Members of the United States military are held to high standards and can be discharged for a number of reasons. Here is a quick guide to the different kinds of US military discharge.
Entry Level Separation
All members of the military have to complete a basic training program before they can be sent to units and assigned positions. If a recruit is unable or unwilling to complete basic training or basic technical education, they may be required to leave the military in an entry-level separation. This kind of discharge essentially clears the soldier or the complications they would face if they were discharged at a later date.
Discharge Under Honorable Conditions
A discharge under honorable conditions is usually mandated when a soldier or sailor fails to adapt to military conditions or fails to keep up their end of the military contract. If, for instance, a soldier fails to keep their physical fitness in check, they may be discharged in this way. Jimi Hendrix famously received a discharge under honorable conditions after failing to fulfill his military contract. He was, by all accounts, much more interested in playing the guitar.
Other Than Honorable
An other than honorable discharge is the gravest kind of discharge that can be set in motion without needing a court-martial to be convened. Drug possession, trouble with civilian law enforcement, and other unsoldierly behaviors can be punished with an other than honorable discharge.
Bad conduct discharges are the result of a court-martial and can result in prison time depending on the nature of the offense. Soldiers are usually prosecuted using article 133 when senior officers want to discharge them for bad conduct. There are many reasons why military members facing article 133 need representation from a legal professional. Being found guilty and given a bad conduct discharge can seriously hamper a soldier’s ability to find work in the future and can lead to long sentences in a civilian or military prison.
Soldiers that desert, kill civilians, commit war crimes, aid the enemy, or commit other serious crimes can be struck with a dishonorable discharge order. This is the most punitive of all discharges and usually leads to some kind of punishment in civilian or military courts. Although the military prefers to try members in its own courts, it will hand over some offenders to the civilian system if they have committed crimes that merit civilian punishment, such as murder or drug trafficking.
Medical separation is a kind of honorable discharge that is handed out when a soldier or sailor is not fit for their job due to a physical or psychological ailment. Medical separation takes place after a person is injured in their duties and may well entitle a soldier or sailor to some kind of military veteran’s benefits when back in civilian life. Soldiers and sailors that have gone through a medical separation may also be entitled to help with their medical expenses paid for by the military and associated charities.