If you're in the military and you decide to quit.. what happens?

So let’s just imagine a scenario where someone passes their training, becomes a fully fledged member of the Marines, Army, Navy, Air force or whatever, and say, 3 months in they wake up one morning and decide they don’t want to do it.

What is likely (not potentially) to happen?

So I am new in the Marines, I’ve been turning up on the job for 3 months (my nearest base, non deployed) and one day I just want a change in career as it’s not for me… I send them a resignation letter, and am prepared to face the consequences…

What happens next?

Are they happy to get rid and thus send me on my way with a dishonorable discharge? Does length of service dictate the severity of discipline?

You heard of the The United States Disciplinary Barracks (or USDB) at Leavenworth?

I think the Navy facility is in Maine? Portsmouth Naval Prison IIRC
That may have changed since my dad served.

Theoretically, you could be sentenced to death.

As a practical matter, according to wikipedia, since 2001, no soldier has been sentenced to more than 24 months in prison.

Announcing you want to quit won’t get you sent to Leavenworth. If your commanding officer gave you orders and you refused to obey, that might get you sent to Leavenworth, depending. But as long as you keep doing your job in the period between when you decide to quit and when the military finally agrees that you’re done, then you’re fine.

For what it’s worth I’m British, so I don’t know how we differ from the Americans in this aspect.

Although I’m sure this sort of thing happens every year… there must be a procedure to deal with it?

British regulations obviously would differ.

For the US Army there’s a Chapter 11 “failure to adapt” discharge possible for the first 180 days. You may well not be out of your MOS specific training and considered deployable yet at 180 days. That may or may not apply to how you perceive “fully fledged.”

After that we’re into a deep dive of different types of Admin discharges, UCMJ, and Commander’s discretion. Even during the height of Iraq and Afghanistan it wasn’t all that difficult to get out. The system doesn’t necessarily make it pleasant, though. The potential characterization of the discharge can produce life long effects as well.

So you may say it’s a case of you can do it, but they won’t make it easy for you… but if you succeed, that’s your career finished?

You can’t quit. There is no such thing as resigning for enlisteds. You may have heard of an officer resigning their commission. That only happens after they have completed their obligation (typically 5-8 years) and want to leave.

While in boot camp it is possible to quit but they really will hassle you about it. But once you graduate boot camp, that’s that. Your stuck for the duration of your contract (typically 2-6 years).

So what do you do if you realize you’ve made a huge mistake? The best is to just grin and bear it. After only three months don’t think it will all be bad. Don’t become a “shitbird.” Satisfactorily completing your enlistment will bring you benefits that you may not appreciate now.

For example, who knew that 4 years of service 30 years ago means I am now exempt from Obamacare penalties, as I can get services at the VA .

My dad served 22 years and always said boot camp was the worst. It’s designed to take civilians and mold them into soldiers. He quickly learned how to adapt to military service. Learning which rules that could be bent and rules that absolutely must be followed. He thrived in the military and reached Master Sergeant. His last assignment was First Sergeant of the squadron.

It’s not for everybody. A lot of people leave after their first enlistment ends.

I understand what you’re saying, but there is such a thing as quitting, as I’m sure people try it everyday… that’s what I’m looking for - what happens if someone just doesn’t want to commit to that life anymore…

I am assuming the penalty isn’t as much as it was in the old days, but then again I have no idea about these things… hence the curiosity. I enjoy playing devils advocate and asking questions as that’s how I like to learn.

Commander’s discretion.

Possible isn’t the same as it’s common or everyone can on a whim. It probably takes more than simply saying you want out though. (A couple refusal to deploy admin discharges I’m aware of weren’t driven by much more than a statement though.) Follow on misbehavior like refusing to follow orders or just not showing up (aka desertion) likely become necessary to give them a reason to kick you out and stop “wasting time” on you. You can want to quit all you want …as long as you keep showing up and doing your job. It’s when you take action to quit doing your job or not show up that things spin up. :wink:

It’s not a Commander’s job to make it easy on you to get out. It may be in his best interest to make it easy on himself and his leaders by discharging someone who also happens to want out. There’s a big difference.

You can see the types of discharges here (mayne you’ve already looked): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_discharge#Types_of_discharge

Forget about a Dishonorable after only 3 months service and ail you do is either go AWOL or refuse to do your assigned duties. A Dishonorable Discharge is very serious. A BCD is unlikely as well, but now we are getting into the area of legal advice and I am not a lawyer. There are also non-judicial punishments (not requiring a court martial) that can make life unpleasant, such as forfeiture of pay, being busted down in rank, extra duty, not being allowed off the base.

So someone who is relatively brand new and just wants to “quit” may indeed eventually get their wish, but what will their punishment will be, I can’t exactly say.

The smartest thing to do would be to serve out your enlistment or draft period. Then you’re done, with an honorable discharge, and don’t have any black marks on your record that you would have to explain to future employers or anyone else.

I think the death penalty is only applicable during times of war. Being that modern wars are rarely ‘declared’ anymore it would apply to desertion or dereliction of duty (i.e. quitting) such that you endangered your fellow soldiers.

As was said above, there are two possible actions you can take. You can loudly proclaim that you want out of this chickenshit outfit to anyone and everyone, but you still do your job and obey orders.

The other is that you refuse to do your job.

You’re going to have very different outcomes from these two strategies.

You can desert and join the French Foreign Legion like this fella: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/the-good-soldier-why-a-suicidal-officer-had-to-go-awol-to-save-his-life-20150924

As far as I can tell from research, we are no different from the US. There is a common belief that a soldier can “buy himself out”, but as far as I can tell, that only applies to very young soldiers. Grown-ups have to stick it out or resort to subterfuges like shooting themselves in the foot.

I’m British and served in the British Army On The Rhine in the 1960s.One of the guys in our unit was always getting into trouble and eventually declared he was quitting and would not obey orders, etc. He was promptly marched to the guardroom and locked up. It was technically called ‘refusing to soldier’ and was a court martial offense with very heavy penalties, including a long term in a military prison. In time of war it would have been a capital offense.

In this guy’s case they stripped him of his unifom and left him naked in his cell on a subsistence diet. (I don’t know if this was proper military procedure or an embellishment on the part of the guardhouse commander. Probably the latter.) Anyway he lasted 2 days and then said he’d changed his mind! After a sentence of a few weeks’ imprisonment it was back to duty for the reluctant soldier.

I’m not disputing you, but I’m confused about the above.

My understanding is that VA services are only available for people with a service-connected disability. The mere fact of having served a few years and gotten out intact does NOT establish eligibility for VA health care. I’ve done some recent looking into this out of curiosity as I’m slowly approaching retirement and the end of my cushy company-provided medical plan. (That I pay a few hundred per month for. :slight_smile: )

So did you have a service-connected disability, or are the eligibility criteria more complex and inclusive than my research has shown me?

Thanks for any insight. And yes, I’ve stepped through the VA’s website’s decision tree.

The smart thing to do would be to talk to a JAG officer to see if you have any discharge options. The answer will likely be “no”. If that’s the case, you have a couple of options:

  1. You can turn yourself into a fuckup. This won’t guarantee that you’ll be discharged, but it will guarantee that you will lose your self respect and the respect of most everybody else. You will also lose a lot of money and free time from the disciplinary actions, and spend the rest of your military time being miserable. You will get every shit assignment that comes along and will probably learn nothing. The road to an early discharge (other than medical) is not a pleasant one.

  2. You can decide “Well, this was a mistake, but I’m stuck for the next few years so I’m going to make the best of it.” You make yourself an asset to the organization, take on tough jobs, learn everything you can, and earn the respect of your colleagues and superiors. When your time is done you move on with a sense of accomplishment and an honorable discharge.