Air Force Reserves vs. Active Duty Air Force - ToughNickel - Money
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Air Force Reserves vs. Active Duty Air Force

Hello! I am a stay-at-home mom to two wonderful children who keep me very busy.

Read on to learn about differences between the Air Force Reserves and Active Duty Air Force.

Read on to learn about differences between the Air Force Reserves and Active Duty Air Force.

Air Force Reserves vs. Active Duty Air Force

I decided to join the military when I was a Senior in high school. I joined the Delayed Enlistment Program until I was shipped off to Basic Training. Basic Training was six weeks long.

I had testing to find out which career would be the best fit for me, then I was able to choose the career that I wanted to train for from the list of careers they decided would be best for me.

After Basic Training, I went to Tech School for six months to train for my new job. Afterwards, I was sent off to my first duty station to begin working.

When choosing to join the Air Force Reserves or Active Duty Air Force there are many things to consider. Do you want to do it full-time or part-time? What do you want to get out of it? Do you want to live in new places?

Air Force Basic Training Video

Air Force Reserves

The Air Force Reserves requires that you work 1 weekend a month and two weeks each year. You also can choose where you want to live. You usually go to work at the nearest Air Force Reserve Base to where you live.

You go through Basic Training and Technical school just like the Active Duty Members, but afterwards, you are sent back home to begin working from your Reserve base. How long will you be away for the Air Force Reserves? One weekend a month and two weeks out of the year.

In times of National Disaster or War, the time could be extended. Civilian jobs must, by law, keep your job for you to come back to if you are gone on military duty.

Valiant Shield - B2 Stealth bomber from Missouri leads ariel formation

Valiant Shield - B2 Stealth bomber from Missouri leads ariel formation

Active Duty Air Force

Active Duty Air Force requires you to sign up for a 4 or 6 year term. This is your job! They tell you where you live. There is a lot of camaraderie amongst the Active Duty members.

We were all in the same situation together. We were away from our family and homes. We all became family and made a home wherever we went.

The pay was O.K. but the benefits were wonderful. If we were sick, we went to the hospital on base. We didn't have to deal with insurance as long as we went to the hospital on base.

The commissary (grocery store) had very low prices. The BX (a store like Target or Walmart) had everything we needed. Gas on base was cheap. The preschools and daycares on base were wonderful.

As an Active Duty Air Force Member, you are pretty much On Call all the time. You live where they want you to live and work the hours they want you to work.

Active Duty Air Force members have many great benefits including education, insurance, food allowances, living and expenses housing, yearly pay increases, vacation allowance, retirement benefits and savings plans.

You normally spend anywhere from 2-6 years at a base before getting relocated. I know a few people who were at the same base throughout their whole career in the Air Force.

Air Force Basic Military Training Graduation

Choosing Between Active Duty and Reserves

Whether you choose to go Active Duty or Reserves, the main difference is the amount of time you will be putting into it.

If you would like to add a little adventure in your life, learn a new skill and make some extra money, but you do not want to completely disrupt your current life, then the Reserves is the way to go.

If you are looking for a complete change with tons of benefits, decent pay and a secure full-time job then Active Duty is the way to go.

Learn More About Active Duty Air Force

  • Air Force Reserve
    The Air Force Reserve is an ideal option for those who have never been in the military and want to participate without being on full-time active duty, the Reserve is also a great way for those in other branches of the military to continue.
  • United States Air Force—airforce.com
    Welcome to the United States Air Force. Learn about great opportunities for enlisted airmen, officers and health care professionals.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How long is a contract for the Air Force Reserves?

Answer: Your first contract will be for 6 years. After your first contract, you can sign up for 2-6 year terms.

Question: Can I complete my last year of college in either branch of duty while still attending the school I am currently enrolled in?

Answer: If you are in the Reserves, you will be able to complete your last year of college at the school you are attending since you will still be near the school. If you are Active Duty, you will not be able to complete your degree at your school. More than likely, you will be moved away from your college. There are colleges on base (Park College and Embry-Riddle) that will take most of the credits you have so far, though.

Question: I am thinking of joining the Air Force Reserves and was wondering since I have no prior service experience and will sign a 6 year contract, does that still allow me to achieve an E3 status if I am accepted and graduate? Do the Reserves still allow me to achieve E3 after BMT and Tech School? Thank you!

Answer: Here is some helpful information I found at https://www.thebalancecareers.com/advanced-paygrad... In addition to the above, recruits who are enlisting for a period of six years are promoted from Airman Basic (AB) or Airman (Amn) to Airman First Class (A1C) upon completion of one of two technical training programs: the indoctrination course and Pararescue, or 20 weeks of technical training, whichever occurs first.

