For several years, I was a soldier-medic in the U.S. Army. I saw countless military and family members. Now I am a veteran looking back.
If you really, really, really must leave the US Army before your time is up
Are you in the US Army? Do you hate every waking moment of it and want to get out? Keep reading and I'll get you out quickly and quietly. Then we can all move on with our lives.
But why am I doing this? Here's why: if you hate the Army, you hate America. Now shut the hell up and get the hell out. Just kidding, is it ever that simple?
But as long as you are hell-bent on leaving the Army then you--as a soldier--are a liability. I want as few liabilities in our nation's armed forces as possible. So you can stay in and make something of yourself or you can leave.
Then again, who cares what I want, right? This is about you and you want that discharge as soon as possible. In this article, there are several different ways guaranteed to get you out. As an Army medic, I've screened countless trainees who have used these methods over the years. They were discharged in as little as two weeks.
Also included are things you don't want to do. Things that will not only keep you in the Army longer but will also jeopardize other trainees in your unit. Nobody wants that.
Finally, to get technical, these techniques will get you an Entry Level Separation (ELS) as long as you pull them off in less than 6 months. For example, if you start your military service in January and you make it out before July then it's an ELS.
The Entry Level Separation is very quick. It's not a "good" or "bad" discharge. Officially it means that you haven't been in the Army long enough for them to decide whether you were a good soldier or bad soldier. But by then, does it really matter?
Why am I doing this?
When I was in the Army, I was a medic. This was during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. It was hard to treat the many service members coming back from the battlefield with so many trainees who only wanted to go home.
Don't get me wrong, most of the trainees had legitimate medical injuries and we were happy to help them. In other cases, some trainees got the idea that wanting to get out of the Army was a medical issue. So they packed our clinics thinking that we could wave a magic wand and send them home. This is wrong: leaving the Army is an administrative issue, it is ultimately up to the commander.
Look, I understand that the Army isn't for everyone. I also believe that anyone who really wants to finish Basic Training (Basic Combat Training or BCT) and/or Advanced Individual Training (AIT) can. BCT and AIT programs are specifically designed for you to finish. The only people who fail are those who don't want it. So please reconsider. Please stay. You can do it. I promise.
Also, this article is for trainees who are actually in the Army: on post and in uniform. Trainees who have in-processed completely and have started training--unlike recruits who just signed and change their mind before shipping off. I have another article for them.
Finally, this article is for entertainment purposes only. Please don't get on my case if the rules have changed since I left (a few years ago). Rules can easily change at any time, anywhere.
Refuse to train
This is called "insubordination." I've seen trainees get into formation with all the others then sit down, cross his arms and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. His drill sergeant gets mighty angry and yells, of course. Then other drill sergeants come over from the other platoons do the same. This is screwing up the training schedule and the other trainees are confused. What's going on?
I hate to say it but you can do the same if you really, really must. Do not get violent, do not get angry or loud. Just sit on your bottom. Do nothing and say nothing. After a few minutes of hell-storm yelling, one of the drill sergeants will get real close and talk to you quietly. He'll tell you he gets the point. He'll tell you to get out of formation. Then eventually someone will take you to the company commander.
The commander will be mighty angry because you did this but he's seen it before. Also he has a lot on his plate. He manages at least two hundred people, twenty-four hours a day--anyone of whom can get seriously hurt at any time.
He doesn't have time to babysit you so he'll ask you what's going on. Why not talk to him? Tell him the truth. Why do you want to leave? If he changes your mind and you decide to stay in the Army then that's fine. Almost every commander will sweep it under the rug and tell your drill sergeant to do the same. Like it never happened. Seriously.
If you still want to leave he'll eventually get the point. You haven't been in long enough and your rank isn't high enough for him to even bother with a court martial or anything like that. That kind of paperwork takes months and it's not worth it. He'll want you out as soon as possible.
If you refuse to train then you are now a liability that the Army has to feed, house and take care of. No thanks. He'll shuffle some paperwork on his end then you'll be transferred to another company. This is a "holding" company for liabilities like you who are on their way out. You'll stay until more paperwork is finished. This takes about two or three weeks.
Then that's it. You're out. How you get home from base is your responsibility.
Wet your bed
For some odd reason, the Army doesn't want its soldiers wetting their beds at night. I don't get it. It's not like bed-wetting a threat to national security or anything. Still, policy is policy and there is no way around it.
I've seen the most dedicated, committed, patriotic trainees it get the boot because they wet their beds a few times. It breaks their hearts as well as their buddies' and drill sergeants'. Can't he stay? Can't the Army make an exception? No.
You can do this too, if you must. But you must actually do it. There must be evidence. The morning of the event, tell your drill sergeant. He'll tell you to wash your sheets. He'll probably let it go because Basic Training is so exhausting that it's not easy to wake up just to go to the can. Also the Army encourages everyone to hydrate throughout the day. It's a lot of water to get used to.
