Air National Guard vs. Army National Guard: What they Have in Common and How They Are Different

I have noticed a large amount of National Guard prospects questioning which National Guard they should join. Here at Part Time Commander, we want you to be completely aware of all the facts of each. By no means will I tell you to absolutely join one or the other. What we will do is provide you with facts and opinions that can help you weigh the choice.

In today’s post, we will compare Air National Guard vs. Army National Guard: what they have in common and how they are different. If you have anything to add, or any comments or questions, please post them at the end of this article.

I believe the best place to start is with the history of each of these military entities.

National Guard History

The roots of the present day Army National Guard go back to before the United States was a nation. In 1636, the colony of Massachusetts Bay adopted the use of militia regiments to protect the interests of colonists and shipments from Europe and other locales. As time moved on, and the Revolution that brought freedom from the British monarchy, States formed separate militias that defended that State’s interests. It grew into what we now know as the Army National Guard.

Naturally, humans were not flying in the 1600’s. The Air National Guard was not even considered at that time, but the fact is: the roots are the same.

During both World Wars, aviators were used, but they were all a part of the Army. After World War II, it was determined there needed to be a separate force whose primary duty were flying instruments. In 1947, the United States Air Force was adopted. Along with the U.S. Air Force, it was determined that there should also be an Air National Guard since there was an Army National Guard, and the Air Force was taken from the Army.

There is no types of National Guards in the other military branches because they are all considered Federal.


You need to understand that both the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard are under the administration of the National Guard Bureau. This makes this a joint service and is treated as such.

When it comes to control of both, ultimately the Governor of the State they are based in is the Commander In Chief. The President of the United States can order mobilization and deployment of either Army National Guard units or Air National Guard units.

When it comes to the pay received by members, it is the same depending on the rank. Ranks run on common formats, it is just the title of the ranks that deviate. It still works on E1, E2, E3, etc…format, but where an E1 soldier in the Army National Guard is a Private, a soldier at E1 in the Air National Guard is an Airman.

Ultimately, the time worked is similar; 1 weekend per month and 2 weeks per year, but, from my understanding, what takes place during these periods is quite different.

The Army National Guard and the Air National Guard have both been used in response to natural disasters. Where the Army Guard uses ground systems, naturally, the Air Guard utilizes air systems. This is where the differences between these 2 National Guard entities comes into play.


Before I move further, I must tell you from this point on much of the information will be opinions. As I was not a member of either the Air National Guard or the Army National Guard, this is all based on research and interviewing people who were.

I was a member of the regular Army while my Father was retired from the Air Force. Before joining the Army, I consulted my Dad. I tell you this because the Army National Guard works with Army ways, and the Air Guard works with Air Force ways.

“Dad, I am considering joing the military.” He smiled and then frowned. “Why don’t you go to college and become the lawyer you said you wanted to be when you were younger?” I answered with, “Well Pops, the Judge said military or jail, so…” The frown grew deeper and then he explained, “If you don’t mind doing desk jobs and pushing papers around, join the Air Force son. If you want to live suicidal, but be a man’s man, join the Marines. If you want to live in a submarine or boat with a bunch of other sweaty guys and grow gills, join the Navy. If you want to be part of the action, join the Army.” So I asked him, “If you were in my position Dad, what would you do.” He just laughed and said, “I was stupid too son. I probably would have done the jail time, but I recommend you join the Army.” So that is what I did.

In visiting multiple forums and such, I am finding that my Dad spoke truth in comparison to what all is said. Air Guard members, unless they are pilots are primarily “paper-pushers.” Army Guard members do have some who sit behind a desk, but the majority are hands on either working with equipment, weapons or other items of warfare.

Many state that Air Guard members usually receive shorter deployments. They usually have more comfortable living conditions, but that really shouldn’t matter for part time soldiers. Some claim that Army National Guard members get better education benefits. One person claimed the Army Guard offers better enlistment bonuses, but this I look at skeptically. In these times, both are cutting back on bonuses all together.

Final Thoughts

In all of this, both branches are serving this great nation. One works with the air control while the other is involved in ground control. I would say this should be the first item to consider before joining…air or ground.

A major aspect of the decision you make will be the MOS factor. What job you train to do no matter which branch you choose will ultimately determine your placement.

We would love to hear other opinions and tips on the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. Please post them below.

Ok, now 2 jokes so there is no favorites”

How many Air Force Cadets does it take to change a flat tire?

Three, two to go for beer and one to call daddy.

An Army football player was almost killed in a tragic horseback riding accident. He fell from the horse and was nearly trampled to death. Thank God the manager of the KMart came out and unplugged it.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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