Seven Reserve Components of the Military

Reserve Components

Despite what you may believe, the full-time, active-duty Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard does not function alone. When considering the structure of military, you may be leaving out a huge piece of the military puzzle, the support factor from its reserve components.

As I like to say, life in the military is a world all on its own. It’s a complex organization, and there’s so much to know about it. That’s why in today’s article, We’ll unpack the layers of support the active-duty military receives so you can better understand how they work together to form the best and most powerful military in the world.

Military Support Works Like Sports

If you love sports, you’ll love what we’re about to say here.

In professional wrestling, specifically a tag-team wrestling match, there comes a time when a wrestler must “tag in” a teammate by the hand to take on an opponent.

In football, baseball, basketball, and other sports, coaches make substitutions to bring other players onto the field or court to replace other players.

Likewise, when the U.S. Armed Forces needs more manpower, the President and Secretary of Defense will “tag in,” substitute, or call up reservists and guard members from the seven reserve components of the military in support of unique missions and operations.

These acts of tagging in, substituting, and calling up others for support is a strategy to keep the mission moving forward. This is why the military has reserve and guard components in place to support the active-duty military.

National Guard and Reserve Components of the Military

Reserve Components

Every branch of the military has at least a reserve or national guard component. Well, except for the sixth and newest branch of the U.S. military established on December 20, 2019, Space Force.

Below are the seven reserve components providing support to the active-duty military of the United States:

  1. The Army National Guard
  2. The Army Reserve
  3. The Air Force Reserve
  4. The Air National Guard
  5. The Navy Reserve
  6. The Marine Corps Reserve
  7. The Coast Guard Reserve

As you can see, the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard do not have national guard units. Each Guard and Reserve has its own unique history and mission, and they offer various ways for people to join the military and serve.

When you join the guard or reserve, expect to work one weekend a month and two to three weeks full time in the summertime.  Also, know that you can get “activated” into full time service for both peacekeeping and wartime missions.

Let’s take a look at each one below:

1. Army National Guard

Reserve Components

The Army National Guard is an essential component of the military founded in 1636, making it older than the U.S. Army.

The guard started out as a citizen force organized to protect the community – families and towns from hostile attack. Today, Citizen-Soldiers protect the home front and the nation.

The oldest Army National Guard units can be found in the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Learn more about the Army National Guard and locate the Army National Guard in your state.

2. Army Reserve

The Army Reserve is the dedicated Federal Reserve Force of the Army.

Initially beginning as the Medical Reserve Corps in 1908, after World War I, Congress reorganized U.S. land forces with the U.S. Army, Army National Guard and an Organized Reserve. This organized reserve included officers reserve corps, enlisted reserve corps, and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Today, the Organized Corps is the Army Reserve, which covers more than 20 time zones with more than 200,000 soldiers who is capable, combat-ready, and lethal.

Learn more about the Army Reserves and learn how to join at the official U.S. Army Reserve website.

3. Air Force Reserve

Reserve Components

The Air Force Reserve was formed in 1948 by President Harry S. Truman. Since then, it has been a crucial part of the nation’s defense with the mission to provide forces that Fly, Fight, and Win.

The Air Force Reserve contains 69,000+ members. 80% of those are enlisted and 20 percent are officers. These members perform approximately 20% of the work of the entire Air Force, including traditional and specialized flying missions.

Its HQ is located at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. To learn more and get details on how to sign up, check out the official website, Air Force Reserve.

4. Air National Guard

There are several entries to military service, and the Air National Guard is one of many. In 1947, the Air National Guard became a reserve component of the Air Force.

With over 140 locations in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, Air guardsmen and women can serve their communities right in their own backyards. Many Air Force pilots in the Guard fly for commercial airlines during their downtime.

To discover what this extension of the Air Force has to offer, check out its official website, Air National Guard.

5. Navy Reserve

Reserve Components

According to its official website, the Navy Reserve exists to provide strategic depth and deliver operational capabilities to the Navy and marine Corps team and Joint forces in times of peace and war.

Founded in 1915, the Navy Reserve is the go-to force providing all support to the Navy. These Citizen-Sailors stand ready to move forward in controlling maritime missions and responding to disaster.

Just in case you’re wondering whether a Navy SEAL can be a reservist, the answer is yes! There are two SEAL Navy Reserve teams — SEAL Team 17 and SEAL Team 18.

Each team has 2 platoons and they operate out of Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California and Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Both teams have worldwide assignment capabilities.

For more information on the roles and responsibilities of Navy reservists, visit America’s Navy website.

6. Marine Corps Reserve

According to the official Marines website, the Marine Corps Reserve is critical to the Nation’s ability to place Marines where they need to be to fight and win battles at home and abroad.

Reserve Marines receive 13 weeks of Marine Corps training, work in the same fields, and meet similar eligibility requirements. They train on a continuous basis one weekend every month and then two weeks per year.

This provides the outlet to also take on a civilian career or pursue their education.

Since they receive the same training as their full-time, active-duty brothers and sisters, they are always ready  to supplement active-duty forces when needed.

