Many people have heard of the National Guard, but not everyone knows who they are and how they operate, or how they relate to better-known military divisions.
Moreover, adjacent branches like the Air National Guard (ANG) tend to be subsumed within the definition of the regular National Guard. This is because they’re a vital component of one another, and the ANG is not a distinct entity. However, while their goals and operational objectives tend to be similar, their capabilities are different.
In this post, we’ll discuss the Air National Guard, its mission, essential facts to learn, how they relate to other branches, as well as disclose the joining process. With that in mind, let’s begin:
What is the Air National Guard?
The Air National Guard sits as the reserve element of the United States Air Force (USAF). It is mostly comprised of part-time citizen airmen and women. They have units located in all fifty states, as well as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and also the District of Columbia. They can be called upon by the U.S. President or the Governor of each state where appropriate.
Like the National Guard, the Air National Guard is responsible for an array of tasks in support of missions both state and federal. They contribute to a wide set of responsibilities, from helping out with military conflicts to keeping the peace within each state and assisting with natural disasters and domestic humanitarian missions.
In this way, they are very similar to the National Guard but have a specific focus on air operations. This may include help with emergency logistics, supporting air defenses, airlift support, and more.
What is the mission of the Air National Guard?
The ANG has both federal and state missions. The Federal Mission is to “Maintain well-trained, well-equipped units available for prompt mobilization during war and provide assistance during national emergencies.”
Their state mission is to “Report to the governor of each respective state territory. Under State Law, the ANG Provides protection of life, and property and preserves peace, order, and public safety.”
As a reserve force, the Air National Guard are tasked with supporting the wider functions of the standard United States Air Force, with a list of token priorities to keep track of.
To begin with, they are tasked with defending the United States, much like all US military divisions. This mostly relates to defending the Air Space in liaison with the regular USAF. They also assist with logistical efforts as well as intelligence and reconnaissance missions. The Air National Guard regularly provides humanitarian assistance on a state level, be that helping to evacuate citizens after hurricanes or flooding. As such, they’re a vital component of any disaster relief effort.
The Air National Guard is also tasked with a unique State-by-State effort to support local authorities and provide security as directed by the respective Governor. As a result, the work they do is multi-faceted, critically important, and a vital component of military support.
How large is the Air National Guard?
The Air National Guard comprises up to a third of the USAF’s forces. As of 2021, this included almost 108,000 active personnel, including both full and part-time staff. They operate in every single State, and as such is an impressive reservist force with wide-ranging capabilities.
For comparison’s sake, the National Guard has an active reservist force of around 444,000 personnel.
How is the Air National Guard different from the National Guard?
The clearest difference between the National Guard and its Air component is that the Air National Guard operates as a reservist focus of the USAF. As such, their primary missions differ, as the ANG is responsible for airspace initiatives and defense. This includes air refueling, airlifting, air defense, and more. The National Guard, by contrast, focuses on ground operations such as managing infantry, artillery, and armor units.
However, the chain of command is slightly different, as the Air National Guard can report directly to the President outside of their Governers, in times of need, while the National Guard can be federalized by the President and the Secretary of Defense.
Most of these differences are from the perspective of logistics and capabilities. They are both highly disciplined, respected reservist forces filled with exceptional individuals all working towards the peace and protection of each state and the nation at large. Without either branch, the wider military would be less capable.
How Can I Join The Air National Guard, and what are the requirements for doing so?
Joining the Air National Guard can be a fantastic career choice and will help you gain the benefits of being actively enlisted while not being part of the military full-time. Note that commissioned ranks are open only to those who have served in a federalized force for four months or more.
- First, it’s important to meet the eligibility requirements to join. This will involve being a US Citizen or Permanent Resident between the ages of 17 to 39. You must also meet the medical and physical standards required of you.
- Meet with a recruiter. You can do this through the website, over the phone, or through a recruitment office. They will help you discuss the requirements to join, discuss your reasons for joining, and help you complete your primary application.
- Go through screening and medical tests. This will also include aptitude testing depending on your given role, and that may include security vetting too.
- Undergo your basic training. Everyone who joins the military in any capacity will need to go through basic training, which is most commonly a ten-week training course designed to teach you military skills and to understand the responsibilities of the National Guard, its roles in US Defensive operations, and the wider culture of the armed forces.
- Undergo technical training. As your basic training is completed you will further specialize in your given role. There are a wide array of careers open to Air National Guard service members, so many sure to carefully consider your options and aptitudes.