Can You Join The National Guard with a Felony? Signing up to serve your country and defend the good people of America is a noble ambition. Wanting to serve in any branch of the United States military is an excellent career choice for those that want to have job security and additional benefits after their service. Just like any other branch, the National Guard takes recruits from all walks of life and gives them excellent opportunities to protect their fellows Americans.
For felons, joining the National Guard can be a difficult process, but it is possible. We will examine the different restrictions that may be placed upon you as a felon and how you can improve your chances of enrolling.
What is the National Guard?
Unlike the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, the National Guard is mainly for defending and serving the nation itself. This means that you will be stationed as a recruit locally within the United States of America. In times of war or an urgent need for overseas soldiers, it is possible that National Guard recruits will provide service overseas as well as in their communities.
Your duties will vary from state to state, but responding to emergencies within the country, drug-related or armed criminal activity, or reconstruction attempts after the destruction of property are the most common ones that those serving in the National Guard face. Further research into the roles and responsibilities of the National Guard in your state can give you specific examples of what your fellow recruits do in your locale.
As well as functioning on a state level, the President may also call upon the National Guard at a federal level when needed. Outside of a federal call to arms, a National Guard recruit can expect to serve within his or her home state.
Unlike the other branches of the military which are more likely to serve overseas, National Guard recruits may also have day-to-day civilian employment that they can pursue when not actively called up for service. They are more like “on-call” soldiers than their counterparts in the Army or Navy, but it is still a respectable position that will help those in your local community.
What do I need to do to sign up for the National Guard?
The easiest way to join the National Guard is to have served in another branch of the military previously. If you have previous military experience and were not dismissed with a dishonorable discharge, it is extremely likely that you will be able to enroll and serve your country locally as well (as long as you still pass all other requirements for military service).
If you have not served in the military, then there are four areas that the National Guard recruiters will look at. In terms of qualifications for the National Guard, they are not too different from the other branches of the military. All those who wish to enroll in the National Guard must be:
- a) Between the ages of 17 and 35
- b) A U. S. citizen or permanent resident who can prove their residency
- c) At least a junior in high school or have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) diploma, and
- d) Able to pass the medical, the physical, and the moral requirements that the military expects of recruits
A, B, and C will be verified during your enrollment process. This will involve an application form which can be found here on the Army National Guard website. You can also find applications and recruitment officers at recruitment drives where you will be assisted in filling out the form.
After A, B, and C have been verified, step D will require you to undergo a medical assessment by a medical professional associated with the National Guard in your state and a 12-week basic training program. If you can pass these tests and the additional moral requirements, you will join a reserve unit for one weekend’s worth of service every month and at least two weeks out of the year. We will explore the moral requirements in more detail below.
Is there a background check for joining?
The military wants individuals who pass the “moral requirements” for their recruitment process. They are searching for individuals with a good, moral character who they can rely on to act morally and fairly in potentially stressful and dangerous situations. The first step in this is a background check.
Military background checks are rigorous and show up crimes that are sealed or expunged. If you have a criminal record (especially if that includes a felony arrest or charge), you will need to declare it when enrolling. Failing to do so will not only mean that you will be automatically disqualified from the recruitment process but may also face an additional criminal charge for fraud. Lying to the military is not worth the risk. They will find out. Do not lie.
Although the National Guard may have a reputation as the “easiest” branch of the military to join, they still carry out an extensive background search. This will mainly look for criminal history (including misdemeanors or non-serious crimes such as speeding), historical or current drug use, and your credit history. You will also need to declare any residences that you have lived in within the previous 10 years. This background check can take up to 30 days due to FBI involvement, but the National Guard aims to have this completed within 10
Obviously, your criminal history is analyzed for the nature and number of crimes that you have committed. Although you are unlikely to be disqualified, you may need a waiver to be passed before you can sign up if you have a large number of non-violent non-serious crimes (such as speeding or parking tickets) or a misdemeanor on your record. If you have multiple misdemeanors, you may be turned down for service as you could be judged as not having a good, moral character.
Can You Join The National Guard with a Felony?
General restrictions for felons
Expanding on the good, moral character requirement, there are a number of core values that the military expects from their recruits: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour, integrity, and personal courage. If you have a felony charge on your record, there is a high chance that you will not be judged as possessing these qualities.
Rightly or wrongly, in America today the general public does not believe that felons possess these qualities and that is what has led them to a life of crime. If you have committed crimes that have explicitly broken these values, you may expect to face rejection from the military for your application.
If your felony was committed in the past 5 years and you have not won back your right to bear arms, you will be rejected. As a military organization, the use of firearms is expected. As a felon, you are not allowed to possess, own, or use a firearm without special dispensation. Unless you can win back your rights, it is almost certain that you will be rejected.
Can the type of felony change my chances?
Yes, it can. Although felony charges can be overlooked if it is waived (much like with misdemeanor charges), the type of crime and the time of your crime will determine if you are eligible for a waiver.
For example, if you were found guilty of treason, a recruiter will not see loyalty, selfless service, and integrity in you. Additionally, if you have felony charges for sexual or violent crimes (including murder), it is likely that you will be rejected as you have not shown the values of respect for human life and honour in your past. Murder, rape, and armed burglary are considered to be serious offences – all serious offences disqualify applicants from serving in any military branch.
You will be entrusted to protect and defend your fellow countrymen with arms – if you cannot be trusted to possess a weapon, you are unlikely to be accepted at all.
How to give yourself the best chance for joining the National Guard
If you are a felon and wish to enroll with the National Guard, you can improve your chances by following these steps;
- Utmost honesty – being open about your past mistakes will allow you to possibly pass to the next stage of the recruitment process and hopefully qualify you for a waiver. Additionally, this process shows a great deal of personal responsibility and facing up to reality. These attributes that the military wants to see in their recruits.
- Finding a job or further education – although you may wish to join the military, showing that you can hold down a steady job or get access to further education will be an excellent sign to recruiters that you are reformed or at very least are working towards reform
- Win back your right to bear arms – as a military organization, the National Guard needs its recruits to be able to use firearms when needed. Search for legal advice in your local area about how best to win back your right to bear arms and show that you can be trusted by society again.
- A pardon or an expungement – even though the military can access your sealed or expunged crimes on your criminal record, showing that you have been judged by state or federal representatives to have become reformed is an excellent step to show that you have changed since your days of criminal behavior.
Continued attempts to join – if you believe that you have not committed a felony that will permanently disqualify you from service and has been turned down in the past, there is nothing stopping you from applying again. This will show a desire to better yourself and show that you really want to join the National Guard as well as overcome the challenges you have faced as a felon.