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Your Guide To Navigating Navy Separation

Preparing to separate from the Navy? Are you feeling excited for this next phase of life, but overwhelmed and unsure of what steps to take before your time in the military is over?

You’re not alone.

Many sailors leave the military every year. No sailor or their family members should be left under-prepared and in the dark about transitioning into the civilian world. 

Those who are prepared often find the transition to be a seamless process.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to successfully navigate Navy separation.

What Is Navy Separation?

Navy separation occurs when a sailor reaches his/her expiration of term of service (ETS) date.

Navy separation is different from a navy discharge. When separating, a sailor is leaving his/her active duty position. Separation, whether voluntary or involuntary, may leave a sailor with unfulfilled service obligations.

They carry this obligation out in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). An individual who has to carry out time in the IRR may be called to active duty status in times of war, or during a national emergency for the rest of the unfulfilled time.

Types of Navy Separation

When separating from the navy, there are two main types of separation:

  1. Voluntary Navy Separation
  2. Involuntary Navy Separation

Voluntary Navy Separation

Voluntary separation is one in which a sailor agrees to separate from the military for several reasons, including: 

  • Furthering your education — when deemed appropriate 
  • End of active service
  • Pregnancy — in certain circumstances, like becoming a single parent with no family care plan in place
  • Being in alien status
  • Parenthood — if unable to perform his or her duties or is unavailable for worldwide assignment or deployment
  • Surviving family member(s) — more information about this topic can be found here.
  • And more …

A voluntary Navy separation means that a sailor has willingly approved leaving the service.

The reasons listed above are considered “favorable” conditions. As long as you are in good standing with the Navy, a sailor will most often result in an honorable separation.

Honorable separations help open many doors for sailors in the workforce outside of the military.  

Unsure what direction you want to go in as you leave your military career? American Dream U can help you learn to find your dream job and navigate Navy separation.

Involuntary Separation From The Navy

When many hear involuntary separation, they immediately think that the sailor did something “wrong” to get separated from the service without their approval.

Things like:

  • Fraudulent entry into the Navy
  • Minor disciplinary infractions
  • Patterns of misconduct
  • Civilian conviction
  • Drug Abuse

There are many reasons a sailor can be involuntarily separated from the Navy that aren’t because of misconduct including: 

  • Release due to reduction in force
  • Failure to get promoted within a certain time period
  • Release of Navy Reserve members

In these instances, a commander will start the separation process.

How do most involuntary separation processes work? Keep reading to learn more.

Navy Administrative Separation Process

The administrative separation process occurs when a commander initiates the involuntary separation process of a sailor in a non-judicial process.

In most cases, an administrative separation is considered a favorable separation with varied bases for why. These can range from the convenience of the military/government, minor misconduct, or even medical issues.


It is possible to receive other than honorable remarks when being separated from the Navy through the administrative separation process.

Military members cannot receive a dishonorable discharge through an administrative separation. 

How does it work? 

Here’s an example: 

Petty Officer Freeman has started the Navy separation process. He is going through an administrative separation.

He is known for being late to formation every day, and he does not perform his daily responsibilities. He received multiple “warnings” and has four different violations on his military record.

After multiple chances to make changes and disciplinary action, his command realized an administrative separation was the next step.

He is notified in writing that he has been selected for separation because of poor duty performance. 

The notice also states that his separation category will be under honorable conditions.

Petty Officer Freeman could have been separated under general conditions, which would have negatively affected the number of benefits he would receive after separation.

Thankfully, because of the circumstances, his honorable status, ten years in the service, and two deployments, Freeman is still eligible for VA benefits, including his GI Bill. 

Had he received other than honorable remarks, he would have risked losing all VA benefits.

Within 30 days of receiving the separation notice, Petty Officer Freeman will need to find his role in the civilian world.

Navy Separation Pay

Sailors who have completed at least six, but less than twenty, years of active service immediately prior to being separated from the military may receive Involuntary Separation Pay.

To qualify, sailors may need to meet a few of the following requirements:

  • Separation qualified as “honorable” or “general” (under honorable conditions)
  • Agrees to serve at least three years in the Ready Reserve following separation
  • Discharged involuntarily because of being denied reenlistment (under certain conditions)

For more information about Navy separation pay, and if you may qualify click here.

3 Common Navy Separation Codes And What They Mean

Every year, thousands of military members start their journey into the civilian world.

To help keep things a little more organized, the military has come up with different codes to categorize how and why a service member leaves the service. 

These codes are typically found in box 26 on a sailor’s DD-214 form. These codes can have positive and negative effects on sailors and how they move forward in their careers outside of the military.

Below are a few of the most common navy separation codes and why they are used.

Example #1 of Navy Separation Codes: KBK

Of the hundreds of separation codes, the code KBK is one of the most common, especially among sailors.

What Does KBK Mean?

KBK stands for “normal separation of service.” The separation code KBK states that a sailor has completed their contract.

This specific code is typically followed by Re-1 or Re-2 in box 27 on the DD-214 form. Re-1 lets the military know that the sailor qualifies to reenlist if he/she decides to at a later time. This code is known as a reenlistment code.

The re-2 code states that a sailor may reenlist, but stipulations may apply.

Example #2 of Navy Separation Codes: FT

The separation code FT means that the sailor is required to separate from the Navy due to his/her physical condition.

What Does FT Mean?

When separating from the Navy with an FT code, a sailor is in a physical condition that is not disabling – but it’s not to the Navy’s standard.

Many times when a sailor receives a separation code FT, it is followed by a reenlistment code of Re-3. 

A sailor who receives an Re-3 reenlistment code is not eligible to reenlist into the military unless he/she receives a waiver. 

Example #3 of Navy Separation Codes: JFY

Don’t make this a rash decision to get out after a string of bad days, if you have your end of commitment coming up. Make sure that you plan out everything that you will need to have prepared personally and professionally, and get out with intention.

Are you looking to change careers but you need a different certification or degree? Apply to any needed programs early and try to get that started (better yet, completed) before you get out of the military.

What Does JFY Mean?

JFY codes are given to sailors who have an adjustment disorder.

This code is often used for sailors who get seasick and cannot overcome the seasickness.

You’ve Completed Navy Separation—Now What?

Transitioning into a civilian role can be scary and a little overwhelming for both sailors and their families.

Aside from having to find a new career, you must consider where you’ll live. 

Will you rent or buy a home? 

Do you plan on furthering your education or jumping into a civilian workplace?

The options you have outside of the military are endless, although it may not feel that way immediately after separating from the Navy.

American Dream U has you covered.

Transitioning To Work In The Civilian World

At American Dream U, we understand that separating from the Navy is one of the biggest changes you’ll have in your life, and we want to provide you with all the tools you need to be successful.

We’ll walk you and your spouse through the process to make it as seamless as possible. 

Whether you need support finding work or help to start your own business, we can help. ADU offers several different courses and resources to lead you in the right direction.


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