Leaving the Army

Before you sign that contract, make sure the Army is what you really want.  Take a few days to think about it beforehand.  It's a life changing decision!  With that said, my own opinion is that every person should be required to enter the military after high school.  Why do I say this?  Because you cannot imagine the positive change I see in soldiers who graduate basic training.  I've seen soldiers who were just terrors in their teenage years, or slobs, lazy, with no direction in life, leaning on their parents for everything, with no sense of direction, commitment or drive to excel, fear of the outside world...turn into confident, fit, positive, motivated, disciplined, ready to take on the world young adults.  Basic training has that effect on people, really:-))  I also can't tell you the countless parents I have seen at graduation who did not recognize their own kids, and when they did they couldn't stop crying.

So, you've signed the contract and have decided the Army is not for you.  Let me tell you that almost everyone gets "cold feet" before shipping out.  This is a HUGE step for anyone and is a very normal response!  Some of the reasons I've heard why folks want to get out were:  I got a better job, my girlfriend/boyfriend won't let me go, I don't want to leave home, I want to go to college, etc...  Let me share another thing, I cannot tell you the number of times I have had a new recruit come to my company who was coming in for the second time around.  Every single one of them regretted not sticking with it (and they all were successful the second time around too).  They all said they did a lot of soul searching and felt more mature when they signed up again.  One told me that he thought he had it all, managing a fast food restaurant but after a year, he felt like he wasn't getting anything out of it and couldn't stop thinking about "what if".  Remember also, if your girlfriend/boyfriend really loves you, they'll wait for you.  If not, than they're not worth your time in the first place and consider yourself lucky.  What about college?  Well, if you don't think the deals the Army is offering you are better, then I guess I just can't convince you, can I!  Besides, who do you think has a better chance to move up the corporate ladder?  I'll tell you, if two guys of the same qualifications come up for a job interview and one has experience in the Army, guess who'll get picked?  Well, enough lecturing:-))

If you do decide to get out of your contract before shipping out, just let your recruiter know as soon as possible.  You should also have a good reason and not something like, "I changed my mind".  You'll have to write a letter.  Your recruiter will grumble and could even get angry, but he'll process your request.  Yes, it requires lots of shuffling and paperwork, but no one can force you to go.  Also be prepared to talk to his supervisor, as they are required to try to get you to reconsider.

Once in basic training, there are usually two main discharges that we use to send recruits home.  One is the Entry Level Separation (ELS) and the other is the  Existing Prior to Service (EPTS).  These are both uncharacterized discharges (not honorable or dishonorable).  These discharges are used for soldiers who've been in the Army under 6 months.  The ELS is a catch-all discharge, where you are basically just not compatible with military service.  I've used it for soldiers who just couldn't handle the work or those who refused to work and everything in between.  We first try everything we can, including counseling to help a soldier out.  The Army is committed to keeping you in.  We've already spent thousands of dollars on you before BT, we're not going to let go that easy!  Someone recently asked me what would happen if you absolutely refused to continue training.  Again, after much counseling and encouragement, you could be given an Article 15 from your company commander or battalion commander.  This is a kind of mini court where the commander is the judge.  If you are found guilty (ie of not obeying a command to train), then you will be punished.  You could lose rank, pay, get extra duty (in addition to the work you do in BT as a private), restriction (where others get time off, you wont) or a combo of these.  You also have to be in BT more than a few weeks before it can be decided to ELS you.  The paperwork can sometimes take anywhere from one week to over a month.  While you are waiting to be discharged, you will be removed from the other recruits and continue to do menial labor and paperpushing tasks.  They want you away from the recruits because of your poor attitude, etc.  Some BT posts even have dedicated companies with those awaiting discharges (called holdover companies).  It is not a fun place to be, plus there is the stigma attached that you are a failure.  I am not telling you this to scare you, just to prepare you with what you will face.  With an ELS discharge, if you change your mind and want to try to come back in, you will have to wait two years from the time of the discharge plus you'll have to get a waiver to come back in which could take a few months to get approved.

The EPTS discharge is used for soldiers who had an existing prior to service medical condition, and they just can't hack it in BT physically.  You may or may not have known about your condition beforehand; it doesn't matter.  Most recruits who are diagnosed with asthma come home under this discharge.  The key is that you had to have the condition before entering BT.  If you get injured or are ill while in BT, you will not get discharged!  You'll get treated and be allowed to recover before continuing on.  Many recruits who do get injured or very sick and miss too much training, then have to get recycled into another company that is behind them in training. 

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