Military Mama: What’s the difference?

By Jade Stone

supportourtroops1.jpgPeople often ask “now is your husband regular Army or just National Guard?”

This always makes me laugh. It’s like saying “are you a pediatrician or just a general practioner?” — as if they both didn’t attend medical school. Likewise, Army and National Guard start out with the same training. It’s what they do next that distinguishes one from the other. It’s no fault of the individual for not understanding the difference and certainly the current conflict we have landed ourselves in hasn’t helped clarify matters in the least.

So I thought I might try to demystify the blur that makes up our armed forces! First it’s important to know that once a unit is in theatre (deployed), regardless as to whether it’s Army, Air Force, or National Guard, there is no distinction as to who is “regular” military or not. All of them work together to complete the mission at hand. Each individual is considered an active duty soldier.

I grew up on several different Army posts as a dependent (child) of a die-hard Sergeant Major who, though he retired after 22 years of active duty service, never actually left the military behind. That said, I can tell you from experience that when you are active duty Army, they make the rules and they tell you every move you will make for the duration of your term.

They can uproot you and your family at the drop of a hat with little consideration of what point the children might be at in school or the job situation of the spouse. Once you receive orders, you are simply to follow them. Most armed forces are very much the same. There are some things however, that you can count on happening like clockwork in the Army, 1) most likely you will be moved within 3-5 years and 2) when there is a conflict you will find yourself deployed. Those are very much given ideas.

The National Guard and The National Guard Reserve are slightly different beasts in that each state handles its own Guard in its own way. No two states are run exactly alike.  The Guard operates with the understanding that individuals will serve one weekend a month and at least 2 weeks in the summer.  It has also been the practice of the National Guard to come to the rescue in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency deemed worthy by the state. 

This conflict however, has proven very different from all the rest. A good portion of this war has been fought by the National Guard. And as a result, there are fewer guard units available to help with things like tornadoes and ice storms, and many units are put on orders repeatedly.

Unlike regular Army, there are fewer restrictions or maybe I should say more “loop holes” as to how often a guard unit can go back overseas. For example, the contract may say that “a unit may not be redeployed to this specific place within the next 18 months” so instead they are placed on different missions and sent to other places overseas so that all contracts are in fact honored.

Jay is actually a member of the National Guard and has been very fortunate to have only gone overseas once. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We got word this weekend that his unit will be preparing to go next year. That may seem like a long time off however, it’s not unheard of for deployments to be moved up without notice.  So you may have 6 months or 1 week to prepare. We were given 3 days notice to prepare for the first deployment.    

So as for the original statement, yes he is “just” National Guard, who manages two separate lives at once: a full time job here, a position with the Guard, and the knowledge that he will drop everything to complete a mission, regardless of the location, knowing full well that he may be walking into a war zone at anytime and does so with honor and pride. He gladly fulfills the same position while deployed as any other “regular” army soldier.  And thank goodness for those who are “just” National Guardsmen, for without them, there wouldn’t be enough soldiers to hold up the lines!  

Jade is a new blogger on Motherlode who welcomes your comments and suggestions for future posts. You may also email her at akajadestone AT yahoo DOT com. To read previous Military Mama posts, CLICK HERE.