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What the Recruiter Never Told You

Part 3 -- Enlistment Process and Job Selection


While you are under no obligation to enlist when you go to MEPS, going through the entire process, without enlisting wastes your time, wastes the recruiter's time, and wastes the time/resources of MEPS. If you are focused on only one or two job possibilities, you are likely to be disappointed. Recruiters call this "job-locked," and some recruiters will refuse to send a recruit to MEPS unless the recruit is serious about enlisting, even if the job(s) the recruit wants is not available.


The Recruiter and/or Job Counselor may tell you that if you don't like a job, you can apply to re-train at a later time. This may or may not be true. Each of the services have different requirements when it comes to retraining. In the Army and Air Force, one must usually serve a minimum amount of time (usually 36 months for a 4-year enlistment) and agree to re-enlist to be eligible for retraining. In the Navy and Marines, one must usually serve at least 24 months in the rating/MOS before re-training will be considered. Even then, approval is based upon individual circumstances, and the needs of the service. For all of the services, if the job you are serving in is extremely short-manned, or if the job you want to re-train into is over-manned, your retraining application is not likely to be approved.

Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP)

Once the job counselors have helped you determine what job/enlistment program you are going to enlist in, they will complete the paperwork, and you'll sign an enlistment contract (and take an oath), enlisting you in the DEP (Delayed Enlistment Program). The DEP is a "holding status" while you are waiting for your scheduled shipping date to basic training. When you enlist in the DEP, you are actually in the military. You are enlisted in the inactive reserves, and are legally (and morally) bound by your enlistment contract. (Note: The National Guard does not have DEP. When you sign on the dotted line in the National Guard, you immediately become a member of your National Guard Unit. Some units even allow you to drill and receive pay before you've even attended basic training).

One final thing about the DEP some recruiters may not want you to know: In this program, you enlist, and "promise" to ship out for boot camp on the designated date. This is a binding contract, and if the military wanted to, they could prosecute you for not shipping out on the date specified on the contract. However, current regulations and policies require the military services to discharge you from the DEP, if -- at any time before shipping out -- you apply to be released from the contract (the request should be in writing and should state the reason you wish to be discharged from the DEP). If a recruiter tells you that you will go to jail if you back out of DEP, he/she's lying to you. If he/she tells you that you will never be able to enlist again, he/she is lying to you. If they tell you that you will be "blacklisted," he/she is lying to you. If he/she tells you that you will be given a "general" discharge, he/she is lying to you. In fact, the only bad consequences to dropping out of the DEP, is that if you later want to enlist in that same service, it will be on THEIR terms, not yours. Most services have policies that require a waiver processing for recruits who previously dropped out of DEP of their service. Because of this, many programs (such as guaranteed job) may not be available, should you change you mind (Note: This doesn't apply if you drop out of the DEP of one service, then join a different service).

That being said, if you request a discharge from the DEP, expect your recruiter to be (justifiably) angry. He/she's invested several hours of his/her valuable time in your enlistment, and the military has spent a significant amount of time and funds in your tests and medical physical. Additionally, if you drop out, you're no longer filling a "slot" that must be filled, and the recruiter must now try and find someone to fill that slot. Don't enlist in the DEP unless you are 100% sure you want to join the military. See The Delayed Enlistment Program for more detailed information.

Continued in Part 4 -- Enlistment Contracts and Incentives

Other Parts to this Series:

  • Part 1 -- Choosing a Military Service
  • Part 2 -- Meeting the Recruiter
  • Part 4 -- Enlistment Contracts and Enlistment Incentives
  • Part 5 -- Military Pay
  • Part 6 -- Housing, Housing Allowance, and Barracks
  • Part 7 -- Chow Halls and Food Allowance
  • Part 8 -- Education Programs
  • Part 9 -- Leave (Vacation), and Job Training
  • Part 10 -- Assignments
  • Part 11 -- Promotions
  • Part 12 -- Military Medical Care
  • Part 13 -- Commissaries and Exchanges
  • Part 14 -- Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) Activities
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