Difference Between Active Reserve & Active Duty

by Karen Good

Active duty soldiers make up the core of our flexible Army strength. They are supplemented, as needed, by Reserve and National Guard personnel during specific operations.

Active Duty


Active duty personnel are classed as being in the Regular Army (RA). They are full-time soldiers, with a commitment of several years (usually four to six on an enlistment), and then Reserve time for a balance of eight years. If qualified, they are encouraged to remain on active duty until regular retirement.

Active Reserve


Reserve soldiers, on the other hand, normally serve in a unit with a commitment of one weekend per month, and two weeks in the summer. When needed, they are activated to perform an operation on active duty for a specific amount of time. For instance, the National Guard might be activated to help clean up after a major flood.

Active Guard Reserve (AGR)


An exception to that rule is the Active Guard Reserve. Soldiers who qualify, and want to work full-time, are activated to work for the Army side by side with RA soldiers for up to 20 years. At that time, they are qualified for regular retirement.

Reserve Deployments


When needed, Reserve soldiers are activated for deployment to augment our RA forces in various parts of the world. Each day served on active duty counts toward eventual retirement.

Time Served for Retirement


While regular Army soldiers retire based on a minimum of 20 years of active duty service, Reserve soldiers qualify based on a system of points (normally a maximum of 75 per year), and age. When they accumulate 20 good years, they qualify for retirement at a pro-rated value as of their 60th birthday.

Photo Credits

  • Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of The U.S. Army

About the Author

Karen Good started writing professionally in 1993, both for the U.S. Army and commercially, including articles in "Army Logistician" and "Playgirl." She is a retired Army officer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and English from SUNY, a Bachelor of Science in psychology and sociology from the University of Maryland and a Master of Education in counseling psychology from Boston University.