Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 7.17.08

Joined the Military?
You can change your mind
by Carol Van Houten

Something made you think that joining the military was a good idea. Maybe you just graduated from high school. Now you are having second thoughts. Maybe the promises made by the recruiter don’t sound so good anymore. Maybe you found out about some of the drawbacks to military service. Here’s the good news: You are still a civilian, as long as you have not sworn in at basic training. That means you can change your mind and not go. 

It really is as simple as that. You can just not go to basic training. Or you can write a letter to the commander of the recruiting office stating that you changed your mind and want to separate from military service. Include in your letter that no one is to contact you about your decision.

People changing their minds after signing enlistment papers but before going to basic training happens so frequently that the military has forms, used internally, just for this purpose. So here are some tips about writing that letter of refusal. Find the address of the recruiting office on your enlistment papers. You do not need to know the name of the commander, just address him (probably a him) by title. You do not have to state a reason for declining to enlist; any reason will do. Definitely state that you do not want recruiters to contact you to try to change your mind because if you don’t you can count on pressure from them. 

Some recruiters try to pressure you to go to basic training with misinformation that you have already sworn in or that something else negative will happen to you such as prison or some sort of “black mark.” These are not true and recruiting regulations prohibit this behavior on the part of recruiters!

Whatever you do, if you change your mind, don’t go to the recruiting office or to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) thus making yourself available to be talked out of your decision.

Nothing negative will happen to you if you don’t go — except hassle by the recruiter. Need this confirmed in “bureaucratic” writing? Google USAREC 601-56, Sec 3-3. 


Some people believe regulations are different for the National Guard. Often the Guard will try to persuade you that you can’t get out, especially if you have gone the so-called “split training” route or if you have been paid to attend some training. Split basic training can mean that between the junior and senior years in high school you do half the basic training. You can still get an “entry level separation” from the Guard if you do so prior to swearing in at basic training or the second summer of basic training if you go the “split” route. Check AR 963.10 Sec 5-2.

 Need more information? Contact the Committee for Countering Military Recruitment, which is a joint project of Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) and Eugene PeaceWorks. Call 485-1755 or 343-8548 or visit

Carol Van Houten of Eugene is co-coordinator of the Committee for Countering Military Recruitment.