Guard/Reserve Hiring Overview
You’ve heard about all those good deals in the Air National Guard/AF Reserve – great locations, good benefits… and you’d like to continue flying when you leave active duty. Where do you start?
First, arm yourself with some basic information on your options in the Guard/Reserve – this page is a great start, and there are lots of links to in-depth sources for any additional questions you may have. Second, research the units you may be interested in – you can get a list of units sorted by a number of criteria on this page (above). Also, browse through some of our guard unit and reserve unit pages. Finally, check out the Resources section on the left side of this page for job vacancy listings. NOTE: This basic information will be helpful to anyone seeking a Guard/Reserve job – whether coming from active duty or not. However, those specifically seeking to go to UPT via the Guard may also want to check out the UPT board listings (above) and our guide to getting an Air National Guard pilot slot. Good luck!
I. Alphabet Soup: The Myriad Ways to Go Guard/Reserve
II. The Pay System Maze
III. Retirement and Other Benefits
IV. Finding – and Getting – a Guard/Reserve Job
V. Guard or Reserve?
Alphabet Soup: The Myriad Ways to Go Guard/Reserve
What kind of guardsman/reservist do you want to be?
As you begin searching for jobs in the guard or reserve, you have to first figure out how much and in what way you want to participate in the guard/reserve. Do you want to be full-time or part-time? Military or civil service? Be in a guard/reserve unit or attached to an active duty unit? Below we've explained the major types of guard/reserve service, beginning with the most like active duty and ending with the most like regular civilian life.
Active Guard/Reserve (AGR)
This is one of two types of guard or reserve slots that may be referred to as 'full-time.' As AGR, you are in the guard or reserve but are on active duty, assigned to your guard or reserve unit. All active duty benefits apply, including the retirement at 20 years of active service. There remain a few differences from your active duty brethren. The first is those pesky PCS moves – you won’t move unless you want to, or something (e.g. BRAC) happens to your unit. Of course this only applies to AGR jobs that are more or less permanent – some AGR jobs are for a specified term, such as a year, and obviously you’d have to move and/or find another AGR job once the term expired. (Once in the AGR program, you have preference for other AGR positions over others trying to get an AGR job, which helps you reach your 20 years). The second is the UCMJ – if you’re an AGR in the AF Reserve, it’s the same as being active duty – you fall under the UCMJ. If you’re AGR in the Guard, however, you are active duty in that state’s ANG and fall under the state’s code (if any). As an AGR in the ANG you may be eligible for additional benefits (such as free in-state tuition) offered by that state’s ANG, also. The state-specific characteristic of the ANG is one of a few differences between the Guard and Reserve – for more, see the Guard or Reserve? section below.
Air Reserve Technician (ART)
This is the second type of guard or reserve slot that is referred to as 'full-time.' ARTs are federal civil service employees of their units for whom participating in the unit as a traditional reservist is a condition of employment. During the week ARTs work in the same job they fill on drill weekends, but for civil service pay (even though they wear uniforms to work). Think of ARTs as traditional reservists who happen to also be employed by the unit as civilians during the week. It’s worth noting that working for the unit as both a reservist and a civilian employee can be tough – you might fly a night training mission and have to be at your ‘civilian’ ART job at 0730 the next morning. You do receive civilian leave (with pay) while on active duty (for annual training, for example).
Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA)
IMAs are in the AF Reserve only. This category isn't as applicable for flyers, but for the sake of completeness we thought we'd include it. As the name suggests, IMAs are individual reservists who do not belong to a reserve unit, but instead are attached to active duty units for training. The minimum requirements are very similar to those for traditional reservists, but the schedule can be much more flexible than in a traditional guard/reserve unit. For example, instead of completing a weekend training session with an entire guard/reserve unit, you could schedule your training anytime the active duty unit is at work, as well as potentially on weekends. There are rated IMA jobs, but they’re mostly staff positions.
This is the classic "weekend warrior" job. Most of the time, you're a civilian enjoying the wonders of regular life, but about once a month you’ll gather with your unit for a training weekend (called a Unit Training Assembly – UTA) and once a year you’ll complete a two-week annual training. As a flyer, you will have additional training periods for specific flying training requirements. The minimum requirements don’t add up to too much, but of course if your unit gets activated/mobilized you are on the hook for active duty in support of contingency operations. If you complete 20 years of satisfactory service (which means meeting the minimum training requirements during your reserve years and includes your active duty years) you are eligible to retire from the reserve and receive retirement pay at age 60. The amount of the retirement pay depends on your grade, time in service, and the points you accumulated – for more see the Retirement and Other Benefits section below.
