People want to rejoin the military after they are discharged for many reasons. Some miss the camaraderie and benefits of the work they did with their brothers in arms, while others may want to re-enlist because of the financial and insurance benefits.
No matter the reason, it can be harder than most people think. In most cases, you cannot simply fill out an application as you did before and expect to start where you left off. You may even have to go back into basic training.
Here is what to expect if you want to re-enlist in the military.
Re-entry (RE) Codes
Re-entry or reenlistment (RE) codes play a huge part in determining whether you are eligible to get back into the military. For the Army, if you have a re-entry code of RE-1 (or any of the variants), you can rejoin the military without any special conditions, whereas you may be ineligible with an RE-2 unless you meet certain qualifications first. An RE-3 code means you require a waiver that is dependent on the separation code you received when you were discharged (we will get to that soon).
The RE code is also a big factor in how much trouble you will have getting back in and whether you can qualify for prior service. An RE-2 condition may require you to go through basic training again, lose weight or retake the ASVAB test and score higher than your previous results. This also depends on what branch of service you want to get into.
Separation Codes Matter
The separation code tells your recruiter what they will have to prove to get you back into the military. A separation code often affects whether or not your recruiter will pursue your case.
These separation codes go hand in hand with your RE code in determining your eligibility, as well as how easily you will be able to get a waiver, if needed. For example, if you get a JFV separation code (physical condition, not a disability interfering with the performance of duty), with an RE-3 re-entry code, you will need a general surgeon’s waiver and you will likely have to see a slew of specialists to ensure your condition is fixed and will not pose a problem in terms of your job function.
Recruiters may not want to do the intense paperwork involved in getting you back into the military when it is much easier to take on recruits. Some recruiters specialize in getting soldiers back in and will jump through any hoops, and those are the recruiters you want. If your current recruiter is giving you the runaround, find another recruiter or even join a different branch of service, if possible.
What Is Required to Re-enlist (Aside from RE Codes)
Besides the re-entry code, your type of discharge (honorable, other than honorable, bad conduct or dishonorable) will also greatly impact whether you can rejoin the military. You will also need to 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.
For example, between 2011 and 2018, the positions the Army primarily had to fill were in special forces. Requirements are extremely tough for this branch, and if you were in a previous branch of the military or a different military occupation specialty (MOS), then you will probably have to do basic training again and complete special forces training. Even if you don’t have to do basic training, you will still have to endure their special forces training course. Other branches of service may have different jobs available, but many are similar to this.
There are also age limits for enlisting or re-enlisting in the military. The age limits for re-enlistment are often higher than joining the military for the first time. This is because each branch of service has its own method for calculating enlistment age for those with prior service. For example, according to the Marines website, the prior service time is subtracted from a re-enlisting recruit’s age. So the enlistment age of a 37-year-old Marine with 10 years of service is only 27. You may also be able to request an age waiver.
The age limits for new recruits are as follows:
- Marines: 28
- Coast Guard: 31
- Army: 35
- Navy: 39
- Air Force: 39
- Space Force: 39
What About Basic Training?
To get prior service when you want to re-enlist, you must have a minimum of six months of post-basic training experience. If you were still in advanced individual training (AIT) or active duty for training (ADT), you may have to return to basic training, even if you have 180 days in the military. The branch you are entering can also determine whether or not you will repeat basic training. Many military branches also consider the time you have spent away from service as a factor.
With the Marines, you will likely have to go through boot camp again, especially if you are transferring from another branch. In the Army, members from other branches (except for the Marine Corps) will have to attend a special course. Marines only have to do the course if they have spent more than three years out of service. The Navy requires basic training on a case-by-case basis, and most soldiers with prior service who are joining the Air Force will attend a familiarization course, although some will have to go through basic training again anyway.
The Coast Guard is a special case in which someone from a non-Coast Guard branch who has served two or more years of active-duty service will only have to go to a 30-day basic training camp, while anyone with less than two years will have to do the full 53-day course.
Who Cannot Re-enlist?
There are special exceptions when you receive an honorable discharge from a military service branch. If you fall under one of the categories below, there is a good chance you will not get back into the military. Keep in mind, whether these conditions occurred while you were in service the first time or after you got out, they may still disqualify you:
- Mental conditions – PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression
- Any discharge other than those labeled “honorable”
- Gastric or congenital conditions
- Severe dental problems (and braces)
- Bad hearing or ear problems
- Diabetes (even gout)
- Limitations of motion in hands, knees, arms and legs
- Heart conditions that may pose a threat to your health
- Severe vision loss
- Kidney or urethral problems
- Height issues (being too short or too tall)
- Weight and body-build issues (body mass can be a problem, especially body-fat percentage)
- Severe medical lung conditions
- Severe allergies
- Spinal problems
This list could go on, but these are some common conditions that may hinder your re-enlistment.
Be Squared Away
If you want to re-enlist, ensure all your paperwork is in order. Talk to a recruiter, make sure you can perform the available jobs and be sure that you will not require too much paperwork or waiver bending.
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 get access to military benefits for service-related injuries. Justin has committed to helping other veterans navigate the system and get the most out of their hard-earned veteran status.
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