Question: Can I continue my college studies and also join the Air Force?

Answer: You will only be able to continue with your current college if you are Reserve or if you are Active duty and are either stationed really close to your college or if the have an online program. Active Duty Air Force and Reserve Air Force have the same college tuition programs. The perk of finishing your degree before you join Active Duty is that the Air Force will pay for your college bills and you will enter as an Officer.

Question: Can you get active duty orders while being a reservist?

Answer: Yes, if a war or other activity breaks out and they need you, the Air Force can pull reservists into Active Duty.

Question: Since there are 6 years for people that enlist in the reserves, could in those 6 years I go active? As in change from reserves to active duty? And stay active?

Answer: "With very few exceptions, one cannot simply transfer from the Reserve component to active duty. One must get an approved discharge from the Reserves component of service and then separately process for enlistment or commission for an active-duty service. A member of good standing can apply to the reserves for a conditional release, a document stating that the Reserve component agrees to release them from the remainder of their commitment if they are accepted for enlistment or appointment to an active-duty service component".

Source: https://www.amc.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Artic...

Question: Will joining the Air Force reserves cover any previous student loans? Or is it if you only join full time?

Answer: "The Air Force will repay up to $10,000 for non-prior service, active duty enlistments. Additionally, the Navy Reserves will repay up to $10,000 for Navy Reserve enlistments. The Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force Reserves do not offer the College Loan Repayment Program" Information from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/military-college...

Question: Do you get the same college assistance for both reserve and active duty Air Force service?

Answer: Yes! Active duty Air Force and reserve Air Force members receive the same tuition assistance.

Question: Do reserve airman receive the same pay as Active Duty Air Force?

Answer: Pay depends on years of service and rank. Air Force Reserve members will be paid the same amount as Active Duty Air Force while you are active (one weekend a month and two weeks a year).

Question: Which is better to go for Active Duty or Air Force Reserve?

Answer: It depends on what you are looking for. If you want a full-time commitment with more benefits, join the Active Duty Air Force. If you do not want to move from your location and want a part-time experience, join the Reserves.

Question: Can I join the Air Force reserves for only four years?

Answer: The short answer is no. Your first term will be six years. Every time you renew your enlistment after that, you can renew for anywhere from two to six years.

Question: Can you work more than the "one weekend and two weeks a year" in reserves? I want the full-time job part of the AF, but I really want to stay close to home.

Answer: The Reserves is a part-time commitment. One weekend a month and two weeks a year. The only time it can be extended is if you get deployed, but you will be away from home during that time.

Question: What comes next after Air Force tech school graduation?

Answer: After tech school, the Airman will go to their first duty station for their first assignment.

Question: Can I go to school, work, and be in the Reserves all at the same time? Also if you are in the Reserves, do you still go to Tech School?

Answer: You will need to go to technical school after basic training to train for your job in the Air Force Reserves. You can go to school and work while signed up for the Air Force Reserves as long as it does not interfere with your required one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Here is a link with some helpful information: https://afreserve.com/faq/.

Question: Does the Air Force give both Reserved and Active Duty Air Force a house?

Answer: No, only Active Duty receives a dorm room, house or housing allowance.

Question: If I'm in the Air Force Reserves, can I get my own apartment? And can I still go to a different country like South Korea?

Answer: Yes, you can get your own apartment. Here is a link with information about traveling out of the country while serving in the Reserves: https://www.afspc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Arti...

Question: Do you get the same benefits as a reserve, that you do as an active duty member?

Answer: "Reserve duty members receive full medical and dental benefits only if called for active duty service. Reservists are afforded unlimited access to post exchanges and may be limited to 24 commissary visits per year. Reserve members are stationed near their home for the weekend and two-week drill and training duties unless called into active service. Reserve duty members are able to retire after 20 years of service with modified retirement benefits". Information from https://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/5-thing...

Question: Can I play basketball in college after I join the Air Force Reserves? Or would that interfere?

Answer: Here is a helpful link I found: https://www.collegesportsscholarships.com/2012/08/... While it does not look like you can play college basketball while in the Reserves, you could become an Air Force athlete. Here is another helpful link: http://www.myairforcelife.com/sports/.

Question: How long do you have to serve in the Air Force Reserve?

