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Old 02-17-2020, 08:09 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default US Military Reserve and National Guard Characters

A lot of NPCs and some PCs in campaigns I run set in the modern world are members of the IRR. Increasing numbers, especially in my current campaign, will also have some form of Reserve or National Guard commitment to the US Armed Forces while primarily having a day job related to the campaign focus (cops, private investigators, security contractors, Monster Hunters, etc.).

I can imagine that this sort of thing can come up in many campaigns set in any reasonably close fascimile of real-world United States. Many actual cops are former active duty military and/or belong to the Reserve/National Guard. I imagine that the same applies to a fair number of characters with useful skill sets for adventurers. Military service is a common background for adventurers in modern settings and in the real world, many of those who serve or have served in the military do so part-time.

I've tried to Google how, exactly, this affect such characters, their background, histories, schedules, living arrangments and freedom to adventure. It occured to me that SJ Games being a US company, the Forums might be home to many people who have actual, real world experience with belonging to some part of the US Armed Forces, including, perhaps, Reserve or National Guard, or ones who had friends, family, spouses or colleagues who did so. So I'm asking for input.

Any notes on how to accurately reflect Reserve or National Guard status for characters are welcomed, as are suggestions of postings, careers or backgrounds especially suitable for adventurers.

I also have some specific questions, most likely a lot of them.

To begin with a few:

1) In practical terms, would there be any difficulties involved for a member of the IRR (probably not), a Reserve unit or a National Guard unit to work for a security company abroad or serve as a security contractor?

2) How far away from the duty station of his Reserve or National Guard unit can somebody practically live?

- 2a) For example, can someone live and work in New Orleans, as a police officer, while belonging to the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company (headquartered in Mobile, Alabama) / 4th Marine Division / United States Marine Corps Reserve?

- 2b) If it's practically possible, would it be seen as unusual to travel a goodly distance, between one or more states, every time a reservist or National Guardsman reported to duty? Or commonplace?

3) What are some Reserve or National Guard duty stations located within plausible commuting distance of New Orleans where a former active duty veteran with an action-adventure protagonist-friendly skill set might be stationed? E.g. what Reserve or National Guard unit might a former member of Special Operations Forces or any elite front-line combat soldier serve with if he desired to serve in a reserve capacity after his active duty service ended?

- 3a) Same question, but for Houston.

4) What are typical careers like for combat arms veterans who serve on active duty and then with the National Guard or the Reserve? That is, how many years on active duty is most common?

- 4a) Is electing to enlist for 4+4 years and instead of going on IRR, transfering to Reserve or National Guard something that many people do?

- 4b) What is a typical career track, in the sense of how many years enlisted for per contract, for someone who was first active duty Army/USMC/Navy/Coast Guard and then Reserve or National Guard?

5) What are some cool, adventurer-friendly National Guard or Reserve Units for characters to belong to and what are military jobs that suit high-point value adventurers that are usually the province of part-time Reserve or National Guard personnel?

Anyone who has any thoughts on PCs or NPCs in RPGs who are in the National Guard or the Reserve of any branch of the US Armed Forces is welcome to add anything that occurs to them.
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Old 02-17-2020, 09:35 PM   #2
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Default Re: US Military Reserve and National Guard Characters

I was part of the IRR after leaving the Navy, and I have plenty of students in the National Guard and the Reserves. In general, members of the National Guard or Reserves must avoid any job that would interfere with them being called to duty (they must also have care available for any dependents). A job that would require international travel would require special permission, as their CO would need to give them authorization, which would be highly unlikely. In general, National Guard members have to live and work in the same state of their unit, though they could ask permission to work outside of the state, as long as doing so would not interfere with their service.

