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The Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP)

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While one can use any reason at all, it's best to use one of the reasons that are specifically mentioned in the recruiting regulations. These reasons are:

  • Apathy or Personal Problems
  • Failure to Graduate High School
  • Hardship
  • Dependency
  • Marriage
  • Medical disqualification or psychiatric disorder (Note: Using this reason may preclude later enlistment if you change your mind, or enlistment in a different service)
  • Pregnancy
  • Acceptance of scholarship or pursuit of higher education
  • Enrolled in training to become or receive appointment as an ordained minister
  • Determined no longer qualified for option for which enlisted in the DEP and declines alternate.
  • Enlistment misunderstanding
  • Enlistment in another service
  • Erroneous enlistment (Note: Using this reason may preclude later enlistment if you change your mind, or enlistment in a different service)
  • Homosexuality (Note: Using this reason may preclude later enlistment if you change your mind, or enlistment in a different service)
  • Conscientious objector (Note: Using this reason may preclude later enlistment if you change your mind, or enlistment in a different service)

Recruiters themselves do not have the authority to discharge individuals from the DEP. Only Recruiting Commanders have that authority. So, your letter needs to be addressed to the Recruiting Commander (but you can give the letter to your recruiter). Your recruiter is required by regulation to forward the letter to his/her commander.

The Recruiter is required to try and talk you out of it. This is known as "re-selling." However, regulations prohibit the recruiter from using threats, such as "You'll go to jail." (That doesn't keep some recruiters from using this tactic, however). It's unfortunate, but true, that most of the complaints I hear about such tactics usually come from Marine Corps Recruits (See Gerald's Story on the GI Rights Web Site for an example). I guess that Marine "Gung-Ho" attitude sometimes gets out of hand.

I have literally dozens of emails on file that are similar to the example used on the GI Rights Web Site. I have an email from one former Marine Corps applicant who told me that his recruiter threatened to "kick your ass if I ever see you on the streets," as a result of his DEP discharge request. Please keep in mind that such tactics are not sanctioned (nor allowed) by the military services, and recruiters who are caught using such tactics can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Some recruiting stations have policies to have those requesting a DEP discharge to meet with the recruiting commander, or a "discharge board." These meetings have one purpose -- to try and pressure or persuade the applicant to change their mind. Such meetings are not mandatory (no matter what you are told).

DEP Discharge Processing

Most DEP discharge requests should take no more than about 30 days to process. However, some recruiters (and recruiter commanders) have been known to intentionally delay the process. This is especially true if the reason for the request is to join a different service. As long as you are officially part of another service's DEP, military recruiters are prohibited from "actively recruiting" you. Recruiters know this, and some recruiters will delay the processing of the DEP discharge in retaliation (for that reason, it's often best not to use "joining another service" as your reason for discharge request). In the few cases where a stubborn commander actually disapproves the request, one will normally be discharged from the DEP automatically anyway, shortly after the shipping date arrives and the individual fails to ship to basic training. In any event, one cannot be in the DEP for longer than 365 days, so at the end of a year, one is automatically discharged from the DEP, even if the service fails to do a voluntary discharge, or fails to discharge after the shipping date has come and gone.

Your DEP discharge request approval or denial should be in writing. If anyone tells you that your request was denied, but can't show you the denial in writing, they are lying to you. It's that simple.

While the DEP is technically inactive reserves, it does not count as "military service," because time in the DEP is unpaid (you do not receive military pay while in the DEP). You will not receive a DD Form 214 (record of discharge) for a discharge from the DEP. You will instead receive a simple, short letter stating you have been discharged from the DEP Program. Because it does not fall into the legal definition "military service," you can safely (and legally) answer "no" when asked if you've ever been in the military on any government or employment forms. To qualify as "military service," you must be entitled to pay, and a person in the DEP is not entitled to receive pay.

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