By Buddy Blouin
What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to the military, quite a lot. For example, when comparing the National Guard vs. Reserves, you wouldn’t want to mix up the two. Yet, from the outside looking in, this can be an easy mix-up to make. The truth is, there are plenty of similarities between them; however, there are several differences, as well. Get to know more as we compare the Reserves vs. National Guard, all part of the multi-faceted military that keeps the United States safe.

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What’s the Difference Between National Guard and Reserves?

You’re going to find plenty of similarities when comparing the National Guard vs. Reserves, including the fact that, technically, the Army National Guard and the Reserves are both part of the U.S. military reserve forces. But don’t get it twisted; there are plenty of differences between the two, and by two, we actually mean several. Remember that every branch of the military except for the U.S. Space Force has reserves. Here are some of the differences between the two:


One of the main differences between National Guard and Reserves is where they serve. The National Guard is a military force based in each state. The Reserves are controlled on a federal level. You’ll also note that if you are in the Reserves, you may have to move depending on whether or not you are called to active duty. Guardsmen live within the same state in which they serve.


You’ll find the National Guard working during states of emergency. They respond when there are natural disasters or riots, provide security, and help with similar functions. The Reserves are there to help support active-duty military if there is war or a nationwide crisis.


You’ll find the National Guard in two branches. Both the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard units stand ready to assist states however is needed. But the Reserves are a part of every branch except America’s newest one, the Space Force.

Time Commitments

The amount of time you’re looking at when serving in a Reserve vs. National Guard capacity can be similar in the fact that both are still troops required to work prescribed periods each month with a few yearly commitments. Where they differ, however, is that the nature of such commitments can change when the call of duty is needed. For example, you’d spend a lot more time serving in the Army Reserve vs. National Guard if there were a war in which Reserves were needed. Furthermore, Guardsmen spend more time active during national emergencies.

Which Has More Benefits: Army Reserves vs. National Guard?

Comparing the benefits of the National Guard vs. Army Reserve can be tricky. Both offer great benefits to their members, including the following:
  • Education assistance.
  • Healthcare benefits.
  • Career assistance.
  • Retirement.
  • Life insurance.
But because benefits for the National Guard can vary from state to state, you’ll notice there can be discrepancies. The Reserves, on the other hand, are handled by the Federal government.

Choosing Between the Two

When choosing between, say, the Air Force Reserve vs. Air National Guard, or any other Reserve unit, there are a few things to consider:
  • If moving is okay with you and your family, the Reserves presents more of an opportunity. The National Guard, however, is a great option for those looking to stay rooted where they are.
  • How do you want to serve? If serving overseas on the battlefield when needed is for you, then you’ll want to join the Reserves. Is helping your fellow Americans during a crisis more your speed? Then the National Guard is a great fit.
  • Overall, Guardsmen usually serve for longer periods of time; however, if there is a war that requires the Reserves, this notion can flip-flop.
  • If developing your career is important, you should note that when comparing the Army Reserves vs. National Guard, the Reserves has more opportunities.

Comparing National Guard vs. Reserves Is a Great Step Toward Serving

If you’re looking to serve in the United States military but believe doing so in a more limited capacity would better suit you, there are plenty of options available to you. Comparing the National Guard vs. Reserves is a big decision, but it's ultimately one that can help you on your path of defending and serving your country.

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The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. Left Photo by Zachary Lehr Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs Office | Right Photo by Sgt. Carolyn Hart 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public




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