IRR members are more flexible, they just have to have a permanent address where they can be reached, and no one contacts the vast majority of them. During the Bush years though, thousands were forced back into service (or prevented from leaving) through a policy called the backdoor draft. Any who were not available if called could have faced criminal charges.
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Old 02-17-2020, 09:55 PM   #3
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Default Re: US Military Reserve and National Guard Characters

My step father was in the National Guard and he lived about 40 min from his base. I'd say an hour or two and your good, more might be unusual and most would live close to reduce commuting costs. Typically you go one weekend a month plus special events but may be called to active duty at any time.
Hazardous jobs would likely require permission and many do security work. Even being in the Guard means you passed a background check so that helps with certain work.
When enlisted folks are honorably discharged (typical method) they serve two years in reserves most of the time but it usually just means you can be recalled to active duty of needed, nothing more.
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Old 02-18-2020, 03:03 AM   #4
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Default Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and an Example of an NPC

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
I was part of the IRR after leaving the Navy [...]
IRR members are more flexible, they just have to have a permanent address where they can be reached, and no one contacts the vast majority of them. During the Bush years though, thousands were forced back into service (or prevented from leaving) through a policy called the backdoor draft. Any who were not available if called could have faced criminal charges.
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Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
When enlisted folks are honorably discharged (typical method) they serve two years in reserves most of the time but it usually just means you can be recalled to active duty of needed, nothing more.
Under the terms of Executive Order 13223, the Secretary of Defense was authorized to suspend certain terms of enlistment and/or call up members of the IRR. Among other policies that were introduced in connection with Bush's Executive Order was the 'Stop Loss' policy, famously described by Senator John Kerry as a 'backdoor draft' in a debate as part of the 2004 elections. The 'Stop Loss' policy affected roughly 60,000 servicemen and women during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Alexander Howl is more specifically referring to is a practice of recalling members of the IRR to duty. While this was done for technical specialists in critical skill areas from 2001 onward, from what I can tell, the practice that Alexander Howl refers to as a 'backdoor draft' began in 2004. In the first widespread use of the IRR program since the First Gulf War, almost six thousand servicemen and women were called to active duty.

In the next few years, this practice was extended to the point that at the end of the year 2006, 800 members of the IRR who had served on active duty from 1998-2002 were called up for 16 month commitments just as their Military Service Obligation (MSO) of eight years was expiring. Some of these soldiers ended up serving even longer periods after their enlistment contracts had run their course, as having been recalled to duty and deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, they had then become subject to the 'Stop Loss' policy.

Almost as many people were affected by IRR call-ups as by the 'Stop Loss' policy, or around 30,000 for the US Army and unknown, but possibly proportional numbers for the rest of the US Armed Forces. What is very surprising to me, however, is that less than half of those who were recalled to active duty through the IRR actually reported for duty.

While criminal charges did remain a theoretical possibility, it seems that the military did not choose to pursue this for very may of the tens of thousands of people who failed to report. I do not currently have reliable information on how many faced disciplinary action, dishonorable discharges or other proceedings short of criminal charges, but from reading a few articles, it seems that thousands of people did not face any meaningful consequences.

For a character with any kind of military career as part of their backstory, their odds of being affected by 'Stop Loss' or being called up during the IRR during the period between the start of 2002 through the first few months of 2009 is about 1%, just going by the numbers. However, depending on when they joined, what their military occupational specialty was and other factors, the actual odds could be much, much higher.

Unfortunately, the research needed to know exactly which characters should have their backstory affected by this seems prohibitive and I figure I will have to ask about each veteran NPC and PC individually and see if any forumites can give an estimate about the plausibility of a proposed backstory for them, where they served on active duty at some point but were on IRR at some point during the period of 2002-2009. I can then make a judgment call on whether I should add a period of 16-24 months at some point between 2002-2009 where they were recalled to active duty.

Hmm... actually, no PC in my ongoing Caribbean by Night campaign would be affected. The only one of them to be a veteran of any branch of the US Armed Forces did his active duty service in Vietnam and was no longer a part of the IRR some 30+ years later.

About 40+ NPCs introduced so far served on active duty at some point and I should go through their backstories to ensure that those who plausibly should have been recalled to active duty have an overseas deployment added at an appropriate time.

An example of one NPC whom I imagine might have been affected by 'Stop Loss' and/or voluntarily extended their service obligation without signing up for another eight-year MSO would be Gerardo 'Lalo' Calderon. Calderon joined the US Navy on the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) in early 2000 with contract to try out for the SEALs. He passed BUD/S and spent 2001-2010 as a Navy SEAL, becoming a Warrant Officer after obtaining a college degree during his service. Calderon left the United States Navy as a CW2 in 2010.

