What is DEP (Military)? – Understanding its Significance

What is the Delayed Entry Program and can I get out of it?

What is DEP (military)? The Delayed Entry Program (DEP) serves as a buffer period between the time an individual enlists in the military and the time they begin active duty service. It’s like a holding pattern where recruits can finalize paperwork, complete medical examinations, and prepare for basic training without immediately shipping out.

During this time, recruits may participate in DEP meetings or training sessions to learn more about military life and expectations.

The majority of enlistees opt to join the military through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), also known as the Future Soldiers Program. This program enables individuals to enlist in the military before their scheduled departure for initial training. Participants in the DEP do not receive compensation and are not governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

While the DEP is a commitment to join the military, recruits may still have second thoughts or face unforeseen circumstances that make them reconsider their decision. Yes, it is possible to get out of the DEP, but it’s not as simple as deciding you’ve changed your mind.

Once you’ve enlisted and signed the necessary paperwork, you’ve entered a contractual agreement with the military. Exiting the DEP requires formal procedures and approval from military authorities.

How does someone get out of the Delayed Entry Program?

To leave the Delayed Entry Program, you must communicate your decision to your recruiter clearly and formally. It’s essential to understand that recruiters have quotas to meet, and they may try to convince you to stay in the DEP.

Be prepared to stand your ground and assert your decision. Your recruiter will guide you through the process, which may involve submitting a written request for release from the DEP and possibly attending a discharge interview.

It’s important to note that leaving the DEP may have consequences, such as affecting your eligibility for future military service or benefits. Before making any decisions, carefully consider your reasons for wanting to leave and weigh the potential outcomes.

Understand How Recruiters Think

Recruiters play a pivotal role in the enlistment process, but it’s essential to recognize that their priorities may differ from yours. While your primary concern may be making an informed decision about your military service, recruiters have recruitment goals to meet.

They are trained to overcome objections and address concerns while highlighting the benefits of military service.

Recruiters may use various tactics, such as emphasizing the opportunities for career advancement, educational benefits, or the sense of camaraderie within the military. They aim to build rapport and trust with potential recruits to encourage them to enlist.

However, it’s crucial to remember that recruiters are bound by ethical standards and should not use deceptive or coercive tactics to persuade individuals to join the military.

Understanding the motivations and pressures faced by recruiters can help you navigate interactions with them more effectively. It’s essential to ask questions, seek clarification, and take the time to weigh your options before making any commitments.

Remember, the decision to enlist in the military is significant, and it’s essential to make an informed choice that aligns with your goals and values.

Recruiter harassment

Recruiter harassment refers to any behavior by a recruiter that crosses the line from persuasion into coercion or undue pressure. While the majority of recruiters are professional and ethical, instances of harassment can occur, and it’s important to recognize and address them.

Harassment can take various forms, including persistent phone calls, emails, or visits to your home, workplace, or school. Recruiters may use intimidation tactics, such as threatening consequences if you don’t enlist or making false promises about military benefits.

They might also try to manipulate or guilt-trip you into staying in the DEP, even if you’ve expressed a desire to withdraw.

If you feel that you’re being harassed by a recruiter, it’s crucial to take action. Start by clearly communicating your boundaries and expressing your desire for the harassment to stop. Keep records of any communications or interactions that you believe constitute harassment, including dates, times, and specific details.

If the harassment continues despite your attempts to address it, don’t hesitate to escalate the issue to higher-ranking military authorities or seek assistance from outside organizations, such as legal aid or advocacy groups.

Getting into another branch

If you’ve enlisted in one branch of the military but later decide you want to join a different branch, it may be possible to transfer while still in the Delayed Entry Program. However, transferring branches is not a straightforward process and is subject to various factors, including the needs of the military branches and individual circumstances.

To transfer to another branch, you’ll need to communicate your desire to your recruiter and request a branch transfer. Your recruiter can guide the steps you need to take and any additional requirements or paperwork involved.

Keep in mind that transferring branches may extend your DEP timeline or require you to meet specific qualifications or undergo additional screening.

It’s essential to carefully consider your reasons for wanting to switch branches and weigh the potential benefits and challenges. Transferring branches is a significant decision that can impact your military career, so it’s important to gather as much information as possible and consult with your recruiter or other military personnel before proceeding.

When Is It Too Late?

Determining when it’s too late to leave the Delayed Entry Program depends on various factors, including your enlistment status, scheduled ship date, and military branch policies. Once you’ve shipped out to basic training, you’ve officially begun your active duty service, and it’s generally too late to change your mind about joining the military.

However, before you ship out, you still have the opportunity to withdraw from the DEP if you have a valid reason and follow the appropriate procedures. Once you’ve shipped out, you’re committed to serving in the military, and backing out can have serious consequences, including being classified as AWOL (Absent Without Leave) or facing legal repercussions.

Typically, on the day assigned for reporting to basic training, individuals are directed to return to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). There, they undergo a second swearing-in process while signing the final section of the military enlistment contract specifically blocks 20, 21, and 22 of the DD Form 4/3.

This portion of the contract signifies the individual’s intention to transition from the Delayed Entry/Enlistment Program (DEP) to enlistment in the Regular Component of the military.

It’s crucial to carefully consider your decision to join the military before enlisting and to communicate openly and honestly with your recruiter about any concerns or uncertainties you may have.

