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.
I DON'T WANT ANYONE TO LEAVE THE MILITARY UNTIL THEY'VE FINISHED THEIR COMMITMENT. However the only thing worse than turning your back on your country is doing so in the most destructive, disgraceful and disruptive ways possible.
There is no reason to make things difficult when the Army already has a set of procedures in place designed to let you go. I've served in the Army so what I know applies to this branch only. Similar policies may be in place throughout the Armed Forces but I just don't know them.
So, what do I know? I was a medic in the US Army. I've seen recruits and trainees shaking with excitement and fear. Most take this and make something of themselves. Some don't. Those who don't think they can get discharged by "being crazy." Don't even think about it because nothing can be further from the truth.
How to get out of the Army
So you just signed up but you decided it's not for you. That's OK. Some people just won't cut it. Moving forward will only embarrass yourself, your family, your country, your dog and everyone who ever shook your hand. Who needs that? This doesn't mean you're weak or spineless, it just means that you don't belong in the Army.
Leaving the Army is easier than you think. Instead of doing something dangerous to yourself and others, keep reading and you'll be back home playing Skyrim before you know it!
Step 1: Do you really want out?
Do you really want out?
Why else would you be reading this? Fair enough. Everyone has asked you this and now I'm asking you. Seriously think it over for a minute. This is the most important decision of your life. Adjusting to a new culture, building character and seeing new things will be part of the human experience wherever you go. That's why it's tough.
There are countless of reasons to stay. Your recruiter and friends have told you some. Then there are the reasons that nobody tells you. These reasons are still valid. So think it over because once you start the discharge process there's no turning back.
If you're not sure, if you're on the fence, give it another day. And then another. Why not stick around? You won't regret it!
Step 2: Still reading?
OK, let's get started. There are many places a potential trainee might reconsider. Each scenario requires different procedures. For example...
If you are reading this you have internet access. This means there's a good chance you are still a civilian and haven't shipped off. That's good. If you haven't signed anything then you're fine. Tell your recruiter that you changed your mind. He will feel a sting but he'll understand. He gets this all the time.
With the economy the way it is he has more people to sign up than he knows what to do with. Even when the economy picks up he'll still have others to sign up. After all, some folks always have it tough. He might follow up with you later on just to make sure your decision is final. If so, take a break from the Xbox and tell him you've made up your mind.
Or maybe you already signed something. That's fine also. It's not the end of the world. Again just tell your recruiter you changed your mind. He'll be annoyed but he knows it's better than you jumping ship after you shipped off.
Oh, wait! You signed something, didn't you? Your recruiter will bring that up. He'll call you again and again. He'll come to your house and spray you with a lot of legalese and military regulations.
He might bring another, higher-ranking person to do the same. He might even bring a JAG (judge advocate general or military lawyer). He might get loud. He might threaten you with jail or to sue you or all kinds of things.
Don't sweat it because he can't. Think about it. You didn't violate any Army regulation because you're not in the Army! The Army doesn't own you until you ship out. See, once you ship out there is a lot more stuff to sign that basically means you're in. If you didn't ship off then you haven't signed it!
In the very, very worst case scenario there might be a breach of contract but the recruiter won't sue you. Why?
First, court is a headache. He has to get a lawyer, you have to get a lawyer, and on and on. He doesn't have the time for this. He has a job to do. He's not going to ask his commander for tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to ask a civilian judge to uphold a contract some kid signed. In fact, in the time takes your recruiter to give this idea a second thought, he could have enlisted three or four people.
Second, it would be a massive PR headache. The media will jump all over this. The Internets will be abuzz. The entire military will be demonized. Every young person thinking about enlisting will suddenly run for the hills. Every recruiter in the country will have it 100x times worse. This disaster can last for decades. Nobody needs that, not in a time of never-ending war. He knows this and so does his entire chain of command.
Either way, be polite and stand your ground. Don't panic. If you're parents and loved ones support your decision then it will be much easier.
Step 3: Congratulations! You're free!
And that's it. You're finished. The dust has settled and you're still a civilian. Don't feel any guilt and don't look back. Move on with your life. And don't ever, ever talk to another recruiter again!
What? You want more?
You're a civilian, remember? It doesn't apply to you. If you want to know more, then that means you're either curious about the Army or you want to know the way out once you're a trainee. Wait, are you a trainee? You want to know how to get out once you're completely in-processed and started training? For real? OK, then click here.
To everyone else: Thanks for reading! Go Army!
This is what you missed...
Not everyone who joins the Army goes Airborne (I didn't) but this is just one of the awesome things you'll miss as a civilian.
For more information...
- The Delayed Entry Program (DEP) Discharge
For the nitty-gritty about getting out of your contract before you ship off, click on the link above.
What do you think?
Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on January 19, 2013:
Good info here, thanks for sharing.
javr from British Columbia, Canada on October 23, 2012:
Both deciding to join, and to leave, are very important and should be done with extreme care. Ask for guidance when necessary before doing anything crazy.
DanielBrooks on October 17, 2012:
nyc info you shared
anonymous on September 09, 2012:
There are people like that in all areas of life, they seem to think that just getting by is okay, what they don't realize is that if they continue to with an undisciplined life, it will allow them to miss a lot of great opportunities. Great lens.
TwistedWiseman on August 22, 2012:
As much as I wanted to leave it was not because of the army, it is the people that joined...I love discipline and commitment, BUT THERE ARE THOSE who have been spoiled in life and think that they are special...they were the ones cleaning the bathrooms every night.
Lori Green from Las Vegas on August 05, 2012:
I like the way you write. It's funny even when it isn't a funny subject.
ratetea on July 30, 2012:
@hntrssthmpsn: Yeah...I can't see it as being good for the Army or other armed forces, or good for America, to have people in the military who don't truly want to be there. People can do a lot of harm to themselves and to others, when their heart isn't in something and yet they're forced into doing it anyway.
hntrssthmpsn on July 26, 2012:
You're absolutely correct: not everyone who winds up in the army belongs there. I know some wonderful soldiers, and one soldier who developed a callous, almost sadistic, streak after joining. There's no place for that in a heavily armed organization, and neither he nor the army were better for their brief association.
anonymous on June 26, 2012:
I enjoyed reading this, and I'm so glad you wrote this article. I feature it and your lensmaster avatar on Veterans of War . Thank you for serving in the US Army, and what you have done for us all.
Georgene Moizuk Bramlage from southwestern Virginia on June 22, 2012:
Very interesting lens!
Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on June 21, 2012:
This is a great primer for anyone who is looking to get out of the army. I'm sure it's tough, but has its benefits. Though like you said, it's not for everyone.
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on June 19, 2012:
This is very interesting reading. We all have to make our decisions and live with the consequences. Thanks for you effort. Looking forward to part two.