Guard & Reserve Service Requirements – Why One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks of Year is a Baseline, Not a Rule

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Guard & Reserve Service Requirements - One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year
If you have heard of the National Guard or the Reserves, you have probably heard the phrase, “One Weekend a Month, Two weeks a Year.” Perhaps you saw it on a billboard or TV advertisement. Maybe you heard it from a recruiter, or while you were on active duty. One Weekend a Month, Two weeks…

If you have heard of the National Guard or the Reserves, you have probably heard the phrase, “One Weekend a Month, Two weeks a Year.”

Perhaps you saw it on a billboard or TV advertisement. Maybe you heard it from a recruiter, or while you were on active duty. One Weekend a Month, Two weeks a Year is a quick and dirty reference to the minimum service requirements for members of the Guard and Reserves.

I’m here to tell you that phrase is completely true. But it can also be a wildly inaccurate representation of the service commitment made by members of the Guard and Reserves.

One Weekend a Month, Two weeks a Year is the minimum service requirement Reserve Component members are scheduled to serve. However, it’s more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. It’s possible to serve much more than that in a year, up to and including serving on a full-time basis. Members can also serve less than this amount and still earn a Good Year toward retirement.

Guard & Reserve Service Requirements - One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year

Let’s take a deeper look at Guard and Reserves service requirements. We’ll start with a question about Guard and Reserve training, then dive deeper into the minimum annual service requirement you can expect, and the reality of what it means to serve in the Guard and Reserves. This article will serve as a primer for anyone considering joining the National Guard or Reserves.

Guard and Reserve Initial Training Requirements

What follows is a recent question we received from a reader who is thinking about joining the Guard or Reserves (branch to be determined).

Hello Ryan,

I am interested in potentially joining the military (Air Force or Marines), likely in a National Guard or Reserve capacity. I’m having a hard time finding out how (if at all) the training / tech school differs for Reserve/Guard members. I’ve read that you can train “closer to home”, but have struggled to find anything to back it up.

Your podcast has been invaluable to me thus far in my research. Thank you for your time, effort, as well as your service.

Thank you for contacting me, and I’m glad my podcast has been helpful.

This is a great question. You’re probably having a difficult time finding this information because tech school training doesn’t usually differ for members of the Guard and Reserves.

For the purposes of initial military training, the Guard and Reserves are extensions of active duty. Members go through the same basic training, followed by the same tech schools as their active duty counterparts. Some tech schools may require a follow-on training, or seasoning days, in which the member performs some additional training at their unit, an active duty base, or in another tech school. Their service differs only after they complete basic training, tech school, and any required follow-on training (if any).

After initial training, the member then reports to their Guard or Reserve unit and is then on the standard Guard or Reserve schedule, which is often referred to as “one weekend a month, two weeks a year.”

Annual Training Requirements, or, One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year

The phrase, One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year refers to the minimum service requirement Guard and Reserve members are scheduled for each year. But it can vary dramatically, which we will cover.

The one weekend a month refers to the normal monthly drill assembly (also called a Unit Training Assembly, or UTA). This is further broken down into two days, each of which is two drill periods, for a total of four drill periods per drill UTA.

The two weeks a year refers to two weeks of Annual Training (also called AT days). These two weeks can be done either individually, or as a partial or full unit, depending on how the base or unit schedules the training.

The weekend drill assemblies are generally served at your unit. This is why serving in the Guard or Reserves is often referred to as “serving closer to home.” Of course, this is relative, as you may have a commute to your unit (in some cases you may be eligible for travel reimbursement).

The two weeks of Annual Training can be served in different times or locations, based on unit needs or scheduling requirements. Many units schedule these two weeks during the summer, but there is no standard rule.

Some bases may schedule everyone to serve their AT days at the same time and location. This is more common in branches that need larger units to perform their duties. For example, an Army Reserve unit may require an entire company or battalion to report at the same time and location for field training. And the Air Force may require an entire flying squadron and support units to perform training missions together. This is the only way these particular units can train to work and fight together.

Other units may be able to function on a smaller scale. So they may be able to serve their AT days at a different time and place. Some members may even be able to serve their two weeks of Annual Training on an individual basis on their own schedule.

