Returning Guardsmen Plan to Stay Put

Returning Guardsmen Plan to Stay Put (LAT)

Sgt. Nate Gorin served tours with the Army in Afghanistan and then with the California National Guard in Iraq. Returning home Thursday to a boisterous, patriotic welcome at the Petaluma National Guard Armory, Gorin, 23, said he planned to leave military service and pursue environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz. “No, I’m not going to reenlist,” Gorin said emphatically. “I think I’ve done enough.”

Spc. Chris Murphy, 22, a Lake County rock musician, said not even the $15,000 bonus being offered for reenlistment is enough to entice him to sign up again. “There is no amount of money they can give me to stay in,” Murphy said. “I was active for two years and I signed up with the Guard to go to college. I was in for 5 1/2 years, and I only finished three semesters of school. I don’t want to get pulled out again.”

As thousands of troops across the country return from the first extended National Guard overseas combat role since the Korean War, officials are watching reenlistments wane despite bonuses and other incentives recently authorized by Congress. Soldiers such as Gorin and Murphy who joined the National Guard to help pay for their education say they are dissuaded by the prospect of additional duty in war zones.


Presiding over the Petaluma welcome home ceremony Thursday, California National Guard commander Brig. Gen. James Combs estimated that at least a quarter of Alpha Company will not rejoin the Guard when their enlistments expire. Combs said the dropout rate, while higher than it is in peacetime, is still less than the 35% or more officials had feared.

The evidence in this report is almost entirely anecdotal. Still, it was entirely predictable. For decades, joining the National Guard meant playing military a few days a year in exchange for some decent pay and benefits. In the last decade plus, though, we’ve had a smaller Active force and a much higher OPSTEMPO. As a result, Guard and Reserve personnel, especially those in a few critical specialties, have been deployed on a routine basis.

Many Active soldiers note that these people took the money for years and are now whining about having to actually do the jobs they’ve signed up for. There’s something to that. I’ve got less sympathy for reservists now than I did in the 1990s, since we’re actually at war now rather than doing entirely optional peacekeeping missions. Fighting our nation’s wars is what soldiers do, including reservists. Still, they didn’t sign up for full-time service. In an environment where units rotate out of battle rather than staying, as was customary in World War II and Korea, for the duration, multiple tours seems unreasonable.

That said, a dropout rate of 25% — or even 35% — is hardly a crisis. We expect more than that from our Active Duty force.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Environment, Iraq War, Military Affairs, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Fersboo says:

    25 to 35% is nothing compared to some of the professional industries’ [ie. public accounting & law] attrition rate.

    Maybe this is irrelevant, but does the LAT also have articles highlighting those whom have decided to re-up. I bet there are pretty good odds that they do not.

  2. John Krohn says:

    The response to this articles is completely unwarranted and is presented in an angry and resentful tone. I had the pleasure of serving six years in the Marine Corps Reserve, my unit was deployed twice in two years to serve as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    I first want to say that I served with many fine individuals and that we were proud to serve our country and secure freedom for a new generation of people who never had the opportunity to experience freedom before. Secondly, there is no difference between active and reserve forces when deployed in a combat operation. The individual merit of the soldier,sailor, airmen, or marine is the same, the only thing that may change are the equipment supplied to them.

    The reservists of the United States Military are not in need of yours or anyone else’s sympathy. Just perhaps a realization that they are soldiers of the United States who comprise 40 percent of the active force in OIF. They have a right just like their active duty counterparts to not reenlist when their original contract expires. They may be less likely to reenlist than their active duty counterpart but it is certainly not because they whine and complain about fighting our nation’s battles. Rather, it is the fact that they have responsibilities active personnel don’t have; to include ownership of small businesses(which helps america’s economy) and responsibility to civilian employers and civilian companies(often holding jobs of critical importance to their employers be it a public or private entity)to name a few. In addition to these added responsibilities our nation’s reserve forces recieve less family support when deployed as well as less personal benefits and support upon deployment than is provided to their active duty counterparts.

    In your response you argued that the evidence provided in the artcile was anecdotal. Well my friend your response was not only anecdotal but it was also shortsighted and ignorant. Rather that engage in useless rhetoric about the merit of a group of individuals in our armed forces(that you clearly know nothing about) why dont you ask important questions like how can we reform our reserve forces to meet the ever increasing demands of the War on Terrorism.

  3. SFC SKI says:

    Unfortunately, a lot of activated Reservists and Guardsmen get treated pretty poorly by the active-duty soldiers they fight alongside, I am not talking about name-calling either. Federalized troops have had terrible problems with pay, family support, medical care, and schooling opportunites. Combine that with a pay gap, loss of personally owned businesses, loss of jobs from employers, and financial ruin in a few cases, you have to be aware that it is not just the “inconvenience” of having to go to fight that is weighing on the Reservists’ decision to reenlist or not.