The "Guard Bum"
Okay, so this isn't an official category. But it's worth noting that "traditional" guardsmen, reservists or IMAs can often work so many active duty days (usually MPA tours - see “The Pay System Maze,” below) that they're practically on active duty. According to the Air Force Reserve Handbook, reserve aircrews average more than 125 duty days a year. If you manage to pull enough active duty time, you could actually qualify for an active duty retirement – you just have to accumulate 20 years worth of Total Federal Active Military Service. For more information on active duty retirements for guardsmen/reservists, click here.
Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR)
Once you separate from active duty, you're still not 100% a civilian... if you have a Military Service Obligation, you're technically in the IRR. Though you don't train, you can be called to "muster" duty once a year, which is at least 2 hours (but one day or less) for which you'll get paid a lump sum payment. Otherwise, this is normal civilian life - although subject to recall. Just remember - as a commissioned officer, you're in the IRR until you resign your commission.
A Few Other Terms You May Find Useful
Ready Reserve – Reservists who may be called to active duty under a Presidential recall Includes the Selected Reserve and IRR.
Selected Reserve - Includes all members who train regularly and are paid for their participation – ARTs, IMAs and traditional reservists.
Standby Reserve – Reservists whose civilian jobs are considered key to national defense, or who have a temporary hardship/disability, etc. Only Congress can recall the Standby Reserve, under a full mobilization.
Retired Reserve – Reservists who have met the requirements for retired pay but have not yet turned 60 (called “Gray Area Retirees”) as well as those receiving retirement pay. Only Congress can recall the Retired Reserve, under a full mobilization.
What are My Chances of Getting the Type of Job I Want?
If, as you were reading, you thought AGR sounded like a pretty swell deal, you’re not alone. There aren’t many AGR jobs out there, so they’re correspondingly hard to come by and very competitive. Most of the AGR jobs are filled internally within the unit. All the same – never give up! Someone has to fill them – but realistically expect to serve as a traditional guardsman/reservist first. This chart gives you the number of each “type” of officer assigned in the AF Reserve, just to give you an idea. You can see all the AF Reserve AGR officer authorizations here – NOTE that these are authorizations, not vacancies, but it’ll give you an idea of the types of AGR jobs that exist. For links to job vacancies (AGR and otherwise), see the Finding – and Getting – a Guard/Reserve Job section below.
|AGR||Full-time active duty.||Active duty retirement at 20 years of active service.||Same as active duty.|
|ART||Full-time civil service employment PLUS part-time traditional requirements.||Civil service retirement (if requirements met) plus reserve retirement pay at 60.||Civil service pay (GS scale) plus same pay for reserve duty as traditional reservist.|
|IMA/Traditional||Minimum one weekend (or two days) a month plus approximately 2 weeks a year. Can volunteer for more.||Reserve retirement pay at 60 (if you have 20 years combined active/reserve service). Amount depends on points awarded for inactive and active duty service. If you manage to pull enough active duty time, could possibly qualify for active duty retirement.||Same pay as active duty for active duty days. 1/30th of base pay and flight pay for each inactive period.|
|IRR||None, except for possibility of ‘muster’ duty once a year.||N/A||N/A (except muster pay)|
The Pay System Maze
Understanding Reserve Pay and Duty Statuses
When you put on your uniform and go to work in the Reserve, you'll be in one of many pay/duty statuses. We can't explain them all, but we can give you the basics. For any detailed questions, you can contact Air Reserve Personnel Center’s (ARPC) Online Customer Support here. The most important distinction is between inactive duty status/pay and active duty status/pay. For the ART folks, of course, there's also civilian pay.
Inactive Duty Pay – For each period, 1/30 x (base pay + flight pay)
- IDT - Inactive Duty Training periods. Each period is at least four hours (can be more, in the case of flying training, when a sortie lasts longer than four hours). The four-hour IDT period gets you one day's worth of base pay - pretty swell! IDTs are typically served in the following ways:
- UTA - Unit Training Assemblies. This is the "one weekend a month" you hear about in the recruiting commercials. Guard/reserve units schedule their own UTAs, typically there are 4 IDTs per weekend UTA.
- AFTP - Additional Flying Training Periods. There is a limit to the number of periods that can be accomplished each year, but these additional four-hour periods are for currency/proficiency training requirements not accomplished during the UTA.
