’ll have done something you can be proud of for the rest of your life. Basic is hard. It’s designed that way. Air Force basic is less so than Army, and definitely way less so than Marine boot camp.

Before you leave, watch the first half of Full Metal Jacket. Basic is very much like that, except without the hitting. After you leave basic, watch it again. The movie will be the funniest thing you’ve ever seen.