The deployment cycle is a little different for National Guard and reserve service members. Shortly after returning, you will demobilize and return to a non-active duty status. While active-duty service members will return to a military community, you will be reintegrating into civilian life where people may not understand the full depth of your deployment experience. You might find yourself feeling like your support network is thin or you miss a sense of camaraderie – this is completely normal. Remember to talk openly with others, be patient with yourself and those around you, and know when and where to seek support.
Keep the following in mind while returning to civilian life.
Your activation status changes
When you demobilize, you will need to update your status and identification cards. To do this, bring copies of your discharge and release documents to the military identification card office at your demobilization station. Remember to update family members’ information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
You can take leave
After deployment, you will probably want to take some well-earned leave to spend time with family and loved ones. Most reserve component service members choose to take their remaining accrued military leave at the end of their period of active duty service as that is usually the most beneficial option available. Reserve component members are authorized to carryover leave earned during a period of active duty to a subsequent period of active duty if desired. If you know that you will be returning to active duty within a short period of time you may want to consider carrying over some of your leave. It is also possible to sell accrued leave subject to limitations but that is often the least beneficial option of how to use leave.
If your civilian employment is with the Federal government, you may be entitled to 22 days of military contingency leave from your federal civilian position. National Guard and reserve technicians are entitled to 44 days of military leave from their technician position for duty overseas under certain conditions. Visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and Office of Personnel Management websites for more details on military leave.
Your finances will change (again)
Just as your income changed upon activation, your finances will likely change again after deactivation. This is because you will no longer receive active-duty pay, special pays or allowances. You will also no longer be eligible for the combat zone tax exclusion. You will go back to receiving monthly drill pay from the military, but your income from military sources will likely decrease significantly.
Remember that when you’re transitioning back to a civilian career, you might have to work a full pay period before getting your first pay check. Be prepared for a potential gap in income.
During this time, you may want to revisit your financial situation and draft a new budget to account for these changes. For more information on financial affairs, read the article Revisiting Personal Affairs. Visit Military OneSource to learn about the military Financial Management Awareness Program.
Certain legal and financial protections expire
After deployment, you may no longer qualify for legal and financial protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. For legal issues such as court procedures, your coverage stops on the date you’re released from military service. Financial protections including reduced interest, foreclosures and lease terminations will expire 30 to 90 days following your release from active duty.
Learn more about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or contact a legal services office near you using the Armed Forces Legal Services Locator.
Your health care coverage changes
Your health care benefits will also change when you deactivate. Visit TRICARE’s website to learn more about health care options after deactivation.
Reintegration includes returning to work
Returning to your old job may be especially challenging to navigate. Try using the following tips to help ease this transition:
- Meet with your supervisor to discuss your intent to return to work and catch up on things that have changed since you’ve been gone. Make a plan together for returning so that you know what to expect.
- Know your rights, including protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Visit the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve website for guidance, or contact a legal services office near you using the Armed Forces Legal Services Locator.
- Focus on communicating with your coworkers who filled in while you were away. Show your appreciation and be open to others’ insights. Keep in mind that your coworkers may not totally understand your military experience or everything that you’ve gone through.
- Be patient, anticipate changes and expect that you may not pick up right where you left off. Accept decisions that were made while you were gone and know that you might experience a change of pace from duty. Even if you left work as a highly credible employee or decision-maker, you might need to re-establish yourself.
- Connect with support resources, like the Yellow Ribbon Program, which offers information on health care, education and training opportunities, financial and legal benefits and more. Ask your employer if they offer employee assistance programs or services to help you transition back to work.
Reintegration might include education
As a member of the National Guard or reserves, you may be entitled to certain benefits for training and education. Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on education and training benefits.
Whether you’re starting or returning to higher education, understand that this transition may not be easy emotionally, socially or academically. It can be challenging to continue coping with the effects of deployment while attempting to “live a normal life” on campus. Take advantage of available resources like your school’s veterans affairs office or student veterans organizations. Check out the Student Veterans of America website for more information.
You still have access to support programs and services
Regardless of your activation status, there are plenty of programs and services to help you and your family manage the unique challenges of reintegration as a National Guard or reserve service member.
- The Yellow Ribbon Program: The Yellow Ribbon Program can help you and your family connect with specific resources, networks and services at all stages of deployment. They can help sort out health care, education, employment and benefits, and provide a forum for addressing behaviors related to combat stress, posttraumatic stress and transitioning to non-military environments. Get started by finding a service-specific reintegration event near you.
- Family Programs: Each branch of service has Military and Family Support Centers to help you and your loved ones adjust during reintegration, including the Army Reserve Family Program and the National Guard Family Program. Find a family assistance center near you with this National Guard Family Program lookup tool.
- Military OneSource: As a National Guard or reserve service member, you can receive confidential, non-medical counseling and support through Military OneSource regardless of your activation status. Counselors can help with a variety of military life challenges including deployment adjustments, stress management, communication, parenting issues, and more. Learn about Military OneSource non-medical counseling services.
- Transition Goals, Plans, Success: The Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program helps make sure you are career ready if you are transitioning out of the military. The program offers several modules on entrepreneurship, technical training and education.
For more resources, scroll to the bottom of the Reunion and Reintegration web page.