Difference Between Active Reserve & Active Duty

U.S. Soldier

Active duty soldiers make up the core of our flexible Army strength. They are supplemented, as needed, by Reserve and National Guard personnel during specific operations.

1 Active Duty

Readying for Deployment

Active duty personnel are classed as being in the Regular Army (RA). They are full-time soldiers, with a commitment of several years (usually four to six on an enlistment), and then Reserve time for a balance of eight years. If qualified, they are encouraged to remain on active duty until regular retirement.

2 Active Reserve


Reserve soldiers, on the other hand, normally serve in a unit with a commitment of one weekend per month, and two weeks in the summer. When needed, they are activated to perform an operation on active duty for a specific amount of time. For instance, the National Guard might be activated to help clean up after a major flood.

3 Active Guard Reserve (AGR)

On Patrol

An exception to that rule is the Active Guard Reserve. Soldiers who qualify, and want to work full-time, are activated to work for the Army side by side with RA soldiers for up to 20 years. At that time, they are qualified for regular retirement.

4 Reserve Deployments

Movement to a Briefing

When needed, Reserve soldiers are activated for deployment to augment our RA forces in various parts of the world. Each day served on active duty counts toward eventual retirement.

5 Time Served for Retirement

Making Friends in Foreign Places

While regular Army soldiers retire based on a minimum of 20 years of active duty service, Reserve soldiers qualify based on a system of points (normally a maximum of 75 per year), and age. When they accumulate 20 good years, they qualify for retirement at a pro-rated value as of their 60th birthday.

Karen Good started writing professionally in 1993, both for the U.S. Army and commercially, including articles in "Army Logistician" and "Playgirl." She is a retired Army officer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and English from SUNY, a Bachelor of Science in psychology and sociology from the University of Maryland and a Master of Education in counseling psychology from Boston University.