Enlisting in the service requires that you pass a physical and a background check. If you don't meet enlistment standards, you can apply for an enlistment waiver in some cases. Even though the U.S. military has become a competitive employer with tough standards, it grants waivers for many situations. Joining is not impossible when you have criminal record or physical disability, for example.
Each branch of service has its own enlistment policies, but all fall under Department of Defense guidelines. The list of circumstances that potentially block your enlistment are similar and highly detailed. Non-waivable factors include drug dependency, alcoholism, sexual perversion and testing positive for HIV.
If you have a criminal record, contact a recruiter and authorize him to conduct a background check. Depending on the level of offense, he will submit a moral waiver request to the appropriate commander. For example, in the Army, the local recruiting battalion commander reviews waivers for misdemeanors; for felonies, the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command decides whether to grant approval.
Recruits from all services undergo a thorough physical examination at the MEPS, including tests involving your heart, lungs and hearing. If you fail enlistment standards, the chief medical officer or command surgeon at MEPS will determine whether you need a waiver. The appropriate waiver review authority will decide the fate of the request. For example, the approving authority for Army personnel is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
Odds Of Approval
Approval percentages for waivers vary as the need for soldiers fluctuates. According to a 2013 CNN article, approximately two potential recruits were vying for one slot in the service. In 2005, the applicant pool was so low the military fell short in its recruiting goals. The time frame for waiver approval varies as well. Sometimes the decision of whether to grant the waiver relies on the investigators' and commanders' best judgment.
- U.S. Army: Army Regulation 601-210 - Active and Reserve Components Enlistment Program
- U.S. Army: Army Regulation 601-270 Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)
- Defense Technical Information Center: Department Of Defense Instruction 6130.03
- U.S. Army: Recruiting Command: USAREC Regulation 601-56 - Waiver, Future Soldier Program Separation, and Void Enlistment Processing Procedures
- CNN Money: Getting Into The Military Is Getting Tougher
- Army National Guard: Forums - The Real Deal On Waivers
- Military.com: Certain Health Issues Can Make It Hard To Join
- Navy CyberSpace: Medical Issues Not Normally Waivered
- Navy CyberSpace: Medical Issues
- U.S. Air Force: Air Force Instruction 36-2002 -
- U.S. Air Force: Air Force Waiver Guide
- U.S. Marine Corps: Office of Legislative Affairs - Enlistment/Re-Enlistment
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