I'm not entirely sure whether Calderon signed a new enlistment contract at any point or extended his first one so that he spent eight years on active duty and then added another two years on top of that somehow, maybe as part of 'Stop Loss', maybe as part of one of the retention programs that offered substantial bonuses to certain senior NCOs or warrant officers for extending their service obligations.

From a role-playing point of view, Calderon enjoyed his service, but after 2007-2008 or so, he also wanted to have more time to focus on graduate studies and had a standing job offer when when his service ended which would enable him to work part-time during his graduate studies, but still enjoy a good salary and benefits.

When Calderon accepted an offer to become a warrant officer, he would probably have stopped being a Navy rating, because commission or not, warrant officers are officers. I'm not sure what happens to the remaining years of Calderon's enlistment contract, however, including any IRR component. I imagined that Calderon would incur a minimum commitment of some years when he became a warrant officer and seem to have guessed at four years. However, I have no idea what kind of IRR obligation Calderon would have when he left active duty in 2010.

How would this work? What are Calderon's obligations when he accepts a warrant in 2006; i.e. how long would he have had to serve on active duty (that is, is separating in 2010 plausible?) and how long would he have been part of the IRR and/or perhaps another part of the Naval Reserve after leaving active duty?
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Old 02-18-2020, 05:39 AM   #5
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Default Living Out of State While In the Reserve or National Guard

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
I have plenty of students in the National Guard and the Reserves. In general, members of the National Guard or Reserves must avoid any job that would interfere with them being called to duty (they must also have care available for any dependents). A job that would require international travel would require special permission, as their CO would need to give them authorization, which would be highly unlikely. In general, National Guard members have to live and work in the same state of their unit, though they could ask permission to work outside of the state, as long as doing so would not interfere with their service.
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Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
My step father was in the National Guard and he lived about 40 min from his base. I'd say an hour or two and your good, more might be unusual and most would live close to reduce commuting costs. Typically you go one weekend a month plus special events but may be called to active duty at any time.
Hazardous jobs would likely require permission and many do security work. Even being in the Guard means you passed a background check so that helps with certain work.
So, several NPCs in my campaign will be or have been law enforcement officers who also belong to the National Guard or Reserve. Some will have transferred into such service after serving on active duty, others will simply have have done National Guard and Reserve service alongside their civilian careers since they graduated high school or finished their tertiary education, as the case might be.

Some of them will live and work near state borders. For example, Beaumont, TX, is a lot closer to any number of duty stations in Louisiana than it is to military installations in central or west Texas. And even though Mobile, AL is technically two states away from New Orleans, LA, it's also only about a two hour commute away, which is not impossible to drive for one weekend every month.

Do reservists have to apply for permission to live and work out of state from their duty station, as National Guardsmen must do?

Specifically, for a member of the USMC Reserve, but I expect I'll need to make a ruling on this for numerous reservists of US Air Force, Army, Navy and possibly even USCG.

And what about a character who belonged to the 20th SFG? It's a National Guard unit, but it seems not to fall exclusively under any one state; having battalions from Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, with detachments in Draper, Utah; Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; New Milford, Pennsylvania; Camp Atterbury Indiana; Glen Arm, Maryland and Chicopee, Massachusetts.

An NPC by the name of Danny Daniels transferred from the 3rd SFG to the 20th SFG in 2008, being entirely too old and too injured to continue on active duty, but not wanting to leave the Special Operations community behind. I've got him penciled in as doing his National Guard service in Draper, Utah* from 2008-2011, in Florida from 2011-2015 and Alabama 2015-2017.

First of all, is it implausible for Daniels to have changed duty stations like that, considering that it likely involves being transferred between different National Guard units that fall under different states?

Second, while serving in Alabama, Daniels might have wanted to live in New Orleans and/or the greater Houston area, at least part of the time, given that he had a job as a consultant with a security company with offices in both areas. How would that work?

