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What to Expect From a Tour of Duty

Serving your first tour of duty in the military is a stressful experience since you don’t know what to expect or when you’ll see your family and friends again. Over 1.3 million active members of the military serve a tour in different locations around the world, but embarking on your first is a mystery. Knowing what to expect provides peace of mind when you prepare to leave the United States.

The branch of the military you join will impact how long your tour of duty is and where it takes you. Doing your research will help you mentally and physically prepare to perform your guard tours.

Fortunately for your military career, you’ve discovered the perfect guide to learning what to expect during your military service. Continue reading to understand what you should expect when serving a tour today!

What Is a Military Tour of Duty?

Military tours of duty occur when soldiers leave their bases and face combat in a foreign land. The tour of duty system is designed to rotate units and branches of service to prevent over-extending the military’s resources. It’s also best to take soldiers with a served tour off the line and replace them with new soldiers.

Are You Eligible for a Military Tour?

Any person enlisted in the Armed Forces of the United States is eligible to go on a tour of duty. Active-duty soldiers are the first choice to send on a tour of duty since these soldiers serve 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. This is a different experience than the life of a military reserve soldier.

Reservists experience monthly training and won’t go on a tour of duty unless the military requires their help. The infantry is the most common group in the military to face a deployment, but each military member could go on a tour of duty at any time.

How Long is a Tour of Duty?

A military tour of duty depends on your branch of service. Each component has different terms for a served tour, and knowing these lengths will help you determine which unit is the best option for your future. Here’s a closer look at each branch’s tour of duty terms.


An Army tour of duty will last between six and 12 months, possibly extending it to 15 months abroad. Soldiers without families will face 12-month tours, while soldiers accompanying families could face a TOD of 36 months.

Single soldiers also face a 36-month tour of duty as a way to combat attrition within the ranks. The military also enjoys this option since it reduces the costs of moving families abroad.

Army soldiers handle various tasks during a tour of duty. It’s possible to face combat operations during times of war, though many tours of duty require inspections, field exercises, and other forms of training. The Army offers one of the more intense tours of duty, which could result in getting a military police challenge coin.


A Navy tour of duty is different from other service branches since it involves spending time aboard your assigned ship. A foreign deployment requires sailors to remain on their ship for six months before returning to the United States. After six months, the ship returns to port for maintenance and exercises.

After completing the maintenance and exercises, the ship is ready to return to the high seas. Most sailors handle operation sea duties during their time on the ship. During times of war, these sailors spend time aboard their ships conducting fleet maneuvers and combat patrols.

It’s also possible to find yourself assigned to a Naval base in foreign nations like Japan, Korea, Guam, and Cuba. Joining the Navy and serving a tour of duty is an excellent way to see the world while gaining valuable skills.

Air Force

The tour of duty for the Air Force is longer than the other branches, with the average member serving close to four years. The TOD changes based on the role and task of each soldier in the Air Force. Pilots have more extended tours of duty, consisting of flight training, combat patrols, surveillance, and more.

If you’re looking for excitement and you meet the qualifications, enjoying a tour of duty as an Air Force pilot is a fantastic experience. The role of the pilot is the most significant factor in determining the length of a tour.

National Guard and Coast Guard

Members of the National Guard have much shorter tours of duty than other military branches. A tour of duty ranges from 15 days to 60 days for National Guard members when on duty for their state. Federal deployments last much longer, with the average tour lasting up to 12 months, and it could result in getting stationed abroad, especially during times of war.

Coast Guard tours of duty can last as little as one week or as long as three months. Members in temporary roles will have shorter terms. A larger ship results in a more extended patrol and tour of duty.


The typical tour of duty for a Marine is between six and 12 months. The mission often determines how long the tour lasts. A Unit Deployment lasts six months, while a combat deployment lasts as long as the military needs soldiers. Marines with specialized skills can also get deployed for 12 months to be part of special military operations in war zones and abroad.

Prepare for Your First Tour of Duty

Preparing for your first tour of duty is an exciting experience, especially when you don’t know what awaits you at your new base or deployment. You may experience combat during your served tour, and the branch of service could send you all over the globe. Expect to spend time away from your family, with military service requiring tours of duty for up to 15 months.

Are you ready to see the world and experience an exciting career? Check out more of our travel and business blog content for new ideas and opportunities for your future!

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