This distinction is important to understand because in some branches of the military, and in some career fields, you will be required to serve your two weeks a year in a fixed time and place with everyone else. However, members of some other military branches and career fields may have more flexibility in their Annual Training requirements.

Earning a Good Year in the Guard and Reserves

It’s important to understand the annual service requirements, how you earn points for your service, and how they add up to qualify for a Good Year, or a year that is credited toward retirement.

Members need to earn 50 Points in order to qualify for a Good Year toward retirement.

20 Good Years qualify a member for Guard / Reserve retirement benefits. Active duty time counts toward retirement as well, so you may already be on your way to earning a military retirement if you are current or former active duty, and are considering joining the Guard or Reserves. This podcast / article discusses the finer points of the decision process.

Each type of service earns Retirement Points. The points break down like this:

  • 15 Participation Points for membership in the Guard, Reserves, or Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)
  • 1 Point for each day on Active Service (Active Duty, Active Duty for Training, and Annual Training tours)
  • 1 Point per Drill Period (Each Drill weekend normally has 4 Drills, so this is good for 4 Points on a normal Drill weekend).
  • 1 Point for serving in an Honor Guard for Funeral Honors Duty (normally capped at 1 Point per day, regardless of the number of funerals in which you serve as an Honor Guard).
  • 1 Point for each three study hours of qualifying military correspondence courses.

How Many Points Should You Earn in a Year?

Members who serve the minimum number of scheduled days should earn approximately 78 Retirement Points per year.

Reserve Annual Retirement Points

One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year, breaks down to 78 points per year:

  • 15 Participation Points
  • 48 Points from Drill Weekends
  • 15 Annual Training Points
  • = 78 Points

You get 15 participation points, just for being a member of the Guard and Reserves. This is automatic.

Each Drill Period is worth one retirement point and one day of base pay. There are two drills per day, for a total of 4 drill periods per drill weekend.

Finally, you have the “two weeks per year” which is 15 days. (Trivia: why is two weeks 15 days? I don’t know. I’ve seen people quote 14 days and 15 days; use this is a ballpark estimate).

Can You Earn More Retirement Points?

Absolutely. This is a topic unto itself, as there are many, many ways to earn additional retirement points. This can include performing additional training, being activated or mobilized, Professional Military Education (PME), taking certain correspondence courses, serving on an honor guard or burial duties, temporary active duty, and much more.

Federal law limits the number of inactive duty points you can earn each retirement year.

  • Reserve year ends on or after 30 Oct 2007: max of 130 Points
  • Reserve year ends on or after 29 Oct 2000: max of 90 Points
  • Reserve year ends on or after 23 Sep 1996: max of 75 Points
  • Before 23 Sep 1996: max of 60 Points

These limits only apply to inactive points. Active duty points don’t count toward that limit. The maximum number of total points you can earn each year is 365 (366 in leap years).

Can You Miss Training Days, UTAs, or Annual Training And Still Get a Good Year?

This is the dirty little secret you never hear about in the Guard and Reserves (at least, until you’ve been around the unit for awhile). It may be possible to miss a certain number of training days, UTAs, etc, and still earn a Good Year toward retirement. But you have to tread carefully here.

As you read above, members are scheduled for enough training to earn about 78 Points each year. But you only need 50 Points to earn a qualifying year toward retirement.

Why is this?

The basic answer is that officials understand not everyone can make every single unit drill assembly. Or they may not be able to take off the two weeks for their Annual Training. This could be for personal, medical, or professional reasons.

So it can be possible to miss one or more drills, or the Annual Training, and still earn a Good Year.

But here is the kicker – you need to get written permission from your unit, or you risk missing out on a Good Year. In fact, you can have the requisite number of Points and still not earn a Good Year if your unit determines you did not earn it (most commonly for too many unexcused drill absences, or other administrative problems).

Note: I’m not an expert on this exact situation, so this is something you would need to take up with your base legal department or personnel section if you believe it may apply to you. My recommendation is to always have a written record of excused absences so you have the required documentation for your service records.

Drill Attendance and Annual Training Participation is Important – for You and Your Unit

My recommendation is to do your best to attend every UTA and do your AT days if able. Most units have required training and appointments you need to attend during your Drill weekends. Missing out on those can make it difficult to stay on top of your training requirements. And your two week annual tour is a great time to become more proficient in your military duties. Missing that time may make you less effective in your unit.

