The National Guard is such a big joke around the country that when That ‘70s Show wanted to make sure we all knew the Formans’ neighbor Bob Pinciotti was a loser, they just announced he used to be in the NG. Unlike Kurtwood Smith’s Red, a Navy man who killed America’s enemies by clubbing them to death with his gigantic penis (and it was still flaccid at the time.) Here’s the thing about that: I talked to Sergeant Christian who served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard and also patrolled the streets of Boston during the hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers, and I’ve learned a few things. Short version: we vastly underestimate the work that National Guardsmen do. Long version:
4. The National Guard Is The Most Hardcore Part-Time Job Ever
Being in the National Guard is a lot like being a comic book vigilante. It’s essentially a moonlight gig where you live your life, go to work, collect… jars (I don’t know how normal people live), when, suddenly, you see the NG symbol in the sky. Or get a phone call or e-mail, whichever’s available at the time. Then, you put your cape on [Sergeant Christian: What? No!] and it’s freaking go time.
“We have to call our full-time jobs and let them know we are fucking off for god knows how long … Anyway, this puts a lot of stress on your bosses in the civilian world. My bosses have always been cool about it but it still makes you feel like shit if you like your boss.”
So you can basically get paid to randomly take time off work and… do what exactly? Save a cat from a tree, tell people to move along, pretend that the traffic you’re redirecting has been caused by your archnemesis Dr. Gridlock? Close: “I served in the National Guard for 7 years. In that time I have responded to a tornado in Springfield, Massachusetts, a number of blizzards, the marathon attack and Hurricane Sandy.”
See, there are a lot of laws in place that limit the use of troops on US soil, so when you need to deal with Mother Nature’s temper tantrums within American borders, you send in the Guard.
You can basically think of the NG as a kind of domestic Army. Or you could if they also didn’t deploy abroad: “Deployment cycles for a Unit or Company in the Guard work on a 5-year cycle. The unit I was in deployed [abroad] in 2004, 2009 and 2014. Originally, deployments came up and a unit went. Now, we know about a deployment about a year in advance … I had one deployment, then realized I would be coming home to divorce papers if I left again, so I got out. Deployments are hell on even the strongest marriages.” So there seems to be little to no difference between the National Guard and the Army. And on that topic…
3. The Guard Has The Same Standards As The Regular Army But Gets Almost No Respect
“The National Guard has the exact same standard for PT as the rest of the Army. I got out in 2013 but I’m pretty sure 3 consecutive PT test failures will get you kicked out. At least that was what they said they were going to start doing when I was leaving.”
“There is no difference between what the Army and Reserves require and what the NG requires.”
Hell, they probably also get hilariously lied to by recruiters in failing malls and told that all the skin they lost on their feet from improperly-sized shoes was because they didn’t change their socks enough. You know, just like the regular Army.
“We all go to the same place for basic training and, at least in my basic training class, we were indistinguishable from the other soldiers. Most of us were a little better prepared than the active duty guys because in the Guard, you start training the month you sign your contract. What I mean is, if you sign your contract, you don’t always ship off to basic right away … My first drill with the pre-basic battalion was, without question, 10 times worse than basic training because they know the Guard is sort of a punchline with Active Duty guys so they wanted us to be prepared.”
Sadly, the thing they really wanted to prepare them for was handling dangerous terrorist attacks without a goddamn gun in your hand.
2. The NG Is Sometimes Sent Into Dangerous Situations Without Proper Equipment
The Boston marathon bombing was a terrible terrorist attack that killed three people and injured countless others. After the bombs went off, a city-wide manhunt for the perpetrators was underway, with every law-enforcement agency and the like joining in. And, of course, the National Guard was there as well. Suspiciously missing from the manhunt, though? Guns. At least for members of the Guard.
“[After the Boston bombing] we were looking for a terrorist who had just killed 3 civilians and wounded hundreds more but the governor of Massachusetts wouldn’t let us carry guns for 3 days.”
“So we were basically sitting ducks. Even more fucked up, is that the National Guard Military Police in Massachusetts have to wear a yellow reflective vest with huge black letters that say Military Police … If someone were inclined to blow up a crowd at a marathon, I gotta believe an unarmed soldier wearing a fucking neon bulls-eye is a huge invitation.”
No one was sure that more attacks weren’t coming. Every Guardsman at the scene should have been issued enough guns to strap one to each limb and transform themselves into a gun golem. Instead…
“The Governor of Massachusetts and whatever fucking General was in charge during The Marathon Bombing would not authorize guns. Instead, we were give collapsible batons. The batons are great against rioters or something but fucking useless against bullets and bombs … you would think they would have said ‘Hey, terrorists, bombs. We know some guys trained to fight terrorism, lets give them some guns.’ Instead, no shit there I was, standing on the intersection of Newbury Street and Exeter, armed with a baton and a reflective vest because it’s important that soon to be dead terrorist 1 and almost dead terrorist 2 have bright fucking orange Military Police to shoot at.”
Then again, if they actually had gotten guns, they’d probably be old-timey muskets or old, duct-taped pipes with some gunpowder inside them, seeing as:
1. The Equipment Situation At The NG Is Laughable
“I was an MP. The Military Police use the HMMWV (Humvee). There were trucks I drove that were built in 1985. We would drive from Western Massachusetts to Cape Cod for training. It was basically guaranteed that at least one truck would break down somewhere along the trip. There were trucks that couldn’t get over 55mph.”
“There were trucks that didn’t have functioning parking brakes (we always used chock block, just in case) and there were trucks that were known to overheat.”
And people still say the Guard is nothing like the military.
Issued protective gear is apparently also a problem. When you deploy, you receive a list of approved protective eye wear. If you get wounded and are not wearing the proper, approved equipment, the Veteran’s Affairs department could actually deny your disability claims because the NG is apparently ran by Apple. So for the most part everyone followed the list. But then this happened:
“A couple of months into my deployment, we started getting a lot of sand storms. They are fucking awful. One particular storm, I grabbed my goggles. I had been wearing these for months. I took good care of them because I was a gunner and needed them when I was in the turret. Anyway, as I was walking to the toilet (porta-john) I got a big gust of wind and a lot of discomfort. Come to find out from the nurse, it looked like a piece of sand got stuck in my cornea, while wearing Army approved goggles.”
“From then on, I bought and exclusively wore my own goggles, consequences be damned.”
Well, at least if you’re paying for your own equipment, no one can stop you from writing “Eat my entire ass, Governor of Massachusetts” on them. [Sergeant Christian: Again – What? No!]