Re-Enlistment and Rejoining the MilitaryUpdated: November 10, 2022
You may want to rejoin the military after your discharge for many reasons. You might miss the camaraderie or you may want to re-enlist for financial, insurance or other benefits.
No matter your reason, rejoining the military isn’t as simple as filling out an application and picking up where you left off. You might even have to go back to basic training.
Here’s what to expect if you’re considering re-enlisting in the military.
Re-Entry (RE) Codes
Re-entry or reenlistment (RE) codes determine your eligibility to rejoin the military.
For example, you can rejoin the Army with few issues if you left with an RE-1 re-entry code (or any of its variants), according to Army Regulation (AR) 601-210, “Regular Army and Reserve Components Enlistment Program.”
You may be ineligible with an RE-2 re-entry code unless you meet specific qualifications first, like taking another ASVAB test or meeting branch height and weight standards. An RE-3 code means you can’t reenlist without a waiver for a condition or situation specified in your separation code.
Separation Codes Matter
Your separation code tells your recruiter what they must prove to get you back into the military and may determine if a recruiter will pursue your case.
Together with your RE code, your separation code determines your eligibility to reenlist and how easily you’ll be able to get any needed reenlistment waivers.
For example, suppose you get a JFV separation code (physical condition, but not a disability that interferes with duty performance) with an RE-3 re-entry code. In that case, you’ll need a general surgeon’s waiver and several medical evaluations to prove you can perform the duties of your job in the military.
It’s a lot of paperwork. Some recruiters may be hesitant to take your case, while others may specialize in helping service members re-enter the military. Shop around for the best recruiter for your situation. You may even find your new home in a different branch of service.
What Is Required to Re-enlist (Aside from RE Codes)
Besides your separation and re-entry codes, your type of discharge (honorable, other than honorable, bad conduct or dishonorable) can also significantly impact your eligibility to rejoin. Consider special prior-service placements, as your re-enlistment also depends on whether the branch of service you are trying to join has a position open that you can fill.
Military enlistments and reenlistments are also subject to age limits. Each branch of service has its own method for calculating enlistment age for those with prior service.
For example, Marine Corps recruiters subtract recruits’ prior service time from their age. So a 39-year-old Marine would be considered 29 and wouldn’t need an age waiver, according to the Marines website.
Here are the new recruit age limits for each branch of service, according to USA.gov:
- Marines: 28
- Coast Guard: 31
- Army: 35
- Navy: 39
- Air Force: 39
- Space Force: 39
What About Basic Training?
You may not need to return to basic training if you have prior service. Each branch has its own criteria for what counts as prior service.
The Army, for example, defines prior service personnel as those with “180 days or more on active duty as a member of the Armed Forces,” according to Army Regulation 612-201, “Initial Military/Prior Service Trainee Support.”
Many military branches also consider the time you’ve spent away from service as a factor.
For example, Air Force prior service recruits “must not have a break in service exceeding six years,” according to the Air Force website.
Here are the general guidelines for each branch about whether you’ll need to return to basic training if you qualify as a prior service member:
- Marines: Service members from other service branches are considered new enlistees and will need to return to basic training, according to, MCO P1100.72C, Military Personnel Procurement Manual, Volume 2, Enlisted Procurement.” Recruit training is not required for former members of the Marines Corps who completed recruit training or The Basic School.
- Army: Prior service members attend one of three special courses unless they have completed Army Basic Combat Training, U.S. Marine Corps Basic Training, U.S. Air Force or U.S. Navy Special Operations Forces training or U.S. Air Force Security Forces training, according to Army Directive 2019-31 (Integration or Refresher Training for Prior Service Personnel).
- Navy: Prior service members, including those from the Navy, who have completed basic training will need to complete the two-week Veterans Orientation Program, according to the Navy’s “Basic Military Training Core Competencies Manual.”
- Air Force: Service members from other branches of service who have completed basic military training will need to take a mandatory orientation course, according to AFRS INSTRUCTION 36-2001, “Recruiting Procedures for the Air Force.”
- Coast Guard: Most service members from a non-Coast Guard branch who re-enlist attend the Direct Entry Petty Officer Training Course (DEPOT), rather than initial entry basic training, according to the Coast Guard website.
Who Cannot Re-enlist?
Receiving an honorable discharge doesn’t automatically qualify you for reenlistment. The DOD’s Instruction 6130.03, “Medical Standards for Military Service: Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction” lists several disqualifying conditions. You may be disqualified from re-enlistment if you fall under one of the categories below, whether the condition occurred while you were in service or after you got out:
- Head – Deformities of the skull that prevent you from wearing proper protective headgear
- Eyes and vision – Conditions that interfere with vision, including corneal dystrophy, retinal abnormalities and conjunctivitis or vision that does not correct to at least 20/40 in each eye
- Ears and hearing – Any defect that would interfere with proper wearing of military equipment, diseases of the vestibular system such as Menieres Syndrome and perforated eardrum or not meeting hearing threshold levels
- Nose, sinuses, mouth and larynx – Defect or deformity that interferes with chewing, swallowing, speech, breathing or wearing of military equipment or severe dental problems or wearing braces
- Neck – Certain congenital masses or contractions of the muscles of the neck
- Lungs, chest wall, pleura and mediastinum – Abnormal findings of the lungs, diaphragm or other abdominal organs, pneumonia within the past three months, history of asthma or tuberculosis and other infectious diseases
- Heart – History of certain valvular conditions, artherosclerotic coronary artery disease, pacemaker implantation, ventricular arrhythmias and conduction disorders
- Abdominal organs and gastrointestinal system – Gastro-espohageal reflux disease with complications such as reactive airway disease, dyspepsia, ulcers or history of bariatric surgery or chronic Hepatitis B
- Female genital system – Primary or unexplained secondary amenorrhea, symptomatic endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Male genital systems – Undescended testicle,
- Mental conditions – PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression
- Any discharge other than those labeled “honorable”
- Gastric or congenital conditions
- Diabetes or gout
- Limitations of motion in hands, knees, arms and legs
- Heart conditions that may pose a threat to your health
- Kidney or urethral problems
- Height issues (being too short or too tall)
- Weight and body-build issues (body mass and body fat percentage can be a problem with current service height and weight standards)
- Severe allergies
- Spinal problems
This is not an exhaustive list. When in doubt, talk over any medical conditions or issues with your recruiter.
Justin Williams is a certified Microsoft specialist and U.S. Army veteran. Serving in 2008, he was a multichannel transmission systems operator with the 15th Signal Brigade. After an honorable discharge, he struggled to access to military benefits for service-related injuries, which led him to write articles to help other veterans navigate military benefits systems.