Answer: I found this information on https://afreserve.com/faq/: "Your initial military service obligation (MSO) will be for six years of participation (one weekend a month and two weeks once a year), plus two years of inactive status (you are no longer expected to attend drills, but you could still be activated by the President). Subsequent enlistments can be from two to six years."

Question: Will the Air Force let me switch from Reserves to Active duty in tech school?

Answer: Here is some information I found at https://www.thebalancecareers.com/transfering-from...

There Is No Simple Transfer Process.

It actually can take months to process. A reservist or guard member must first be released from their reserve status and basically apply to join the active duty ranks. That means finding a recruiter to assist you with the processing into the military (active). The Guards, Reserves, and Active Duty components are all different. With very few exceptions (mostly for medical professionals), one cannot simply transfer from the Reserves/Guard to active duty. One must get an approved discharge from the Reserve/Guard component and then separately process for enlistment (or commission) for an active duty service.

Exception: Some Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers who are currently activated can apply for direct transfer to active duty.

However, one may apply to the Reserves and/or National Guard for a "conditional release." Basically, a "conditional release" says that the Reserve Component. or National Guard agrees to release you from the remainder of your commitment if you are accepted for enlistment or appointment to an active duty service component. Regardless, the official process is still long.

Question: Would it be beneficial for me to go active duty Air Force while in college ROTC?

Answer: You could take classes on your assigned base while active duty. These will count towards your degree. If you are in ROTC during college, you may want to wait until after you finish your degree to join active duty.

Question: Why do people join the military?

Answer: People join for many reasons. Some join to serve their country, some want to see the world, some want to pick up a trade, some go for the GI bill, some go because the job market is low in their area and some go for a combination of all of those reasons.

Question: Can Air Force Reserve members continue to live on base, given that they are transferring from a 4 year Active Duty status?

Answer: According to https://www.todaysmilitary.com/military-life/housi... the answer is no, but there is a stipulation:

Housing for National Guard and Reserve

While active-duty members join the Military on a full-time basis, the National Guard and Reserve are a part-time commitment. Since their training is only one weekend per month with a two-week commitment once a year, these service members usually have the opportunity to live at home.

Guardsmen and reservists who are entitled to a housing allowance will receive a special BAH anytime they’re on active duty for less than 30 days. If they are on active duty for 30 days or more, they’ll receive the full housing allowance rate (the same as active duty).

Question: Can I join with a misdemeanor that is not expunged?

Answer: Here is some information I found on https://benfieldlegal.com/can-you-join-the-militar...

Joining the Air Force With a Misdemeanor

Similar to the other branches, the Air Force is generally not concerned with the legal outcome of your misdemeanor case. They are more concerned with what the misdemeanor says about your moral character. In considering waiver applications, the Air Force looks at the following factors:

Age – If the misdemeanor was committed while you were young, the Air Force might decide it does not affect your moral qualification to serve.

Singularity – If the offense was an isolated incident and you’ve been in no legal trouble since, you may still be allowed to enlist.

Circumstance – If the crime occurred during a difficult time in your life, a recruiter may determine that it does not reflect your moral character.

© 2012 Melanie Casey

Comments

Jillybell on March 13, 2019:

“The perk of finishing your degree before you join Active Duty is that the Air Force will pay for your college bills and you will enter as an Officer.”. This is inaccurate.

Yes, you MUST have a four year college degree to become an Officer. No, joining the Air Force with a college degree does NOT mean that “the Air Force will pay for your college bills and you will enter as an Officer. “

I am a 22 year retired (prior enlisted) officer and have some insight. You must compete for an officer slot. Very few “college bills” will be paid by the Air Force unless you are entering a high demand, low density career field (like surgeon, etc).

Melanie Casey (author) from Indiana on March 19, 2018:

From https://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/5-thing... Reserve duty members receive full medical and dental benefits only if called for active duty service. Reservists are afforded unlimited access to post exchanges and may be limited to 24 commissary visits per year. Reserve members are stationed near their home for weekend and two week drill and training duties unless called into active service. Reserve duty members are able to retire after 20 years of service with modified retirement benefits.

Possible recruit on March 18, 2018:

Can an enlisted reservist serve full time and receive active duty retirement benefits?

ANGAF on February 24, 2018:

The first caption should be spelled "aerial", not Ariel like from Disney! lol Also, your bullet about the Reserves trailed off at "benef[its]"... Just trying to help polish your article, since the Tongue & Quill encourages professionals to communicate professionally.

day H on December 27, 2017:

Thanks . Well put

Jay on June 02, 2017:

Very helpful, thanks!

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