Inside: Being a National Guard spouse is a challenging and unique life. Learn 7 things I never expected when marrying a National Guard service member.
The National Guard has been the conundrum of the military world since their establishment in 1636. Each state has a National Guard that’s governed by the governor of the state, not the president.
Because the majority of National Guard service members have the “one weekend a month” type position it adds a level of complexity that was often difficult for me to grasp in the beginning stages of my marriage and spouse’s career.
What many don’t tell you is how amazing, fulfilling–and completely and totally frustrating–it can be to be married to a National Guard service member.
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1. The National Guard plays by big boy rules.
The National guard has its own way of doing things. The options for one’s career path are virtually limitless, but very much up to the service member. Often service members are overwhelmed by a plethora of options that can all affect one’s family life so very differently.
If your spouse wants to promote, it’s partially up to them to find a paragraph and line number for that promotion. It’s also not what you know necessarily, it’s who you know. Networking is essential in the Guard!
2. Your healthcare…it’s complicated.
While we certainly get a great deal (especially compared to Obama care) it’s certainly not free. In fact, the majority (if not all) of your drill paycheck will go towards paying for medical and vision insurance.
If you want dental, you will need to make that happen. We all must pay for that out of pocket whether you’re full time or not.
There are different sections of Tricare for active duty, national guard, a technician position, etc. All have different rules for where you can be seen. It takes a bit to get used to, but it all makes sense in its own way.
3. It’s lonely sometimes.
Because it’s predominately a part-time organization, it’s difficult to build a tribe of like-minded military families when you don’t ever see them!
You’re essentially an “adult third culture kid”. This phrase was coined to describe kids and adults who move from culture-to-culture before they really have an opportunity to assimilate into that culture.
You don’t fit into the full-time military world, but you don’t fit in the civilian world either. You’re in a world all your own!
You can’t always expect the FRG (Family Readiness Group) to reach out to you. Yes, it’s kind of their job, but in a majority of places the FRG is a shell of an organization and might need a spark (your spark) to light it up the way it needs to be run.
If you want friends, go find them. Also, with being a “adult third culture kid”, many won’t understand you. Just because your family might be M-Day or Traditional, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have many of the same FRG, FAS, FAC issues that active duty does. Our spouses still get deployed, sent to schools, sent on TDY’s, and we still miss them just the same.
4. You’re more in control of the lifestyle you want.
This is my favorite part about the Guard. I get to be in control! This is great for those type A personalities that like to have everything a certain way. If you don’t want the military to be a huge part of your life, that’s fine! That’s absolutely your choice.
If you want it to be a huge part of your day-to-day, then you can do that too. It’s completely up to you how much you want to dive into the military life. You get to design your life around your family’s unique needs and desires.
5. Your spouse will work a lot more than one weekend a month.
Inevitably there will be a problem with your pay, or Tricare, or other issues that you or your spouse will have to pop into your unit for. This is separate from drill and separate from the full-time job that your spouse has. They will also have to train on their own time as well. This can include PT, range time, professional development, etc.
6. Oh…the uniform.
Seriously, we can never get enough of our spouses in uniform, right?! Sure, my lace unmentionables don’t like all the Velcro, but that’s a small price to pay for seeing my husband rocking his OCP and that maroon beret.
7. Full-time National Guard orders are the best kept secret in the US Government.
Full-time (AGR) orders are literally the best of both worlds. Sure, we have to deal with Tricare enrollments again, but the National Guard can put a soldier on so many different types or orders to ensure that your family is taken care of.
As AGR we get the same pay and benefits as active duty military members. Depending on the type of full time orders (AGR, ADOS, technician, etc), there are opportunities to have that full time full pay/benefits while being able to do something fun and exciting (operator) one weekend a month, and still have the office job during the week.
At the end of the day, the National Guard is a great organization with some great opportunities! It is what you make it though. It can be great if you make it great, and it will be terrible if you allow it to be terrible.
The National Guard plays by “big boy” rules, where you and your spouse get to be in complete control of your life, your future, and how big of a part the National Guard plays in your life.