To learn more, check out the Marine Corps Reserve.

7. Coast Guard Reserve

Reserve Components

The Coast Guard Reserve is a component of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Founded in 1941, the Coast Guard Reserve has been a vital element of the Coast Guard’s ability to successfully execute missions for governing the seas with boat operations, contingency planning, and law enforcement.

More than 7,000 reservists are “Always Ready” to lace up their boots and answer the call across the water whether at home or overseas.

Differences Between Guard and Reserve

We now that that guard and reserve members work part time or solely on weekends once a month. But what about the differences between the two?

A fun fact to remember for your next trivia game is the primary difference between the guard and reserve units:

  • National Guard: The National Guard units are property of each individual state, as well as the District of Columbia (D.C.), and directly reports to the respective governor of that state, according to Title 32 of the U.S. Code.

 However, the President can call on them at a moment’s notice as well, giving Guard members two missions — state and federal. 

 Take some time to search for the state national guard in your area. Here, in Utah, the Utah National Guard was founded in 1894 with a mission of providing mission-ready forces to assist state and federal agencies in times of emergency or war.

  • Reserve: The Reserve is property of the federal government. It can be used to increase active-duty capabilities.

 On the flip side, Reservists are not called upon to respond to disasters like floods or hurricanes.

Although this is the difference between the guard and reserve, it is important to note that both elements of the military can be called into full-time active service to defend the nation in overseas or domestic incidents.

Reserve Categories

Reserve Components

By law, Title 10 of the United States Code, each reservist and guard member is placed in a reserve training category – the Ready Reserve, the Retired Reserve, and the Standby Reserve.

  • Ready Reserve

The Ready Reserve is a DoD program that holds a trained group of service members than can be called to active duty when the need occurs. They are contracted to serve in this capacity for a certain period of time and must be prepared to mobilize at any time.

Within the ready reserve, you’ll find the Selected Reserve, the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), and the Inactive National Guard.

Selective Reserve members are considered in active status and operate their units on a day-to-day basis in training or administrative positions.

Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) members are not in active status. This category is composed of former active duty or reserve members. If you’re IRR, you don’t receive pay and you don’t participate in functions like drills and annual trainings or any military activities, unless you’re activated by the President in the Presidential Reserve Callup Authority.

Sometimes you may be required to attend “muster duty”, where you’re expected to perform at least two-hours of work and are paid according to the Muster Duty Allowance (MDA) Rates.

Inactive National Guard is an administrative category for soldiers who are unable to perform duties for a limited period of time, pending discharge, or are eligible to maintain a connection to the Army National Guard upon leaving active status. Currently, only the Army National Guard maintains an inactive guard.

For example, if a member leaves a guard unit before the end of his enlistment, he will be placed in the inactive guard, unless he requests to be placed in the IRR.

  • Retired Reserve

After a career in active or reserve duty, members are placed in the Retired Reserve category, also known as the gray area.

This is the period where a member is no longer training or attending drill weekends, but not yet receiving retirement pay.

The Army Reserve Retirement Service Office says, “Retirement is a process, not an event,” because there are several steps to qualifying for military retirement. Learn more about how to transfer to retired reserve at the Army Reserve website.

  • Standby Reserve

Standby Reserve members are not members of the Ready Reserve, but they keep their military affiliation while they serve the government in other capacities.

For example, these standby reservists can be reserve or guard members who are congressmen, top agency officials, and civilians in the defense industry who are crucial to national security.

Standby Reservists come in two categories — active status and inactive status.

Active status reservists can participate in training that count towards retirement without pay but may be eligible for promotion.

Inactive status reservists cannot participate in training that count towards retirement and cannot be promoted.  Usually, those who enter this category have some sort of health or hardship reason, but they possess skills that may be of use in the future.

For a standby reservist to be called to active duty, there must not be enough Ready Reservists on tap to do the job. More importantly, it takes an Act of Congress to make this happen.

Guard and Reserve Effect on Veterans Benefits

Reserve Components

While guard and reserve members can begin a promising career, receive compensation and pay, the GI Bill for education, along with health care; parts of the job do not qualify for veterans’ benefits.

Unfortunately, although they may train as if they are on active duty, many guard and reserve members do not see the same benefits active-duty service members receive.

Some reserve and guard duty do not count toward veterans’ benefits. For example, state duty in responding to emergencies do not count for VA benefits. Additionally, weekend trainings (also known as drill) do not count toward veterans benefits since it is considered inactive duty training.

But when reservists are called to active duty by The President or Secretary of Defense for military missions, this type of active duty will count toward requirements for veterans’ benefits.

Wrapping Up the Reserve Components of the Military

There you have it, all seven of the reserve components of each military branch. They all provide a unique taste of what it’s really like to be in the military while maintaining a civilian identity. We hope you learned some amazing facts here, because we sure did.

If you’re considering joining the military as an officer or are looking to separate from active duty, then you’ll need a compelling military to civilian resume that quickly highlights your education, skills, and the value that you bring. Contact us today for more information.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.

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