If you do miss a Drill, I recommend trying to make it up if or when possible*. I have done this a couple times. For example, I missed a Drill Weekend while my family and I were relocating to a new state. I made it up the following month by coming in two days early. This gave me 4 consecutive Drill days, which is a great way to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.

*There are two date considerations when making up Drill dates and UTAs: The first is the fiscal year (which always begins on Oct. 1), and the second is your Anniversary Year End (AYE), which is the anniversary of the date you joined the Guard or Reserves. You can find this in your annual points statement or through your personnel or human resources office. You will need to make up missed Drills or UTAs before your AYE for it to count toward your Good Year, and you may need to schedule certain events around the fiscal year, when budgets can become tight.

Can You Skip the Two Week Annual Training Requirement?

The two week Annual Training is a normal service requirement and is usually considered part of the minimum service requirement for the year. However, it can, and often does, vary based on branch of service, unit, and career field.

Some members may find they serve well in excess of the two weeks Annual Training. Members can also be receive orders for additional training requirements, or be activated for other reasons, including deployments, mobilizations, disaster relief, and more.

Members may also have the two weeks waived for various reasons, and still earn a Good Year.

In some cases, the member may participate in training outside their unit, and have that take the place of their Annual Training days.

For example, in three of the last four years I did not serve the two week Annual Training (AT) with my unit. Instead, I was on Active Duty for Training orders (ADT), including two different tech schools (each of which was two months long), and Officer Training School, which was nine weeks long. My unit allowed these training events to stand in for my two weeks of Annual Training.

While this may seem like the same thing on the surface, the days are actually coded differently, and the funding comes from different budgets. Had I wanted to, I could have asked my unit to allow me to perform the AT days. This would mean more Retirement Points, and more pay.  But also more time away from my family.

Some units may or may not give their members the option. Remember, as I wrote above, your ability to waive your AT days will depend entirely upon your branch of service, your unit needs, your career field, current training needs, and other factors.

Some Guard and Reserve Members May Serve Much More than Average

Everything written so far is based on the minimum service requirement. But many Guard and Reserve members serve much more than the minimum. There are many reasons for this, including their unit needs, their career field, because they volunteered to serve additional days, mobilizations, deployments, being activated, and many other reasons.

Some members serve in career fields with very high operations (ops) tempos. Some career fields allow their members to serve almost as many days as they want (common with flight crews, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) crews, special ops, certain medical fields, and other high-demand or undermanned career fields).

Some members also volunteer for orders as often as possible, picking up orders whenever the need or opportunity arises.

How Much Time Can You Expect to Serve in the Guard and Reserves?

If all of this sounds vague, and slightly complicated, that’s because it can be. You may be able to breeze through several years in the Guard or Reserves, and never serve more than the minimum number of days. And another member in your unit may serve twice as many days as you.

In other words, even people in the same unit may have very different duty requirements based on their career field, training needs, availability, and other factors.

The best advice I have for someone considering joining the Guard or Reserves is to contact a recruiter at your prospective unit, and ask them about the unit mission, ops tempo, current needs / open jobs, and what you may be required to do in one of those jobs.

If possible, you may be able to interview with one of the members of your prospective career field to get a better understanding of the day to day job, training requirements, ops tempo for that job, likelihood of deployments or mobilizations, and any other relevant questions you may have.

Serving in the Guard and Reserves Requires a Major Commitment

Overall, serving in the Guard or Reserves requires a commitment of yourself, and your family, if you have one. You may only be required to serve on a part-time basis. But you may also be required to serve up to a full-time basis if you are activated or mobilized. So it can require a commitment of your employer as well. This last point is important, as you may be required to spend time away from your civilian job. The good news is there are employment protections in place, through the USERRA program.

USERRA is a federal law that covers Employment Rights for Active Military, Guard, and Reserves. Essentially, USERRA serves to protect your job in the event you join the military. There are a lot of nuances, so it’s best to read more about it to get a basic understanding of how it works. The military does provide legal assistance to members, so you can always consult with a military attorney (or JAG, Judge Advocate General), if the need arises.

