The National Guard Age Limit: What You Should Know

The National Guard Age Limit: Am I Too Young, Old, Or Can I Serve?

Many people are confused when it comes to age requirements in the military.  Sometimes people look at it simply and think…one is either old enough, or too old, right? I am here to say that it doesn’t quite work that way.

Under Federal law the minimum age for enlistment in the United States Military is 17 and requires parental consent.  Of course, everyone knows that 18 is the minimum age without parental consent.  But, what are the age limits? Here is what you need to know…

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As it stands (for the most part) the maximum age is 35. However, DOD policy allows the individual services to specify the maximum age of enlistment based upon their own unique requirements. So for example, the Marine Corps may have a more strict age requirement than the Air Force.  Here are the following maximum ages for non-prior service enlistment:

Active Duty Non-Prior Service

  • Army – 35 (must ship to basic training prior to 35th birthday. The Army used to allow Soldiers at the age of 42 for a brief period of time, but effective April 1st, 2011, the Army has gone back to 35).
  • Air Force – 27
  • Navy – 34
  • Marines – 28
  • Coast Guard – Age 27

Reserve Non-Prior Service

  • Army Reserves – 35 (must ship to basic training prior to 35th birthday)
  • Army National Guard – 35 (changed from 42 in 2009)
  • Air Force Reserve – 34
  • Air National Guard – 40 (Changed from 34 in Aug 2009)
  • Naval Reserves – 39
  • Marine Corps Reserve – 29
  • Coast Guard Reserves – Age 39

Now there are age waivers for non-prior service enlistments… but they are very rare. The few I’ve seen approved involved those who started the enlistment process within the required age limits, but were unable to complete the process and ship to basic training before their birthday. In these cases, only a couple of months of age was waived.  Also, the age limit for prior service enlistment for most of the branches is the same as above, except that an individual’s total previous military time can be subtracted from their current age. For example, let’s say that an individual has five years of credible military service in the Navy and wants to join the Army. The Army may allow that individual to enlist at age 40.  Again, this is rare…

For the Army and Air National National Guard, the maximum age for prior service enlistment is 59, as long as the member has enough years of prior service to be able to complete 20 years of creditable service for retirement by age 60.

******* This is as of October 2013.  Please keep in mind that these policies do change from time to time.  Contact your local recruiter to get the current age limit.

Final Thoughts

Never count yourself out if you have a passion to serve. If you are wondering if you could be eligible, visit your nearest recruiter and ask. It can do no harm.

If you have any questions or you want to offer more to this info, feel free to comment below.

Thank you and have a great day.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “The National Guard Age Limit: What You Should Know”

  1. I had a co-worker who joined the Army Reserves at the age of 38. I believe she had to get some kind of waiver but she was always an athlete and stayed in shape. She puts people half her age to shame with her endurance and strength. I am glad to know that, even if it’s rare, they give older people an opportunity to serve. I honestly believe that service to country is a calling.

  2. Though age in and of itself shouldn’t be the reason a capable and willing citizen can’t serve, but the need for age limits is understandable. Not saying that someone over the age of 35 isn’t fit or capable, the older you get you’re not as quick and agile as you used to be. Being over the age limit doesn’t mean you can’t still serve your country. There are several positions on available to civilians that allow them to work on a military base.

  3. This was good to know. I have not considered reenlisting, but there are many who may want to know this information. I wouldn’t pass anyway.

    Now, I do know there was a day that they took 16 year olds in the Army. that may just have been a short period, but it happened at one time. I remember a kid who turned seventeen on the day we started basic training.

    I have to agree that the older ones usually struggle physically, but mentally are tougher. they usually do not have chips on their shoulders.

  4. Oddly enough, I remember going through basic training in 2005 with a man who was 41 years old! He may not have been a “PT-stud” or the “fastest mover” but boy was he mentally tough and he tried his ass off. We all gave him big kudos when we graduated and even called him, “Pappy”

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