Posted on Mar 24, 2018
MAJ Deputy Division Chief
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As a longstanding member of the ARNG, I've visited this question many times in my career. Where should you devote your focus? Should you place your energies into being at the top of your civilian profession, or should you try to strategically elevate your military career? Now, on the surface this may seem like an easy question, but I've found that as I've progressed throughout my career, I've had to make some tough decisions. Some time ago, I had a conversation with my civilian employer (former military reserve officer) and he told me that he always placed a heavier emphasis on his civilian career. Being that he was my boss and mentor, I took this as a serious implied task (foot stomp). Since that day, I've seriously contemplated what the future of my military career should look like. Has anyone here dealt with this issue?
Have you been able to expertly balance your civilian and military career, or have you been forced to choose? Let me know your thoughts.
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COL Commander
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I don’t think you’re looking at it from the right angle. Your civilian job of course is of upmost importance and your Gaurd job should supplement leadership experience to further develop you for your civilian job. Think of it as night school. Deployments is you defending your thesis.
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MAJ Deputy Division Chief
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Great counterargument. However, if we get away from the pragmatic view, isn't it reasonable to assume that one should devote the most energy to what they enjoy most. In the end wouldn't it be wise to own the conflict and just choose. If it's civilian career, so be it. However, if the call of service is greater, shouldn't one choose to do that full-time (i.e. active duty, ADOS, or AGR)?
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MSgt Walter Clack
MSgt Walter Clack
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Never have liked either or situations. I believe we are much more than that.
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COL Commander
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I have to admit I have not had a civilian job since 1988 when I was a PFC in the Guard so I have not had to make that kind of choice. I did most recently have three offers at the same agency, Contractor, fed civilian, or CO-ADOS. I chose the CO-ADOS position cause I felt more comfortable with it but some of the leadership at the agency still bring up why I turned down the civilian position. Personally I chose my military profession over a civilian job. But as an employer I appreciate the added benefit of having a trained leader on the team.
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MAJ Contracting Officer
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MAJ (Join to see) - Choose the position that you enjoy the most where lies the greatest benefits. I've seen too many of my peers choose to emphasize their reserve career to the detriment of their civilian job and families, only to arrive at the 05 command selection board and denied, at that point their world collapsed and they had no fall back plan. The reserve component isn't intended to be a primary career choice. Some have been able to succeed, it's a risky venture. As a Company grade officer I usually chose my military career, now I have a good civilian career and prioritize it over my military, I'll probably never be selected for 06 because of that, but my family is happier for it and I do fairly well as a civilian now.

You cannot serve two masters thankfully you can switch back and forth between them.
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Lt Col Jim Coe
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I'm hoping you'll recognize this quote: "A man cannot serve two masters. He will love one and hate the other or hate one and love the other. Man cannot serve both God and money." Somebody or something always has to be first in your life. My personal priority list is God, Family, Country/Job, Friends, everything else. I was able to stick with these priorities for most of my 22-year Air Force career. Sometimes I had to move "country" ahead of "family," but did so after talking about it with my wife. Fortunately, she was a great supporter of me and the Air Force.

It looks like you are a civil servant. OPM rules protect you as far as your job's and your boss' relationship with Reserve Duty. I had Reserve Component officers and NCOs work for me as an Army Civilian. Scheduling around their training and active duty times was a bit of a pain, but we worked through it. Hopefully your boss understands the importance of a trained and ready RC Soldier. If you have any problem with management, you should talk with your equivalent of the Army EEO officer. As a civil servant and RC officer you're building retirement from both careers. You're about to get one of the ultimate "good deals" being able to retire twice before age 66, get paid from both your military retirement and civil service annuity, while still being young enough to undertake a third career if you want.
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MSgt Nondestructive Inspection (NDI)
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This is a hard question that reservists face every day. For me my civilian career takes priority. There is no question about it. My civilian career helps me to be better at my military career so that is definitely a good thing. I am a metallurgist and ndt engineer/ principal level 3 for my plant so those skills translate quite readily into being a reservist NDI in the AF. The AF is my hobby essentially. I do it because I enjoy serving my country but if I had to choose between them I would choose my civilian career. The demands of more and longer deplyments make the balance for traditional reservists very difficult. One of the ways I handle it is staying enlisted instead of taking a commission earlier in my career. As a traditional reservist enlisted member, the demands on my time during the month are not nearly as high as they are for the traditional reserve officers. This is the reason my husband is trying to go back enlisted for his last few years until retirement. The time commitment thing is one of the reasons that there are many many enlisted reservists and guardsmen with a ton of education and high level civilian jobs. These are the people who enjoy serving beyond their initial obligation but don’t want the headache associated with being officers. Heck, if my civilian employer didn’t make up my salary when I get deployed overseas I couldn’t pay my bills on my military salary. Last deployment I made more per month than the O-4 MXS commander. Finding a good civilian employer who makes up the difference between salaries will help you feel better about continuing to serve.
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