National Guard ETS Process: Key Considerations

In today’s post, I will discuss the National Guard ETS Process. I will cover this from a small unit leadership perspective and from a Soldier perspective.

Finding the answers and guidance on how to ETS, or End of Term Service, is difficult…more so than one would expect. There isn’t much information on the internet, and reading AR policy can be tedious, and what is out there tends to be written by gung-ho re-up types. While reading this article, please keep in mind this process will vary from state-to-state. The best thing to do is talk with your small unit leaders and figure out what is required in your unit. Here is a short insight to how you will ETS from the National Guard.

The National Guard ETS Process

180-Days Out

While the Active component attends a mandatory ACAP briefing regarding civilian employment, this is often not utilized in the Guard. You may already have a civilian job. If not, you may want to start looking for one, especially if you were AGR and are not retiring. About 180-days out your unit should be tracking your ETS date and most likely than not, your Commander or Recruiting and Retention NCO will have a sit down with you to talk about extending.

Depending on the current situation of your unit, you may just sign that you are not going to “re-up” or possibly extend. I know that our Brigade was offering bonus incentives this past ETS go-around as we just received notice that we were deploying to Afghanistan. So, begin to look to talk with someone about 180-days out (or about 6 drills away from ETS).

90-Days Out

Some states may go ahead and draft your ETS orders at this point. Retirees should get their orders as soon as retirement request is approved. If not, inquire whether or not you will be receiving them and begin to make the necessary moves to ETS (as now you will be a lot closer to the date).  Some of these things include scheduling your last military physical (trust me, you will want to get this done and on the record), any outstanding counseling, prepare the necessary paperwork (i.e. DD Form 2656 if you are retiring) and take a visit to your S1 or Readiness NCO to go over your paperwork to ensure that it is 100% accurate. For example, take a look at your DA 201 File, SGLI, verify your PEBD, BASD, ERB/ORB, DOR, etc. If these things are not corrected before your ETS…well, you may be SOL. Once you ensure they are accurate…PRINT AND MAINTAIN A COPY!!! Especially your medical and dental records!

30-Days Out

Down to the wire now and you are anxious and a bit sad to be leaving. That’s normal. However, a few last items need to be addressed before you’re in the free and clear. First and foremost, you will be “clearing” your Unit. This means bringing in every single piece of gear and equipment that you have signed for and that is on your hand receipt. Can’t find it? Better bring your check book or visit an Army surplus store… This process (as long as your maintained your stuff) should be pretty smooth.

Your second to last drill weekend you will want to sit down with your Admin or Readiness NCO and ensure that any and all paperwork is good to go prior to you leaving. There may be some random forms floating around that they will need you to sign (again, depending on your Unit…) Once you are done with this drill then…. well, you’re done! Congratulations on a proud military career.

Additional Considerations 

Chuck here. While Justin wrote this great article about the National Guard ETS Process, I’d just like to share a few of my thoughts on the subject.

As a small unit leader, your job is to retain GOOD Soldiers. Don’t focus on retaining everyone. Some people should ETS. However, there are few things worse than seeing a “good” or “superstar” soldier leave the military. As a commander or senior NCO, if you have a soldier about to ETS from your unit, you should do the following things:

Find out why they are leaving. Do an exit interview with them. Be a good listener. Ask questions and listen. Don’t get confrontational or judgmental. You might discover the Soldier would easily change their mind if you have an open conversation with them. Even if they are set on their ETS decision, you will gain valuable insights that might help you improve your unit.

Find out what their game plan is. Find out what they plan on doing after the military. I’ve always believed it was our job as a leader to genuinely care about our soldiers as people, not just as soldiers. Make sure they have some type of game-plan in place, so they don’t end up homeless or destitute. As a leader, you should strive to ensure every soldier leaves the military in a better situation than they were in when they first joined!

As a soldier about to ETS, here are a few things to consider.

First and foremost, you should put some serious thought into your ETS or reenlisting decision. Do not wait until the last minute. Explore your options and see what is available. Could you get a new MOS? Could you transfer to a new unit? Are their promotion opportunities you might not have known about or considered? Have you considered OCS or WOCS? If nothing else, at least find out what your options are. I recommend avoiding the ETS process if you do not have some type of game-plan in place.

Also, do the things Justin covered in the paragraphs above. Do not procrastinate. Be proactive with your personnel records and medical records. Get copies of everything. Update your “I Love Me” book. Also, a few months prior to your ETS date, do a complete inspection of your personal property. If you are missing anything, get a replacement. Be prepared for your final inventory, so it goes smoothly.

If you are a NCO, and you have a hand receipt for some of the unit’s property, do a thorough inspection ahead of time. Review the records and fix discrepancies prior to the final inventory.

Finally, if you do ETS, never look back! Be thankful for your military service and memories, but don’t dwell on or live in the past. Enjoy the next chapters of your life and make the most of your life!

Final Thoughts

Again, folks, this is just a cursory overview of the National Guard ETS Process, and roughly how it works. To ensure that you ETS smoothly, talk with the proper people (S1, Readiness NCO, R&R NCO, Medical, etc.) and establish a game plan. Even talking with Active Duty guys, not many people know exactly how the ETS process works, but there are ways to get through it.  Understand the process and you will be good to go!

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. We will do our best to answer them for you. Thanks.

Here’s a great book I recommend for transitioning to civilian life.

finding meaning after the military

Suggested Resources & Reading
  1. Military Career Tips
  2. How to Set Goals for Your Military Career
  3. How to Map Out Your Military Career
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

Suggested Resources
Our Books & Training Courses
Recommended Reading List
Earn Extra Money
Lose Weight Today!

1 thought on “National Guard ETS Process: Key Considerations”

  1. Thanks for sharing the National Guard ETS Process, Justin. I know that every state does it a little bit differently, but the tips you provided are a very good starting point. My only advice to people about to ETS is to make sure you have a game-plan and to make sure all of your paperwork is straight. It would also help to get a copy of all of your medical records and make sure you have any injuries or medical issues properly documented.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *