Delayed Entry Program (DEP)

If you signed an enlistment contract but have changed your mind, you can still get out of actually going into the military. You can get out simply by not going — not reporting to MEPS (the Military Entrance Processing Station) on your ship date. You can also inform the recruiters, in writing, that you have changed your mind. Under Department of Defense regulations, a separation letter to the Commander of the recruitment office will get you out. It’s fairly easy. But you must act before reporting for basic training — while you’re still in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). (The Delayed Entry Program is also sometimes known as the Delayed Enlistment Program, the Future Soldier Program (FSP), or the Future Soldier Training Program (FSTP).)

Writing a separation letter can often resolve your situation sooner, without provoking a reaction from the recruiters on your ship date. (The pros and cons of writing a letter are discussed in the Hotline’s DEP fact sheet.) In your letter, you can give any reason you like for your change of plans — that you have found a good job, are going to college, are getting married, have family obligations, or any other reason. According to regulations, any reason is good enough. In the letter, we suggest that you state that you do not want to be contacted or harassed by the recruiters. You don’t need to know the Commander’s name. The letter can be addressed to: “Commander,” so and so “Recruiting Station,” with the station’s mailing address.

Click here or on the image below for a draft letter that you can fill in and modify to fit your own situation. It’s a Microsoft Word file.

DEP separation letter

After receiving your letter, the recruiters will probably try to re-sell you on the military. Too often they resort to threats. People who have decided to leave the DEP have been threatened with all sorts of consequences — such as never being able to get a college loan, being deported if they are not citizens, being fined, not being able to get a government job, being put in jail, being instantly called into combat duty, and so on.

All these threats are inventive and desperate, but untrue. Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 1332.14 allows anyone in the DEP to request a separation. Each of the services has its own regulation following that directive. For example, the Air Force regulation (AFRSI 36–2001) says simply “Enlistees will be discharged from the DEP when they . . .[r]equest to be discharged.”

Often people leaving the DEP are told that they must have a meeting with the recruiter or come down to the recruiting office to sign papers. That is not necessary. It’s a last chance for the recruiters to get you to change your mind. Remember, the recruiter is a salesperson and his or her job is to close the deal by getting you to show up for induction.

People are also told that they can get out — but only after they go to boot camp and are sworn in. This is also untrue. Once you go to boot camp, you are no longer in the Delayed Entry Program and then it is hard to get out.

You may also be told that it’s too late, that you’ve signed the papers, taken the oath, and you’re in. That’s false. Look at the enlistment form sections F and G. That’s where recruits must sign to be transferred from the DEP to the active military. If you were already “in,” those sections would not be necessary.

Caution: If you signed up for the National Guard or the reserves, you’re not in the DEP. You can still get out by not going to basic training, but the rules are a little different. Call the hotline to talk about your situation.

The following web sites have more information on the Delayed Entry Program:

You can find the military regulations for the DEP on the resources page of the GI Rights Hotline web site.

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GI Rights Hotline
877-447-4487 toll-free, nationwide
or 831-359-0202 direct to the RCNV counselors
girightshotline.org