Five years ago, my husband transitioned from an active duty soldier to the Army National Guard. This change happened overnight. One day he was on active duty, the next, we were adapting to the changes that come with being a Guard family. After the first few months, he found a civilian job and started to live the “citizen soldier” life.
If you are about to make the change from active duty status to the National Guard, here are five differences you will see:
One of the biggest changes is your health insurance. While being in the National Guard means you still have TRICARE, you no longer have the same type. We changed from TRICARE Prime to TRICARE Reserve Select and pay about $221.00 a month for our family. We also have co-pays that we didn’t have before.
When my husband was active duty, he wore the uniform Monday through Friday, every week. As a Guardsman, he still wears a military uniform, but it is not an everyday thing. Sometimes, watching him start to pack for a drill week can bring back all of those active duty memories. We can get used to him working his civilian job, and then, he brings out the uniform and I am reminded that he is still very much a member of the US military.
Although we still live in the Fort Campbell area, many who go from active duty to the National Guard move away from the military community. This can be very difficult because it can feel like everyone around you doesn’t understand your lifestyle. It may also be isolating when you can’t find others with a military connection after you were surrounded by them at your last duty station. And that part of this transition can be difficult for many people.
One option is to look for virtual groups created by other military spouses, like InDependent or Hiring Our Heroes Professional Military Spouse Network.
When your spouse is active duty, you get used to seeing a direct deposit on the 1st and 15th of the month. While your spouse will be earning money with their civilian job, learning the new pay schedule can take time. Your spouse will be paid after their monthly drills, about a week after they get home. The amount will depend on how long the drill weekend was as well as their rank.
There is a common misconception that the National Guard doesn’t deploy, or doesn’t deploy as much – that isn’t true. However, when they do get slated for a deployment, it will be a little different than when they deployed on active duty. For example, they might be away from you a little longer for pre-deployment training that goes right into a deployment.
You also might not have the support of the FRG directly in your own community. When your spouse is active duty, spouses also going through the deployment will live near you. In the Guard, you could be miles and miles away from any other spouse.
TIP: It is helpful to participate in Yellow Ribbon events, even if you have attended before, because you will not only get the most current information but you will meet others who will be experiencing the deployment.
There will also be changes to pay, TRICARE, and what benefits you can receive when they deploy.
While this type of change can be overwhelming know that being a National Guard spouse can be a really amazing role to have. You will still be a military spouse, you will still stand by and support your service member, and you will have some of the same challenges and joys that you used to have when you were an active duty spouse.
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