If you’re unsure about whether to proceed with your enlistment, seek guidance from trusted sources, such as family members, mentors, or military personnel, before making a final decision.

Reserves And National Guard Are Different, But Usually Not That Different

While both the Reserves and the National Guard are components of the United States military reserve forces, there are some key differences between the two. Understanding these differences can help individuals make informed decisions about their military service options.

The Reserves are a federal force composed of individuals who serve part-time while maintaining civilian careers or attending school. Reserve units are typically located near civilian communities across the country and are called upon to support active-duty missions as needed.

Reserve service involves training one weekend per month and two weeks per year, with the potential for additional training or deployments.

On the other hand, the National Guard is a dual-purpose force that serves both state and federal governments. National Guard units are under the authority of state governors but can be activated by the president for federal missions.

National Guard members typically serve part-time, similar to Reserves, but may also be called upon to respond to state emergencies, such as natural disasters or civil unrest.

While there are differences in the chain of command, funding sources, and mission priorities between the Reserves and the National Guard, individuals may find that the overall experience and benefits of service are similar.

Both offer opportunities for training, education, and career advancement while allowing members to serve their country and communities.

In numerous states, individuals who fail to report to basic training or miss drill obligations are typically discharged without repercussions. However, it’s worth noting that a minority of states have taken punitive measures against individuals in such circumstances.

For those who have enlisted in the Reserves or National Guard but have not yet commenced boot camp, seeking advice specific to their state’s regulations and potential consequences is advisable. They can reach out to a GI Rights counselor at 877-447-4487 to discuss their situation and obtain guidance tailored to their state’s policies.

What are the consequences if I do not go to MEPS on my ship date?

The Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) is where individuals undergo medical examinations, aptitude testing, and other screenings before enlisting in the military. Your ship date is the date you’re scheduled to depart for basic training after completing the enlistment process at MEPS.

If you fail to report to MEPS on your ship date without a valid reason, you could face several consequences. First and foremost, you may be classified as a “no-show,” which can result in administrative penalties and could potentially affect your eligibility for future military service.

Additionally, failing to report to MEPS as scheduled can delay your enlistment process and may require you to reschedule your ship date, subject to availability and military requirements.

Repeated failure to report to MEPS or deliberate avoidance of military service obligations can have more serious consequences, including legal repercussions such as being charged with AWOL (Absent Without Leave) or desertion.

It’s essential to communicate any unforeseen circumstances or emergencies that prevent you from reporting to MEPS on your ship date to your recruiter as soon as possible. Your recruiter can provide guidance on how to address the situation and minimize any negative impacts on your military career prospects.

Regulations & Forms

Navigating the bureaucratic aspects of leaving the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) requires understanding and adhering to relevant regulations and completing necessary forms. Each branch of the military has its own set of regulations and procedures governing DEP enlistment and separation.

The specific regulations and forms you’ll need to follow may vary depending on factors such as your branch of service, enlistment status, and reason for leaving the DEP. Some branches may require recruits to submit a formal request for release from the DEP, while others may have specific discharge procedures in place.

It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the regulations and forms applicable to your situation and follow the prescribed steps for leaving the DEP. Your recruiter can provide guidance on which forms to complete and where to submit them, as well as answer any questions you may have about the process.

Keep in mind that failing to comply with regulations or submit required forms could delay your separation from the DEP or result in administrative complications. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the process, don’t hesitate to seek clarification from your recruiter or other military personnel.


In conclusion, the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) serves as a valuable opportunity for individuals who need some extra time before starting their military service. Whether you’re finalizing paperwork, preparing for basic training, or simply taking time to ensure this commitment is right for you, the DEP offers flexibility and support.

However, it’s important to recognize that entering the DEP is a commitment to join the military, and withdrawing from the program requires careful consideration and adherence to formal procedures.

While it’s possible to leave the DEP before shipping out to basic training, doing so may have consequences, and individuals should weigh their options carefully before making any decisions.

Navigating the enlistment process, interacting with recruiters, and understanding military regulations can be complex and daunting. It’s essential to educate yourself, ask questions, and seek guidance from trusted sources to ensure you make informed choices about your military service.

Remember, joining the military is a significant decision that can have far-reaching implications for your future. Take the time to assess your goals, priorities, and concerns before committing to enlistment, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support along the way.


Can I change my mind about joining the military after enlisting in the DEP?

Yes, it is possible to withdraw from the Delayed Entry Program before shipping out to basic training, but it requires following formal procedures and obtaining approval from military authorities.

What should I do if I feel pressured or harassed by my recruiter?

If you experience harassment or undue pressure from your recruiter, document the incidents and communicate your concerns to higher-ranking military authorities or seek assistance from outside organizations.

Can I transfer to another branch while in the DEP?

Yes, it may be possible to transfer to another branch while in the DEP, but the process is subject to various factors and may not always be successful. Consult with your recruiter for guidance on transferring branches.

What are the consequences if I fail to report to MEPS on my ship date?

Failing to report to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) on your ship date without a valid reason can result in administrative penalties and may affect your eligibility for future military service. It’s important to communicate any unforeseen circumstances to your recruiter as soon as possible.

How can I ensure a smooth transition out of the DEP?

To leave the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) smoothly, familiarize yourself with relevant regulations and procedures, complete required forms accurately and on time, and communicate openly and honestly with your recruiter throughout the process.

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