First, Can You Get Out Of The Military Early?
Just like with everything else in the military, there are rules built around when you can actually (well, legally) get out of the military. Especially if you don’t want to be considered AWOL.
Most branches will make your stay in the military until the end of your ADSC, (Active Duty Service Commitment) and you will be able to find that date in your personnel files.
Once you are sworn into the service, the contract you sign is binding and you are basically stuck there.
One way of actually being let out of your commitment early and honorably is if you develop a medical condition during your time in the service and a medical board deems that you need to be released from your contract.
Another way and one that we wouldn’t advise is to try and get an involuntary discharge (on purpose). A serious infraction can get you out of your commitment, or just an Article 15, but in a dishonorable way. Again, we wouldn’t recommend that one.
Here are some ways that you can receive an involuntary discharge:
- Drug Use
- Miscount (adultery, lying, cheating, etc.)
- Failing out of mandatory training
- Failing the physical fitness tests and requirements (multiple times)
Not items to aspire to. Depending on the reason why, some involuntary discharges can cause you to lose your benefits post-military as well.
If you are really unhappy where you are at and still have time left on your commitment, try to talk to your chain of command and see if you can change jobs or look into requesting an early separation to be released to the Guard or Reserves.
In the last ten years, there have been a few times that the branches will have too many people and they will allow a reduction in force. It is usually MOS or AFSC (i.e. job) specific and you have to apply and be accepted. This will affect your retirement and post-military options though, so do your research.
Fun Fact: Women used to be able to get discharged for getting pregnant! Now it is not a reason for receiving a discharge, especially since they increased the amount of maternity leave that a person received post-birth.
Why Are You Asking This Question?
There are a million reasons why someone would want to get out early.
Sit down and take a look at the root cause of what is making you feel that way.
- Do you not like your job?
- Did something in your life change? (marriage, children, hardships, etc.)
- Is your mental or physical health at stake?
Once you get down to the root of what the problem is, then you can start to work on improving things. Coming from someone who has seen both sides and was involuntarily removed from the military early due to medical reasons, the grass is not always greener.
Reasons To Stay In The Military:
Reason #1: Military Pension
This is valid if you are getting close to that 20-year point. Once you hit 20, you are eligible for a pension. This for many people is the hands-down best benefit to being career military.
If you joined the military in your 20s you would be “retiring” in your 40s and still have plenty of opportunities to transition to another full career before retiring again, all while collecting a paycheck for the rest of your life from your pension.
- If you are grandfathered into the legacy plan, you will start collecting it the day you get out.
If you joined after 2018, you will fall under the BRS (Blended Retirement System) and so that retirement will be handled a little differently.
Reason #2: Guaranteed Paycheck
We say “guaranteed” loosely, because it is mostly guaranteed. Recently, service members’ paychecks have been delayed a few times due to government shut-downs, but for the most part, it is always paid and on time.
You can look at the military pay charts and calculate out what your pay will be at each step of your career, which makes for easy financial planning.
There are also other benefits like allowances for housing, BAS, and COLA, if you are overseas.
Reason #3: Career Advancement
Most people, in their career, will be moved around every few years and put into jobs based on their ranks. This means that as you rank up, you will automatically advance your career at each new job.
Most military members don’t realize the amazing skills that they gain by that type of system and it has been a nationwide movement by many companies to snatch up retiring and separating veterans for jobs.
Good Reasons To Leave The Military:
Reason #1: Family Problems
This is a little vague since there can be a lot of issues that are absolutely valid reasons for wanting to get out.
- Did you just get married or have children and don’t want to continue with the high ops tempo?
- Does your child need special medical attention that isn’t available on some bases?
- Maybe your marriage is struggling from a recent 365?
It is hard to maintain a good work-life balance in the military. We get it and it is a reason why many veterans choose to get out.
Reason #2: Opportunity
The Air Force has recently been hit with this issue.
Many highly trained pilots are leaving the service simply because the opportunity to move into the commercial airlines right now is a no-brainer. You don’t deploy and you get paid a higher salary (much higher) then the military will give you… all to do less stressful work.
Is this the same in your career?
Just make sure that you sit down with your finances and double-check that you are including everything in our calculations, like healthcare costs and the price of living, since you won’t receive BAH once out.
Reason #3: A Stepping Stone
Did you never see the military as a career but just a stepping stone to the next thing?
Many people get into the military to do a four-year tour and then move on and that is OKAY.
If you are among those that did not see this as a career but just a stage, make sure that you are preparing yourself for your future before you do get out. Set yourself up to get the education you need to succeed on the other side and have your finances in order.
Why Do People Leave The Military? Are They Good Reasons?
No matter who you are, if you are voluntarily getting out of the military, you probably think you are doing it for a good reason. A “good reason” is a very personal and individualized thing.
Many veterans will look back on their time in the military with fondness and the further away from it you get, you will remember the good things. Just like with your childhood or raising children, you remember much of the good and forget the day-to-day nuances.
You also may not realize the benefit of working in a job that it would be rare to be laid off or fired.
There is nothing like the feeling that you are part of something larger than yourself or the comradery of people that go through something as hard as a deployment together.
That being said, each person has their own reasons and feelings towards why they need to move on. Many people grow tired of the structure and the rules that you are bound by in uniform. There are also many service jobs that require you to have to work longer hours than in corporate jobs and there is no shame in wanting to make a switch for yourself or your family.
How To Get Out Of The Military and Be Successful:
Step #1: Plan Well in Advance
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.
Step #2: Attend a TAP Workshop
If you are within 6 months of getting out, you are eligible to go to TAP (Transition Assistance Program).
It is usually a 3-day course and it talks about things like new careers, how to job search, build a resume and other items that you may have not been thinking about yet.
Step #3: Start to Network
One of the best ways to be successful on the other side is to build out an extensive network. Whether these are people that can act as mentors through your transition, or ones that have knowledge of work opportunities, lean on people to help you.
Step #4: Save Up
Since you don’t know most of the time when you will get your next job, make sure that you have plenty of savings stored away.
Plan for the worst but hope for the best.
Look up where you want to live and what the houses cost at that location. Then you can calculate out what you will need monetarily if you don’t find a job for a few months.
This may help you decide when you are able to get out without falling into financial hardship.
And what do you do after getting out of the military?
If you planned well and are prepared, whatever you want because your life is now your own again!
If you want more tips on how to make a successful transition check out this in-depth article here.