Key Things to Know About Joining the Army Reserves

Jordan Mendiola

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Swearing in to join the United States Army comes in multiple forms. You can either sign up to be Active Duty (full-time), Reserves (federal part-time), or National Guard (state part-time).

I selected the Army Reserves because there were still things I wanted to accomplish in my early twenties on the civilian side, and didn’t want to be tied down to one particular state.

They say the Army Reserves is much like being a “weekend warrior,” and to some point, that is true.

1. We Train 1 Weekend a Month & 3 Weeks in Summer

For the five-year duration of my Army Reserve experience, we attended battle assembly one weekend a month.

Sometimes, it’s Saturday and Sunday. Other times, it’s Thursday to Sunday.

All workplaces are legally obligated to protect your job for military commitments. Most employers understand and support it, while others can make things difficult.

You will have at least two drills at the range for qualifications and the rest at home station.

The three weeks in the Summer are called “AT” or Annual Training. You may go to the next state over on active duty for three weeks, or you might spend three weeks overseas in Romania. The locations vary for every unit.

2. It’s a Lot Slower Paced Than Active Duty

My experience in Basic Training and AIT was much more high speed because they were training environments.

In the reserves, it can be slower-paced because we all have lives on the civilian side and full-time jobs or attend school. The Army isn’t always our priority, but it is our commitment and responsibility.

There is more leniency than you would have in TRADOC or an Active Duty unit, but the same customs and courtesies persist.

For some drills, you’ll have extensive hands-on training and for others you’ll experience “death by PowerPoint” and take several classes.

If you’re looking to be all hooah hooah and experience more in the Army, then Active Duty is for you.

If you’re looking for avenues to support your education goals, support your family or experience adventure from time to time, then the Reserves or National Guard are more up your alley.

3. You Can be Deployed

I didn’t know I would potentially deploy overseas when signing my contract. You are more likely to be deployed in a reserve unit to act as support.

For instance, I’m in an Engineering company full of construction operators, electricians, carpenters, and anything else that’s hands-on and involves building something.

Common places to deploy include the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.

If your unit is in rotation to get deployed, expect to be gone for around 11 months (two in Texas and nine overseas).

The pay overseas is tax-free, and you’ll typically spend less money overseas than you would back at home.

4. Range Weekend and Annual Training are The Most Eventful Times

If you’re into shooting firearms, you’ll get two opportunities a year to qualify at the range with either an M-4, M-16, M249, M9, and in some cases, a .50 Cal.

It’s the most exciting since I don’t own firearms outside of the military. You’ll get to zero, qualify, and expend all additional ammo at the end of training.

Annual trainings vary. One year was in Montana, one was in Wisconsin, and another in Romania. You’ll typically have the entire drill schedule at the start of every fiscal year (October), so make your plans accordingly.

You can RST (reschedule training) depending on your unit so you don’t miss significant events, and I highly recommend planning those several months ahead of time.

Aside from being at “the office” or my home-station unit, I always look forward to the more hands-on training away from home. In addition, these weekends are perfect for getting to know your peers and leaders better.

These extensive training and deployment are where most of my life-long friendships came to be.

5. Time Flies by Fast

It blows my mind that I’m nearing the end of the first contract that I signed when I was 18 years old. 2022 felt lightyears away, but now it’s coming up.

There will be times you don’t want to show up, travel, or put up with the Army. That’s normal, but every storm passes.

I have countless memories and relationships to reflect on since joining the Army. You’ll grow as a person the more you put yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things.

People come, people go, but you just stick with it and continue to meet new people. The mutual respect and camaraderie you develop with your peers will last far longer into the future than you may realize.

All of the training you do, people you meet, and places you see will broaden your perspective and help you appreciate the things you have.

Final Thought

Joining the Army isn’t for everyone. For me, I knew I didn’t want to do it full-time. That's why I stuck with the Reserves.

The Reserves allowed me to work on my personal goals while still serving my country and doing pretty cool things.

If you’re at all deciding to join the Reserves, do your due diligence and understand what is asked of you.

Thank you for reading. I hope this helps you decide or informs you positively when looking at the Army Reserves.

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Creative entrepreneur, U.S. Army Engineer, and dedicated runner. Committed to sharing ideas that lead to more fulfillment in all areas of life. Email: mendiola1829@gmail.com

Chicago, IL
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