To be clear, Daniels would have maintained an apartment near his duty station in Alabama and stayed there when he had to (and technically, could well have maintained his home of record there), but would have wanted to spend as much time as he could elsewhere on the Gulf Coast than Alabama, because that's where his civilian job took him.

In any case, given that Daniels was working as a senior executive for a security firm servicing the oil industry around Houston (among other clients), he'd probably have had the option of flying back to Alabama by private airplane if he was ever called up while he was away doing consulting work.

Granted, Daniels was a SGM (E-9) in 2015 and probably a highly valued subject matter expert in training and planning for the 20th SFG, as he had 18 years in the USASF before transferring to the National Guard, most of it as a communications expert. So he might have had a little more leeway in terms of getting permission from the CO, who, at any rate, is likely know Daniels fairly well personally, given that he's one of his most senior NCOs.

*The character is from Utah and I imagined that he might have gone home for a while when he left active duty.
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Old 02-18-2020, 05:48 AM   #6
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Default Re: US Military Reserve and National Guard Characters

No one is going to spend 18 years in service and then transfer to the National Guard. 20 years is retirement, and someone who made 18 years will stick out the last two unless disabled by injury or drummed out of the service (in either case, they would not be National Guard). Now, someone could spend 10 years as active (making E-7) and then make E-9 after 8 years in the National Guard, but that would be unusual because anyone who can make E-7 in 10 years usually has patrons that will help their military career (usually because they will make the best officers when they decide to make the transition).
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Old 02-18-2020, 06:23 AM   #7
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Default SGM Danny Daniels

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
No one is going to spend 18 years in service and then transfer to the National Guard. 20 years is retirement, and someone who made 18 years will stick out the last two unless disabled by injury or drummed out of the service (in either case, they would not be National Guard). Now, someone could spend 10 years as active (making E-7) and then make E-9 after 8 years in the National Guard, but that would be unusual because anyone who can make E-7 in 10 years usually has patrons that will help their military career (usually because they will make the best officers when they decide to make the transition).
Danny didn't leave the US Army after 18 years of service, he left it after 25 years. Danny spent 18 years in Special Forces before transferring to the National Guard, but he'd already been in the Army for seven years before becoming a Green Beret in 1990. So he already had the right to a pension when he left.

Daniels had made Master Sergeant in the 3rd SFG and he'd been planning to reach Sergeant-Major in the Army, staying as long as they let him, ideally around the Special Forces community. A serious injury sustained in a training accident in 2008 convinced Danny to retire from active duty service after 25 years, at age 43 and with major knee and back problems.

As it turned out, Danny really did not like retirement, most of all because he missed being around SOF operators and having access to the kind of toys that he'd started to take for granted. So, after only a few months as civilian, Danny started trying to get back into the service. The Army would no doubt have taken him again, but not assigned him to an operational Special Forces unit, not at his age and with his bum knees, bad back and still recovering from injuries.

Besides, Danny didn't mind the challenge of transitioning to a civilian career and already had some good offers, but he just wanted to be able to retain a connection with the SOF community and get the opportunity to enjoy a few weekends a year playing with the kind of toys he'd never be able to buy* in civilian life.

I'm assuming that Danny felt that National Guard service in the 20th SFG might have fewer barriers to entry than returning to the United States Army Special Forces, in light of his age and injuries. Danny could probably pass a physical for military service, even with his injuries, but he could not have convinced a doctor or any sensible officer that he was still able to serve in an operational Special Forces Group, not if he had to retain an airborne qualification to do so.

After a couple of years as a desk-bound senior NCO in the National Guard, doing recruiting, designing course material for communication sergeants, contributing to a training manual or equally exciting stuff, Danny would have been doing well enough in his civilian life to be able to afford top-notch reconstructive surgery considerably more expensive than what he'd had when he was first injured.

After numerous surgeries at top-notch hospitals, Danny had even recovered well enough to be capable of passing any physical that a 45-year-old NCO could be required to pass in order to be assigned to more exciting duty stations for his National Guard service, ones where he sometimes got to take part in the most fun kind of training. Specifically, Danny could have maintained his jump qualification again from 2010-2011, as well as being physically capable of at least trying to keep up with thirty year old athletes doing special operations type stuff.

