With so many branches and segments of the Military, it can be difficult for the everyday civilian to differentiate between each of them. Nevertheless, having a baseline of common knowledge about these segments is considered responsible in terms of civilian duties, as falling ignorant in regards to how our military works is less than respectable. A great place to begin is in understanding the difference between the Guard and the Reserve.

The Reserve

In short, the Reserve consists of part-time military personnel. All five branches of the Armed Forces, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, have Reserve Components. Those who serve in the reserve usually work one weekend a month, two weeks a year, or have a similar schedule that keeps them committed on a part time basis. Anyone who meets Military eligibility requirements can join the Reserve, with or without prior experience, and many transition to the Reserve after serving on active duty.

The Guard

The Guard consists of two different parts: Army National Guard and Air National Guard. The Guard is similar to the Reserve in that it’s a part time commitment, with personnel serving either one weekend a month or two weeks per year.

What They Have in Common

Aside from their part-time commitment from participating personnel, both the Guard and the Reserve have similar requirements, drills, uniforms, and, for the most part, pay. As far as their duties, both the Guard and the Reserve can be called to action or mobilized and sent abroad based on government orders, but if not, most are only required to report to duty near their homes.

How They’re Different

The primary difference in the Guard and Reserves lies in the chief command. Quite simply, Reserve personnel are a federal component; Guard personnel are a component of the state. This means that the Reserve only has to respond to federal command, not commands made by the governor of each state. The same goes as a general rule for the Guard (they don’t typically respond to federal calls to duty), but the President of the United States does have the power to federalize Guard troops if he feels it’s necessary.

Both Reserve and Guard receive the same Federal VA benefits, but members of the Guard receive state incentivized benefits as well that are specific to each individual state and level of service.

Once you understand the differences in the Guard and the Reserve, it’s easier to break down the branches of military within each one to better understand their duties, similarities and differences.