Can Felons Join the National Guard?

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You might have considered a military commitment before your legal issues started. Since your conviction, you could still be thinking about joining the National Guard.

Let’s look at the issue of whether or not felons can join the National Guard.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • What Is the National Guard?
  • Qualifications for Joining the National Guard
  • Restrictions against Felons
  • Background Check?
  • Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?

What Is the National Guard?

The National Guard is a branch of the U.S. military that provides service to the country as well as to the community. 

The duties of the National Guard involve responding to emergencies within the country, drug-related situations, and reconstruction following destruction of property. Units also can be deployed overseas during combat.

The National Guard can be activated by a state governor as well as by the president when the need arises. Typically, a unit will be activated to serve in its home state.

Those who serve in the National Guard are routinely employed at regular civilian jobs when not active with their unit.

Qualifications for Joining the National Guard

Being part of the U.S. military, there are strict standards that must be met to be eligible to join the National Guard.

You can join the National Guard either with or without previous military experience. It may be somewhat easier to join the National Guard if you have previous military experience.

However, you will still need to meet the standards, complete the application, and go through whatever background investigation is mandated by the National Guard.

To become a member of the National Guard without previous military experience, you must be:

  • Between the ages of 17 and 35
  • A U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • At least a junior in high school or have a high school diploma or a GED 
  • Able to meet medical, physical, and moral requirements

A commitment typically involves a 12-week basic training and joining a reserve unit that serves one weekend per month and two weeks out of the year.  

These units are subject to being activated during time of military need, which could impact your civilian job. 

You will also be required to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAT) to determine your intellectual and occupational strengths.

Restrictions against Felons

Let’s look further at what the moral requirement involves.

As you might expect, the moral requirement could prove to be an issue for felons.

An essential aspect of the National Guard is commitment. The National Guard expects certain standards to be met by all those admitted to this branch. There is a strict adherence to the seven core Army values that include: 

  • Loyalty
  • Duty
  • Respect
  • Selfless service
  • Honor
  • Integrity
  • Personal courage

Those can be challenging for anyone to meet, but it can be especially difficult for felons who tend not to be perceived as honorable and trustworthy.

They will have to go to some lengths to overcome the perception that much of the general public has of them.

We’ll look further at this issue.

Background Check?

Yes, there is a background check that is run before you can join the National Guard. The type of background check that is completed is essentially the background check that is run by the military on potential recruits.

A military background check tends to be rather rigorous. Even for the National Guard, a background check will look at whether or not you are reliable, trustworthy, and of good character.

There will be a questionnaire about your criminal history, drug use, and other factors. Fingerprints will be taken and run through a national database. The background check will also be conducted with the local law enforcement in areas where you have lived in the past 10 years.

We typically state that a background check will take about a week at many companies but not this time. Because of the strict nature of the background check and the involvement of the FBI, it can take up to 30 days for the National Guard to get the findings.

Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?

Yes, the type of felony does make a difference with the presence of a felony on your criminal record, it puts you in a precarious position with the National Guard.

While they might dismiss you because of your conviction, there is a provision in the regulations of the National Guard that one felony can be waived

This will of course depend on how serious that felony is, the circumstances, and the current needs of the National Guard. So, there may be a chance.

But, it will still make a difference what the felony is. Not all felonies will be eligible to be dismissed. An extremely serious offense like murder will end any chance you might have had to join the National Guard. Another felony that appears to be serious enough to eliminate you is a drug trafficking charge.

Other felonies that could present an obstacle for you is if you have a sexual offense or a violent felony. These represent crimes against persons that are often roadblocks to many types of jobs.

An Opportunity for Felons?

Other than specific felony convictions, if you are still interested in joining the National Guard and making a commitment to them, you might be able to do that.

Of course, it will require being honest in your dealing with the National Guard. You must be open in reporting information about your background. Most important will be your honesty in disclosing everything about your background, especially your criminal record.

Joining the National Guard requires commitment and the determination to succeed. You need to demonstrate the necessary moral requirements.

You could talk with a recruiter about whether or not you might obtain a waiver for your felony. You need to be honest with the recruiter about the offense and the circumstances.

If you want to join the National Guard, you could have your record expunged, if you are eligible. You could put yourself in the position to have your felony waived. 

Remember the moral standard clause of the National Guard. The perception by society of felons is that they are immoral and undeserving of forgiveness and being able to serve their country in a role such as the military offers.

Don’t be as quick as much of society to view yourself in such a harsh light and don’t accept the typical limitations imposed upon felons. Keep working to accomplish a noble goal to serve and protect through the National Guard.

Take the necessary steps to live the right way, to put the mistakes of the past behind you, and move forward. It can be so rewarding to set and accomplish your goal. There is honor in a military career with the National Guard if you want it. 

Don’t continue to be defined by your mistakes but in how you recover from them.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to join the National Guard with a felony? What was like, and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

3 thoughts on “Can Felons Join the National Guard?”

  1. This blog was helpful for me since I am a felon with a sex offense I’ve wanted to join the national guard since I was in high school and now that I’m a felon it will be difficult to join but I will overcome this roadblock in my life and try my hardest to serve and give back to not only the state of Wisconsin but also to the USA

  2. Yes this information is very helpful and positive. I am going to pursue a career in the guard. I know I cannot take back the past mistake I made as a teenager, have a charge of conspiracy to commit robbery, accessory before the fact, but I have learn from my past. I want to give back, I have grown and mature, ready to move forward.


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