Danny didn't retire from the National Guard until he was literally forced by law to do so, which my research indicated would happen after 34 years of service, counting both his US Army and National Guard service. That would be in 2017. Then he'd be 52 and, ironically, a lot healthier and in better shape than he was when he first joined the National Guard in 2008.

*No matter how well you do as a security consultant, you're not going to be buying the kind of communications gear, weaponry or helicopters and other vehicles that a Special Forces Group has access to, even if only a National Guard one.
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Old 02-18-2020, 11:21 AM   #8
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Default Re: US Military Reserve and National Guard Characters

I really doubt that anyone is going to be part of the National Guard after 18 years in Special Forces due to the strain on the body, especially since they will really not benefit from it much (they get an extra 25% added to their effective time for every year in the reserves). It is much better to retired at 25 years and become a private contractor for 4-5x as much as military pay. For example, someone with that much experience (and rank) in Special Forces could easily become a Chief Security Officer for a Fortune 500 company, allowing them to pull in $500,000/year (plus benefits).
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Old 02-18-2020, 12:34 PM   #9
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Default Salary and National Guard

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I really doubt that anyone is going to be part of the National Guard after 18 years in Special Forces due to the strain on the body, especially since they will really not benefit from it much (they get an extra 25% added to their effective time for every year in the reserves).
Danny Daniels did not join the 20th SFG National Guard because he expected to receive a meaningful financial improvement to his pension or current consulting fees from it. He does it because it allowed him to still retain a connection with a community of men with whom he feels a sense of belonging. Also, because as a civilian, he'd never get to play with some of the toys.

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t is much better to retired at 25 years and become a private contractor for 4-5x as much as military pay.
Granted, between 2008-2010, Daniels wasn't any kind of economic success story, as he started out slow in his civilian career, but things picked up and for the last seven years of his National Guard service, Daniels earned more as a consultant than some enlisted men earn in their whole careers.

Danny's salary as a security consultant for a number of Houston-area oil and gas comapanies was roughly x4 what he received when on active duty. I'll grant that him having a National Guard commitment is reflected in him being able to work slightly fewer hours per month and which may translate into a reduction in overall earnings somewhat disproportinately, but we're still talking only 10-15% fewer hours he can work. So, maybe Danny is pulling in $300,000 year instead of 360,000, in exchange for not being just a suit, but still able to define himself part of the SOF community.

And that's if we assume that the weekends and yearly training cycle of Danny's National Guard commitment all come out of work hours for Danny. More realistically, to some extent, the drill and training counts as socialization with people he likes and enjoys spending time with, and the training counts as time engaged with his hobbies (playing with high-tech gear, maintaining airborne certification, flying on military helicopters, diving, splashing about on fast boats, etc.). Technically, Danny can work full-time hours at his consultant job and count a weekend a month and an annual two weeks as a perfectly reasonable personal time to himself.

That being said, I expect that the 20th SFG may be funded for more call-ups, more frequent training and a higher rate of attendance of all sort of service schools that many other National Guard units, as they are expected to maintain readiness as a Special Forces formation, not to mention being culturally familiar with their area of responsibility. So, Danny is probably spending more of hims time than the bare minimum National Guard commitment on remaining a member of 20th SFG until he is legally required to retire.

It's just that Daniels is quite comfortable with making somewhat less money than he ultimately could. Even with his National Guard commitments, Danny has time to do as much consulting for oil companies as he can stomach. It's lucrative, but the actual work of evaluating offshore oil rig communication networks and protocols in case of emergencies and suggesting improvements in anything from antiterrorism to hurricane preparations is nowhere near as interesting to Danny as time spent with fellow special operators doing high-speed, low-drag training.

That being said, Daniels' consulting job is quite real, but while parts of it are indeed fairly boring, he also upgrades communications network and emergency protocols for other threats than hurricanes and hypothetical terrorism on offshore oil rigs. He also upgrades the comm networks with redundant shielded systems of simple and robust build, designed to still work during paranormal incidents, and along with a few other consultants with the appropriate experience and skills, he designs emergency response plans to supernatural threats.

