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7 Misconceptions of the National Guard

There was a time in my life when I knew nothing about the National Guard. All I knew was what I learned in history class about their role with the Little Rock Nine. I also knew that I saw them after tornado outbreaks in my state.

As a child, I grew up with a strong sense of pride in the military, although I’d never heard of the National Guard until later in life. My grandpa was active-duty Air Force and served more than 20 years. He was deployed all over the world and was a Korean and Vietnam war veteran. When it came time to retire, he couldn’t get away from the Air Force and planes. He spent his time volunteering as a tour guide for the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. During my grandpa’s time in the military, my grandma was always at his side or living near him. She traveled the world with him. Even Elvis was on a boat with my grandma as they traveled to Germany. My grandma had children all over the world with my grandpa; from Japan, Germany, France, and the United States (Las Vegas and Omaha). Through their stories, I painted a picture of what all military life looked like and how a military spouse played into that world.

I was so wrong.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2019, when my husband talked about his desire to join the National Guard, that I realized I needed to know more to be able to support him and his desire to serve.

At the time, I had a wonderful fellow teacher who had experience with the National Guard. Her husband is currently in the Guard, and she explained some of their experiences to me, but not much can prepare you for what life will look like until you have personally experienced it. Before my husband joined, he told me what I’ve heard before about the Guard: “Just one weekend a month and the two weeks during the summer.”

Goodness, that’s far from what we experienced in his short time in the Guard.

As I dipped my toes into Guard life as a spouse, I soon realized I wasn’t alone in what I felt. Other Guard spouses felt the same way but weren’t speaking out or didn’t felt heard when they shared their struggles or discussed misconceptions.

With the help of other Guard spouses, I compiled a list of the most common misconceptions of the National Guard and of being a National Guard spouse.

1. The National Guard is not considered part of the military.

Yes, they’re part of the military. Our service members go to the same trainings and schools as active-duty service members. While active-duty service members answer to the president of the United States, the National Guard answers to the governor of their state and the president of the United States. When the National Guard swears in, they are the only ones who have two constitutions to protect.

2. The National Guard doesn’t deploy or help during times of unrest.

This is a heartbreaking misconception because so many precious lives have been lost during deployments. In fact, the National Guard has participated in every U.S. conflict (Kennedy, 2021). Besides being the first to fight for our country as “Minutemen,” they also served in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. After 9-11, more than 500,000 Guard service members were sent overseas for federal missions. Besides overseas missions, the National Guard also has boots on the ground here in the United States, activated during major historical protests, natural disaster search and rescue, and most recently, the Capitol riots.

3. They’re only away “one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.”

My husband has been in since October 2019, and I can say this is beyond untrue. So far, he was gone during the very start of the pandemic in the U.S. When he finished basic training in March 2020, he had no idea what was going on in the world. They told him nothing. He was in the second class to have virtual graduation and was only told that a virus was the reason—his battalion didn’t know how big of an impact COVID-19 was having on the world. After BCT, he arrived home to a world that seemed to come out of the script of The Twilight Zone. We have yet to see just a “weekend” drill. The drill weekends have always been longer. Don’t forget the “two-week summer” that doesn’t take into account the time to get to their locations (usually out of state), so it amounts to practically 3 to 3.5 weeks away. Also, the trainings and schools are the same as active duty, so they’re gone during that time as well. For my husband, that was most of spring of 2021 for Officer Candidate School, and he is slotted to be gone for five or six months in the spring of 2022 for the Basic Officer Leader Course.

4. National Guard service doesn’t impact the spouse.

This misconception is harsh. What is hard is the lack of community spouses have because we don’t live near an installation. There is also a huge gap of information that isn’t easily available for what our service members are doing or what we need to do because it is written mostly for active-duty families. Our civilian friends (meaning no military connection) have a hard time relating with us and so do our active-duty friends. At times we feel as if we’re in two different worlds (military and civilian), where we don’t really belong fully in either. This leads to a lot of loneliness and isolation. From the personal experience of my husband and his friends, many of them are in units that are anywhere from two to five hours away from home, so feeling connected is almost impossible.

5. Many National Guard families don’t PCS, so must be easier.

This bothers me. As a military spouse, we should lift one another up rather than comparing who has it harder. We all have different struggles, but helping to educate each other on our struggles how we can connect to form one big bond. Yes, my family will most likely not PCS, but we (along with) other Guard families have experienced different stress (depending on jobs and promotions, some Guard families do PCS). We all experience stress; it just looks different.

6. The benefits are the same.

Yes and no. Yes, we can receive Tricare, but we pay monthly for it. Other benefits only kick in within a certain amount of days activated. Which makes sense, unless the service member’s orders are cut into sections making the days not count as consecutive days. That means they are gone the same amount of time but may have three separate orders, thus not having any of their benefits kick in fully.

7. A National Guard member’s civilian job will not be impacted their service.

Unfortunately, this is sad because their jobs are often impacted. While it’s illegal to fire someone due to their military service, that doesn’t mean their bosses and coworkers fully understand or are willing to help. I had a spouse reach out to me who said her husband was let go when he returned from training. While it wasn’t in writing that it was because he was serving, he was told in person. She said they wished they pursued legal action against his employer, but it would be hard to prove. While it’s true that they’re gone, it’s also true that this can impact their civilian careers. Once again, a foot in both worlds. This misconception also impacts our National Guard members’ ability to adjust back into civilian mode after being in military mode. For example, my husband returns from trainings and usually only has a day to switch back into the medical field (which involves quickly reading up on the latest COVID updates and updates within his workplace).

While misconceptions are still swirling around about the National Guard and their role within our military, I can attest that they are proud of their service. Their families are proud of their devotion to not only their country, state, and civilian jobs but also to their families. The National Guard has an amazing history and continues to grow. I encourage you to take time to read some of their history or ask a National Guard member about their experience. As a spouse, acknowledge each other’s pains and difficulties instead of one-upping each other…we are all in this together.


A special thank you to my lovely National Guard spouses that helped by sharing their experiences with me.


If you liked this post, check out We Aren’t Just Weekend Warriors and We Wish You Knew: Feelings From Home.



  1. Sharita Knobloch

    Brooklyn, have I told you lately how thankful I am that you are on our CO team and sharing your NG milspouse experiences? I confess that as an active duty spouse, I really didn’t understand all the in’s and out’s and stresses/pressures that our NG counterparts faced as well. I completely agree with you that we can’t compare “who has it worse” because that’s untrue and unhelpful. I’m thankful we are all in this together, and our differences in experience can unite and empower us!

  2. Kelly

    Brook, thank you for this perspective! My husband has been in the Army Reserves for 31 years (I have been married to the Army Reserves for 12) and we are in a very similar situation – one foot civilian, one foot military. 4 years ago we moved close to an Army Base and I started to see the community and support that was there. It was amazing!! As a Reserve spouse I didn’t think there were many resources available to me. After digging and asking lots of questions, I found this was a misconception and the fact is that there are resources (education, childcare, healthcare etc) available for Reserve and National Guard families but there are REAL challenges to share and get information because we aren’t in one location/installation and the processes/resources are different than our Active Duty counterparts. Thank you for bringing to light the need for us to be creative to create community with one another. Military Spouse Advocacy Network has been a great way for me to connect with other Reserve and NG spouses and it has provided opportunities to ask questions and get answers.


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