Be Prepared to Make Personal and Professional Sacrifices

Serving the either the Guard or Reserves may only require a minimum amount of time. But more likely, it will interfere with your personal or professional life at some point.

My good friend Doug Nordman is fond of saying this about serving in the Guard / Reserves,

You know you’re doing something right when your family, your unit, and your civilian employer are all equally frustrated with you.

There is a lot of truth to his statement. In my four years of serving in the Air National Guard I have missed birthdays, anniversaries, dance recitals, school events, and family events. I have missed time from work and my business has suffered as a result.

And I haven’t even been deployed. All of these missed events came over the course of my normal drill weekends, or during the several times I’ve been activated for training (each time for around two months). Many people are deployed for months at a time and their sacrifices can be much greater.

These are difficult sacrifices to make. It takes a loving and understanding family. It takes creativity on your end to celebrate birthdays and other events in advance, or when you return home.

But it also takes dedication to your service. And a commitment to the people in your unit. I love serving in the Air National Guard. I believe in the mission. I love being around the unit members. I feel honored to be a part of our nation’s military.

And I love that I’m earning benefits both in the present moment, and I’m working toward a Reserve retirement and all the benefits that entails.

Guard and Reserve Service is a Calling

One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year is a good marketing slogan. But serving in the Guard or Reserves is much more than that.

It’s a calling. It is a commitment to a lifestyle of service, whenever, and wherever you are needed. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it may feel like the sacrifice is too great. But ultimately, it is rewarding.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Brian says

    Ryan., If I retired from the National Guard as an O-5 with just under the 3 year minimum TIG requirement and wish to appeal the reduction of my retirement grade to O-4 who do I contact? Title 10 USC 1370 states “Secretary of the military department concerned”. Is that considered the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of the NGB, my states Adjutant General or some other person. Human resources command has stated they do not have the authority to waive the 3 year rule.
    Thanks for what you do for all of us.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Brian,

      Thank you for your comment. My understanding is that you will need to contact the office of the Secretary of the Army. I believe that is the only individual that has the authority to waive the 3-year rule.

      Best wishes!

  2. Michelle says

    Hi, I am pregnant and was wondering what how maternity leave works in the Air National Guard. I won’t be able to attend as the time it’s taking place is the month I am supposed to deliver. Thank you.

    Michelle C.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Michelle, This is a question that you need to take up with your unit supervision. I’m sure there are policies in place that address these issues. Contact your supervisor and your medical unit for more information. And best wishes with your new baby!

  3. You says

    Hello Ryan,

    Thank you for this article and breaking down the requirements for the Military Reserve components. Is it possible that you can provide a link to the AFI that can reinforce your article, so that I may provide supporting documents to members with uncertainty.

    Thank You

  4. Mike C says

    Hi,

    I’m prior service Army National Guard, did 2 years active after 9/11 on orders and rest of the time was regular drill and 2 weeks a year. I’m thinking about going back in but different branch (Air Force Reserve). I know the 2 years will count but the 4 years reserve time is there a conversion to years served since it wasn’t full time? I’m 42.5 and to be eligible I need to subtract my age from years of service which must be 40 or less. That puts me at 40.5 on the active-duty time but what about the reserve time of 4 years. I’m aware of points but looking to see if there’s a years served calculator.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Mike,

      Each good year of service will transfer on a one to one basis and you will keep all of the points you have earned. So you should have 6 years of service on the books.

      You can set up an appointment with a recruiter to learn more about the process of joining the Air Force Reserves. They should also be able to answer any questions you have.

      Best wishes!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Elizabeth, Yes, Guard and Reserve members are paid for their service unless they are drilling for points only. You can contact your base finance office for assistance regarding the exact dates the members will be paid. Best wishes.

  5. Shiann says

    Is is possible to go to drill more than once per month? For example, four consecutive weekends in a row? Is that considered full time or still part-time?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Shiann, Each service member is only allowed to have a fixed number of drill periods per year. Any duty served above that number of drills must be served in a different status, such as Active Training (AT Days), active duty, training, etc.

