What Happens When You Sign Up for the National Guard?

Active Duty Army and National Guard recruits are sworn in before the Jefferson Memorial.

Because the National Guard is a component of the U.S. Army, the enlistment process for new National Guard recruits is similar to that of active duty and reserve recruits. Future guardsmen have their own preparatory program called the Recruit Sustainment Program in which they go through pretraining with others going into the Guard. However, at basic training and eventually Advance Individual Training, the recruits will train with active-duty soldiers.

1 Recruit Sustainment Program

Few recruits go to Basic Combat Training (BCT) immediately after signing up for the National Guard. Most enlistees go into the Guard's Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP). RSP members meet once each month to learn about drill and ceremony, military ranks, the military alphabet, uniform standards, Army values and barracks inspections. The RSP breaks down into three main phases: red, white and blue.

2 Return to MEPS

Upon completing blue phase in the RSP, recruits return to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for another medical check and a final swearing in ceremony. The recruits load onto a bus and head to the local airport to fly to one of the Army's five basic training posts: Fort Jackson, Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sill, Fort Knox and Fort Kentucky.

3 Basic Combat Training

Before starting BCT, new recruits stay at the reception battalion for four to 10 days. At the reception battalion, recruits fill out paperwork concerning finances, receive vaccinations and are fitted for their uniforms. When all of these administrative tasks are complete the platoon moves as a unit to its training barracks to meet the drill sergeant.

BCT lasts 10 weeks and, like RSP, the training falls into red, white and blue phases. Red Phase is where most of the soldierization process occurs. Recruits learn about Army values and inspections procedures. The White Phase primarily covers marksmanship techniques with the M16 rifle and hand-to-hand combat. Finally, during the Blue Phase, soldiers learn how to work as a team to achieve tactical objectives such as clearing a room or establishing base camp. Each phase lasts about three weeks. During the 10th week, new soldiers participate in a graduation ceremony witnessed by their friends and family.

4 Advanced Individual Training

Every guardsman has a specific military occupational specialty (MOS) that they will perform during their time in the National Guard. After graduating from BCT, Guard soldiers head to their Advanced Individual Training (AIT) site to prepare for this specialty. The Army has many schools. Soldiers train can train several specialties, including infantryman, intelligence analyst and aviation mechanic.

5 Monthly Drill

Upon completing both BCT and AIT, guardsmen can return to their home unit and their civilian lives. Regulations require soldiers to show up for drill once each month and for two weeks each year for an extended training exercise. During weekend drill, soldiers train on tasks specific to their MOS. For example, military police soldiers train on conducting road checkpoints. This training prepares guardsmen for eventual deployment.

Liz Frazier has been producing Web content, instructional articles and trivia for websites such as TopTenz.net and RealDealTechnologies.com since 2008. Her writing interests lie primarily in the areas of politics (specifically public administration and elections), the military, education and forced migration. Frazier has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from California State University, Northridge.