However, if there is a clear pattern there's no way around it. You'll be sent to the "Behavioral Health" or "Mental Health" office. Your drill sergeant will escort you. It's a clinic in the hospital on post. This isn't for a pill or hypnosis or therapy to stop bed-wetting. It's for a quick psychological interview. Then one of the staff will print out a letter that one of the psychologists or psychiatrists sign.
This letter is on US Army letterhead. It's a recommendation by the Behavioral Health Department to discharge you. You won't get to touch it or even see it because it's for your commander. The drill sergeant will take it to him in a sealed envelope. The whole thing will take a couple hours depending on how busy they are. After all, there are a lot of troops coming back from the war. You'll probably have lunch at the hospital. The most awkward lunch ever.
Your drill sergeant takes you and the letter back to your company. Then you commander takes this letter and works his bureaucratic magic. Next thing you know, you're in the holding company. You're there until the rest of the discharge paperwork is filled out.
Then that's it. You're out.
Go AWOL? Just like the chickenhawks!
No. Don't. AWOL is a crime. AWOL (absent without leave) means a soldier is not present for duty. He took off. He had no permission to leave his post so nobody knows where he is. If this happened during battle it could get a soldier executed. However, if you pull this off while you're a trainee you'll most likely only get the boot.
Unfortunately, I don't know much more than the basics. It's a big hassle but here's how it works. Simply put: some trainees just leave. They leave at night while the rest of their company is asleep. They take the taxi to the nearest bus station. Seriously.
If you go AWOL (but please don't), your name will go on a list of other AWOL soldiers but nobody will "release the hounds." There won't be a bounty on your head.
Once you're home, your family will probably be alarmed. They'll want an explanation. You'll have to figure that out on your own. Afterwards, stay out of trouble. No shoplifting, no speeding, no jaywalking, no nothing! It's very important to stay out of trouble!
If you are AWOL go to your recruiter and tell him everything. Actually, any recruiter is OK. He'll get you in contact with your commander. Your commander will be very annoyed but relieved that you're safe. He'll want you back on post--he or your recruiter may make arrangements to get you back. But remember, do not go AWOL for more than 30 days!
Don't worry, go back to base. Once you're back at your company, your commander will do his thing and you'll be sent to a different company. Unlike the holding company we talked about earlier, this is a company of trainees who ditched. Yeah, there are so many that they actually make up an entire company. The AWOL company building is not a "prison" but it is on "lockdown." The windows might even have bars. You'll be seen as a criminal because you are.
However, you're only there until you get your crime figured out. How long were you gone for? How long were you in service before you ran away? What's your rank? Stuff like that. Paperwork.
It won't get complicated because America is at war. It doesn't have the time or the money to spend on a full-blown court martial for every trainee who ran away. It has bombs to drop and drones to toss. I don't know how long it takes for this to end but it does end.
Then that's it, you're out.
Wait, don't go AWOL!
Above is just an overview of how things would go for the trainee who goes AWOL. But please DON'T GO AWOL! Don't desert your post! Ever!
Now, below is a video of yet another way a soldier can get discharged. It should work for pretty much anyone in the Army, even if he is no longer a trainee. It takes a while but it will work.
Please DO NOT do the following!
Saying all this probably makes me seem like a jerk. Well, if you consider the things I've seen trainees resort to I hope it's understandable.
See, if you want to get out of the Army, there are things you must never do. Ever. As I mentioned earlier, I don't know where trainees get these ideas but I saw them often. Too often. These are behaviors trainees think will get them out of the Army. It's the total opposite. Telling people about it is the reason I wrote this article.
So, that said, do not ever:
- Hurt yourself or others in any way
- Threaten to hurt yourself or others in any way
- Destroy any property
- Pretend to be a terrorist
- Pretend to have a mental illness or symptoms of a mental illness
- Go AWOL
Some soldiers think that acting "crazy" will get them discharged quickly. Not true. The military sees "crazy" for what it is--an illness. The military will not let someone who is sick leave until they've done everything they can to heal that person.
Can you imagine a soldier being discharged the day after breaking his arm? I can't. The Army will fix his arm and get him back to duty.
Don't be stupid. Don't be crazy. Be yourself.
For more information...
- Report AWOL or desertion
If you know someone who is AWOL please convince him to return to duty. If that person refuses, call the Army Deserter Information Point (DIP) at (502) 626-3711. For other branches, click on the link above.
- GI Rights Hotline: Military Discharges and Military Counseling
The GI Rights Hotline provides accurate, helpful counseling and information on military discharges, AWOL and UA, and GI Rights. For more information, click on the link above.
Are you in the military? - Are you a veteran?
What do you think? - Share your thoughts
R G pertty officer SWCC on September 27, 2018:
Lol.. just a warning on the bed wetting. I saw a guy try that once in boot. He ended up sleeping in it for three days and the CC made him move his rack to the middle of the barracks. Granted that was in 1990. Needless to say he never wet his bed again.
Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on January 25, 2013:
Good info here.