      You may be able to serve more than one drill period in a month, however, this will be up to your supervision. I have had times, for example, when I had to reschedule a drill period, and my supervision allowed me to perform 4 straight days of drill on a Thursday – Sunday. However, you can’t count on being able to do this each time, since you would miss other important drill dates with the rest of your unit. Attending drill outside of your normally scheduled dates or serving additional days is a question you would need to address with your supervision.

      Finally, you would still remain in a part-time status unless you are activated under active duty orders, placed in AGR status, or put in another active duty status. Evening serving two consecutive weeks of AT duty won’t put you into active duty status. It all depends on your specific orders.

      Finally, talk to your supervision or someone in your unit with more experience about how all of this works. The more exposure you have, the more understanding you will have about the service options available to you. I hope this is helpful in understanding the process a bit better.

      Best wishes!

  6. Amalina says

    Hi,
    I want to join the Army Reserves while I’m in nursing school because but I can’t do the 9 weeks of basic training and leave my kids for that long. Would there be a way around that? Where I can join and do the basic training later on or maybe locally to my kids schools

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Amalina, This is a question for your recruiter. They can give you more up to date and accurate information regarding your training requirements and options. Best wishes with your decision!

  7. Tim Askins says

    Can someone tell me when you serve in Air National guard and do your weekend drills. Do you stay overnight for that weekend?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Tim,

      It depends on your unit. Most units have their drill weekends on the first weekend of the month. This may change from time to time, but it is the most common arrangement.

      As for staying overnight, most units require members to drive to and from their unit each day if they live within a certain range (usually 50 miles). If you live beyond 50 miles they may put you up overnight one night. If you live more than 100 miles away, then they will often put you up overnight the night before the first drill. In other words, if you live:

      • Within 50 miles, you drive to and from each day
      • More than 50 miles, but less than 100 miles, then you will drive the morning of the first drill, then stay overnight that night, perform your second drill, and return home.
      • More than 100 miles, you would get a room the night before the first drill and stay through the end of the drill weekend.

      This is how it works at my unit. I’m not sure if the mileage rules are the same everywhere. 

      I hope this is helpful.

  8. Deborah Boling says

    Hello, my Son is signed up for 6 years with National Guard in the USA. He goes to every drill each month. He has done 4 years and has 2 years left can he get out early? Because due to circumstances I have to move back to England to look after my Father. I would like my son to be with me.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Deborah, I’m sorry to hear this and I hope your father will be well.

      I understand your point of view and why you want him to go with you, but you don’t mention what your son wants. Does he want to continue serving, or does he want to get out? This is a very personal decision and one that he needs to make on his own without outside influence. The decision will most likely have a lifelong impact and he needs to be the person to decide.

      If he wants to fulfill his commitment, let him. When he joined the military, he signed a legally binding contract as an adult. In some cases, the military will allow members out early. But not always. This will be handled on a case by case basis.

      If he wants to get out early, then he would need to speak with his personnel or Human Resources office to see if there are opportunities to transfer into the Individual Ready Reserve, or to otherwise separate from the military. If so, they will let him know. If not, then he would still be required to fulfill the service obligation he agreed to when he joined the military.

      I don’t encourage anyone to get kicked out of the military as that can have long-lasting consequences.

      Best wishes to you and your family.

      • GI Rights Counselor says

        There is a lot of misinformation about this kind of situation. Reservists are allowed to move (including overseas) and don’t need military permission to do so. Nothing about the contract they signed requires them to get permission to relocate.

        When someone moves outside of commuting distance from the drill site they are not required to attend drills at that site. If they wish to remain in they need to either find a nearby unit or voluntarily drill at the old site. If there is no unit close enough to transfer into they would normally be moved to the individual ready reserve. A person moving overseas (as in your example) can simply notify the command of the change of address and the fact that the distance will make it impossible for them to continue drilling.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Retired in Texas,

      I have no idea, as I am not in a Texas Army Reserve unit. However, I am in the Air National Guard and we have drill scheduled this year for Father’s Day.

      And when I was on active duty I worked on every day of the year, including each holiday. I’m not saying that in a flippant manner, as in, “oh, well active duty is on call 24/7, 365 days a year.”

      I mean that over the course of my 6 years on active duty, I actually showed up in uniform and performed my military duties on every single day of the year, regardless of which holiday it was. Every military member knows that service comes first. Holidays, while important, don’t come before the mission.

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