Believe it or not, being in special operations can be a part-time endeavor. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all have reserve and/or national guard special operations units at their disposal. These “part-time” units give people the unique opportunity to serve in America’s elite forces while still being able to maintain their civilian careers and lifestyles.
The 19th and 20th Special Forces Group make up the Army National Guard’s special operations units. Individuals that receive a National Guard Special Forces contract are required to go through the same Special Forces Qualifications Course (SFQC) as their active-duty counterparts. A National Guard member going through Special Forces training is placed on “active duty” during their time at SFQC and must complete the entire pipeline before they return to National Guard status. National Guard units stay extremely busy and take part in deployment rotation just as active-duty Special Forces units do.
The Navy consists of NSW and EOD reserve units. The NSW reserve units are SEAL Team 17 and SEAL Team 18. These two teams are comprised of both SEALs and SWCCs. The majority of the SEALs and SWCCs at these units are prior active duty members that transferred to the reserves upon completion of their active duty commitment. But, some sailors are able to obtain an NSW contract while in the reserves and upon completion of training are assigned directly to a reserve SEAL Team. EOD operators are similar to their NSW brothers, with most being active duty service members before their transfer to the reserves. The NSW and EOD reserve units are also on a constant deployment rotation. Usually, reservist operators are mobilized for a year. The first three to six months are used for pre-deployment training and the f0llowing six to nine months are the actual deployment, which could be anywhere in the world.
The Air Force’s special operations career fields, Pararescue (PJs) and Combat Control Teams (CCTs), Special Reconnaissance (SR), and Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) have Air Force National Guard and Reserve units. Like the Army, individuals are able to enlist into the Air Force National Guard or Reserves and directly enter into a special operations training pipeline. Upon completion of PJ, CCT, SR, or TACP training, operators are assigned to their respective units.
The Pararescue community has many Rescue Wings (Guardian Angels) assigned to both the Air Force National Guard and the Air Force Reserves. The Combat Control Teams only have two Special Tactics Squadrons under the Air National Guard. These units have a wide array of responsibilities, ranging from domestic operations to deploying to combat zones downrange.
If an individual has the burning desire to become a member of the United States Special Operations Command, but still wants a “normal” life, becoming a special operator in the reserves or National Guard could be the perfect blend.
This article was originally published in February 2020. It has been edited for republication.