- Non-paid IDT - Additional IDTs for certain activities (working with Civil Air Patrol, as an example) for which you earn retirement credit but no $$$. Reservists can do non-paid IDTs as an additional duty or in order to earn enough points to for a satisfactory retirement year while searching for a new assignment.
- Travel pay: You do not typically get travel pay and allowances for IDTs.
- Retirement credit: Each IDT is worth one retirement point. In a traditional reserve weekend, you would receive 4 retirement points (as well as 4 days worth of base pay!).
Active Duty Pay – Base pay, flight/incentive pay, and all allowances
- There are a number of different ways to serve active duty days as a reservist. Each day gets you 1/30 of complete active duty pay (including all allowances and incentive pays such as BAH, BAS, hazardous duty, etc).
- The types of active duty days you can serve as a reservist include:
- AT - Annual Training. This is the required 12/14 days (IMA/unit) you must serve on active duty. This is the "two weeks a year" mentioned in the recruiting commercials. You can substitute other active duty days for AT in some cases (such as when you filled in for an active duty AEF rotation or something along those lines).
- MPA - Military Personnel Authorization days. When you hear reservists talking about working 'mandays' this is typically what they're referring to. MPA days support the active duty force and are typically short-term assignments (such as a deployment or working 2 days/week for a specified time).
- ADS/ADSW - Active Duty Special Work days. These are the same as MPA days, except instead of supporting an active duty unit, you're supporting a reserve unit or reserve activity - but you're still on active duty.
- ADT - Active Duty for Training tours. This would be your pay/duty status to attend UPT, for example.
- Travel pay: You may or may not receive travel pay (per diem, etc) depending on the location and duration of the assignment. (For example, you are not ordinarily authorized travel pay if the location is within 'commuting distance' of your home address).
- Retirement credit: Each active duty day is worth one point towards retirement.
- Pay: As an ART, you get paid according to the federal GS (civil service) schedule. Each position will have a GS grade associated with it, which determines the base salary (there are also locality adjustments). Within each grade there are ‘steps. You move up in steps and/or grade based on time and experience. You can find more info on GS pay scales here. A note on the civilian pay system – generally it differs from active duty in that your hours must be more strictly accounted for. For example, you cannot take a wing ‘down day’ without using leave. Of course that also means that you’re compensated if you work beyond the 8-hour day.
- Retirement: As a civil service employee, you qualify for a federal civil service retirement (separate from the standard traditional reservist retirement). You can credit your military service towards your federal retirement (this requires a monetary deposit into the federal retirement system).
Retirement and Other Benefits
Reserve retirement is a complex beast, but as an outline:
- If you complete the equivalent of 20 years of active service (e.g. active duty plus AGR time or active duty plus enough active duty days) you qualify for the standard active duty 20-year retirement – click here for more information on active duty retirements from the Guard/Reserve.
- In order to retire in the reserves, you must have 20 years of combined active and reserve service. You MUST earn 50 points a year (called a Retention/Retirement (R/R) year, beginning each year on the anniversary of your entry into the reserves) for that year to count as a year of reserve service. (More on points in a bit).
- You can retire at any point after having met the requirements but you will not receive retirement pay until age 60. From the time you retire until age 60 you are considered a “gray area retiree.”
- The amount of your retirement is based on points:
- You earn 15 points a year just for being a member of the reserve… these are “free” points.
- You earn 1 point for each IDT. If you meet only the 48-IDT minimum requirement for the year (4 IDTs = 2 days), you’d earn 48 points. You can serve additional IDTs (and may be required to, as a flyer) but the maximum INACTIVE duty points you can count towards retirement is 90 points (including your 15 “free” points).
- You earn 1 point for each active duty day. All active duty points are creditable towards retirement.
- Once you retire, your grade, time in service and points all go into a formula to determine your retirement pay. You can check out the formula here and a retirement pay calculator here.
- Once you turn 60 and start drawing retirement pay, you and your family are eligible for the same TRICARE programs as active duty retirees.
- ARTs qualify for civil service retirements, if requirements are met. You can credit your active duty service towards BOTH your civil service retirement and your reserve retirement (but not both towards a civil service retirement and an active duty retirement).
There have been recent changes to the laws regarding medical coverage for guardsmen/reservists, so make sure to talk to a TRICARE service center with any specific questions. You can locate TRICARE service centers as well as email addresses and toll-free numbers here. Essentially, you have two types of coverage – automatic coverage and TRICARE Reserve Select, which you can purchase under certain circumstances:
- Automatic coverage
- Anytime on military duty, you’re covered with respect to any injury/illness, etc. received while on duty (or traveling to/from… this includes IDT).
