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What Is The Difference Between Army National Guard and National Guard?

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Military terms can get a little confusing at times. Many sound similar, and others are used in place of the more accurate term, making it hard to determine exactly what people mean and what they are really talking about. 

This is why it’s a good idea to find as much information as possible so you know precisely what is meant when military terms are spoken. 

A good example of where confusion can lie is with the National Guard. What does someone generally mean when they say ‘National Guard’? Do they mean exactly that, or do they mean the Army National Guard or Air National Guard? Let’s look more closely into this and see what the differences are. 

The Army National Guard

The Army National Guard is a specialist branch of the military. It consists of combat-ready soldiers who would normally work full-time on active duty within the military but who can be called to help by either the president or the state governor in times of domestic disturbance. 

This is the oldest military unit in the United States and dates back to 1636 (although in its current incarnation, which is more organized and with a lot more training, it dates back instead to 1903). 

Many people don’t realize that there is not only an Army National Guard but an Air National Guard as well, which is part of the air force. Again, the people serving in this capacity have a dual role both in their everyday active service and in their National Guard duties, which would take precedence should the need arise. 

The National Guard 

With the above in mind, what, then, is the National Guard? 

In essence, the National Guard works in the same way as the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. This means that should there be a domestic need for military assistance, the members of the National Guard will be called upon by either the state governor or the president themselves. 

However, the biggest difference between the Army National Guard and the National Guard is that members of the National Guard don’t work in the military in their full-time jobs. They could have any job and still be a National Guard member. 

They will receive rigorous training on a regular basis, and if they cannot commit to that training and don’t attend, they will no longer be members of the National Guard. You can think of being in the National Guard in terms of being a reservist, as it works in the same way. You will be trained, and that training will always be up to date, and you will be ready to serve when called upon to do so, but otherwise, you will live your life normally. 


Although the two terms – Army (or Air) National Guard and National Guard – are incredibly similar and therefore can easily be confused, and although the work the two military branches do will be the same, the big difference is that the National Guard is not active duty military personnel, whereas Army National Guard is.