From time to time, Danny even gets to be proactive in engaging esoteric threats. Instead of just anti-monster defense, he and his fellow consultants sometimes put on their 'Night Rider' hats and do direct action counter-monster work. Indeed, as Daniels is finally forced to retire from the US Armed Forces, his sole outlet for tactical training (and occasionally more than training) is his 'Night Rider' (Monster Hunter) work, where he belongs to a team mostly composed of prior service SOF personnel.

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For example, someone with that much experience (and rank) in Special Forces could easily become a Chief Security Officer for a Fortune 500 company, allowing them to pull in $500,000/year (plus benefits).
Danny isn't the MBA degree, elegant suit or boardroom type.

Note that from what I can tell more typical salaries for shorter service SOF operators are between $100,000-$200,000. Senior NCPs rate $250,000+. In both cases, these were overseas contractor rates, which are not as common in the 2010s, especially the latter half, as they were in the 2000s.

Danny's regular salary in 2017 was $350,000, with another $200,000 in personal consulting fees. Plus stock options. But he never wore a suit to work and he had the free time for a weekend every month with his buddies and the occasional training rotation with choppers and Kill Houses.
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Old 02-18-2020, 09:05 PM   #10
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Default Proposed NPC Example - USMC Reserve

Consider the following bare bones background, which I'd like input on to make sure it fits with how military regulations and common practices work for a New Orleans police officer and a USMC reservist.

The character should be born around 1970 or so and enlist in the USMC after high school. I gather that 4+4 years is most common and he should do a stretch of active duty, followed by Reserve service. By which I mean that instead of four years on IRR after his active duty ends, he should belong to the Selected Marine Corps Reserve (SMCR) while goes to college and starts a law enforcement career.

Please nitpick the dates and suggest how and why I should adjust the time spent at each part of his career.

1988-1992: Active duty in the USMC.
1993-1997: SMCR service* / College somewhere.
1998: New Orleans PD Training Academy.
1998-2001: SMCR service / NOPD patrol officer.
2002-2004: Called up for his SMCR service for deployment with his Reserve unit/ Takes NOPD Sergeant exam.
2005-2007: SMCR service, probably another call-up and deployment / Sergeant in NOPD Tactical Platoon.
2008-2014: SMCR service / Detective Sergeant in NOPD.
2014: Retires from NOPD to become partner in security company.
2014-2018: SMCR service? / PI and security consultant.

Does the character have to do more than four years for his initial stint on active duty to make it plausible that he would later be assigned to a Reserve Force Reconaissance unit like the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company?

How much time is he likely to have spent called up for active duty with his Reserve unit between 2002-2010? How many overseas deployments are likely during that time?

And would a 40+ year-old Recon Marine reservist be likely to be called up beyond his regular drill duties after 2010?

How long should he remain a reservist with a recon marine unit? At what age would he have to transition to administrative duties, headquarter or staff assignments or other things that might lead to his occasional military duties starting to resemble his day job too much?

Should the character have been commissioned through the Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program (RECP) after he graduated university or at some point after that, assuming that he displays good leadership skills, organizational ability and all-around positive attitude?

If the character was commissioned through RECP, what is the most plausible date for that to have happened?

And what is the likely rank of the character in 2018 (or at retirement from the Marine Force Reserve, if earlier)?

If forumites feel that it is more plausible that character should not have been commissioned (and if not, please share what would be the most likely reason he was not, despite having GURPS traits that indicate he'd be an excellent officer), what enlisted rank should he attain by 2018 (or by retirement, if earlier)?

*Much like other service in the Reserve Component of any branch of the US Armed Forces, Selected Marine Corps Reserve service appears to entail the classic one weekend a month + 2 week drill yearly. That being said, I expect specialized Reserve units like FORECON might call for increased time commitments from reservists, if only to keep up necessary skills and to attend various schools, courses and other professional development. This character would have been willing and able to spend any free time he had during his university years becoming a better Recon Marine, as he strongly considered pursuing a military career (as an officer) once he got his degree. And though he ended up in law enforcement, his reserve service was equally important to him as his civilian career.
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