- If ordered to active duty for greater than 30 days, both you and your family members are eligible for comprehensive TRICARE coverage, with the same options as active duty.
- If ordered to active duty for greater than 30 days in support of a contingency you’re also eligible for “early” (pre-mobilization, up to 90 days) and transitional (post-mobilization, under the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) up to 180 days) coverage.
- TRICARE Reserve Select
- To be eligible to purchase, you must fit in three eligibility categories (called "tiers"). The premiums rise as the eligibility criteria get less stringent. For example, if you qualify based on contingency deployments, your premium will be less than if you qualify under other criteria (e.g. your employer does not offer health insurance).
- Years of coverage guardsman/reservist is eligible to purchase is dependent on amount of time served.
- Purchased for a monthly premium (member only and member/family plans available)… like any health insurance, there are deductibles and co-pays, etc.
- Click here for more information on TRICARE Reserve Select.
- There may be a few other programs available to you. Click here for a complete outline of health benefits available to the reserve component.
With recent changes by Congress, even just being in the IRR qualifies you for many miscellaneous military-related benefits such as use of base facilities, BX/commissary shopping, lodging, etc. As a non-activated reservist you can even fly SpaceA, although limited to the CONUS and to/from U.S. territories (and, of course, you’re last in line in priority).
Finding – and Getting – a Guard/Reserve Job
Where Do You Start Looking?
There are about as many ways to find guard/reserve jobs as there are jobs… but we have links to all of them (except word of mouth – you’ll have to work on that one yourself…). In general things are much more centralized for the AF Reserve than for the Air National Guard. Here are the major listings:
- Reserve Management Vacancy System (RMVS) – Lists unit and IMA jobs in the AF Reserve. You must login to the AFPC website to use this site, then click on “Reserve Management Vacancy System” or "Reserve Vacancies."
- AF Reserve AGR Vacancy Listing – The AGR Listing now resides on the Air Force Portal in the Communities section.
- ART Vacancy Listing – Links to a list of ART vacancies in the AF Reserve as well as other resources for ART applications.
- Overall ARPC Assignments Page – Provides general info on jobs in the AF Reserve.
- ANG Careers Page – Links to each state’s career page (for AGR and ART listings) as well as linking to the ANG headquarters AGR/ART vacancy listing.
- ANG Part-Time Openings – This is the ANG Recruiting site which lists SOME ANG openings.This listing is by category (career field) but you can also search by state, etc.
- Volunteer Reserve System (VRS) - A listing of active duty tours available to guardsmen/reservists - i.e. for part-timers or "guard bums" looking for some active duty days. (You must have an AF Portal account to use this listing).
- Word of mouth – ask around! If you hear of a unit accepting applications, help out the community by posting the information on our guard and reserve unit pages!
What is the Application Process Like?
The application package required will vary by type of job and from unit to unit. Here are some basic guidelines/links. For a traditional part-time rated position, the following will generally be required:
- Most units will NOT hire someone “off the street” for a full-time AGR or ART position; these will usually be filled by individuals already serving as a traditional guardsman/reservist within the unit. If you really want to get into the Guard/Reserve, don’t set your sights only on full-time positions.
- Guard/reserve units are looking for people who will remain with them for some time… make sure to highlight your ties to the area and make them confident that you want to live there for awhile.
- This almost goes without saying, but – work personal contacts as much as possible! Nothing can help you more than having a contact in the unit (assuming it’s someone who will speak highly of you!) If you get the chance to work with guard/reserve units while on active duty, take advantage of it – make connections.
Guard or Reserve?
Which should you choose?
If you ask 10 people, you’d probably get 10 different answers on whether or not the Guard and Reserve are all that different, whether or not one is better than the other, et cetera. Essentially, it really depends on the unit. But there are some broad-brush differences that are highlighted in the below table so you can get a feel for whether you’d prefer one over the other...
|Air National Guard||Just worth noting that the ANG has a state mission, too, which includes disaster response, etc.||Transferring between units in different states requires release from one state’s ANG and appointment in the other state’s ANG.||Offers the same benefits as any other Reserve Component, plus any benefits offered by the state. (For example, some states offer free in-state tuition or an extra state retirement pay to their ANG members).|
|Air Force Reserve||Wider range of missions and aircraft than in the ANG. Ability to work as an IMA offers more flexibility and more staff/joint work opportunities.||Reassignment within the AF Reserve is done by the Reserve MPF Relocations element, similar process to active duty (except you have to volunteer!)||No ‘extra’ benefits for being in the AF Reserve.|