In the National Guard, you should have gotten your first DD Form 214 when you finished AIT. There probably wasn’t much on it, so it was easy to keep track of. If you’ve deployed, or done any kind of active duty school (BOLC, etc), you should have gotten a DD Form 214 from those courses, too.
You are supposed to sit down and review your DD Form 214 each time before you sign it, and hopefully you don’t just skim over the form and sign it without worrying about it. I know it’s hard to believe, but the Army can screw things up with your paperwork. That being said, here are some tips to help you with correcting your DD Form 214.
First things first – make sure you have all appropriate documentation. If an award is missing, make sure you get it put in iPERMs. While we are on the topic, I think having an “I love me” binder is the most important thing you could make for yourself. It should have everything from awards, to marriage licenses, children’s birth certificates, divorce decrees, former DD Form 214s, enlistment packet, and anything you can think of.
Even if it’s in iPERMs, you should still have a hard copy. I had a mentor who was a CW5 that had flown in Vietnam, so after 40 years his binder would have been huge. So, he just carried around the most recent documents and left the rest at home safely locked up.
After you make sure you have copies of everything, if things need fixing at some point, you should fill out a DD Form 149. This is called the Application for Correction of Military Records. The form is relatively self-explanatory. You will need to explain what the injustice was, and why you believe it needs to be corrected. You will have to state what the alleged date is, and when you discovered the discrepancy.
If it has been longer than 3 years, the board will want justification. You will have the opportunity to submit backup documentation (This is where the I Love Me binder comes in). You can state whether you wish to appear personally before the board (at your own expense), or if you want your packet to speak for itself. Lastly, you will need your signature.
If your DD Form 214 is corrected, you will not receive another DD Form 214. Instead, you will get a DD Form 215 (Correction to DD Form 214). AR 635-5, Separation Documents, covers this entire process.
Why is this so important? As a private, maybe you don’t care as much. Retirement or separation seems so far away. Things that happen at the start of our career don’t seem so important. Maybe you are at your demob station and you can’t wait to get home, so you don’t really review your DD Form 214.
These are mistakes. You should always take the time to look these things over and make sure it’s right. I know people that have had things on one DD 214, and on the next, mysteriously some things were missing. The bottom line is that you should always keep vigilant – when you separate from the military, this is the only document that matters. Your IPERMs file doesn’t matter, your 2-1 file doesn’t matter, the only thing that anyone will look at is your DD Form 214.
Keeping track of your career and fixing problems as they arise seems to be much easier to me than having to file a correction form that goes to a board. That process isn’t difficult, but wouldn’t you rather nip a problem in the bud instead of letting it fester over 20 years? What are your thoughts? Have any of you ever had to go through the DD Form 214 corrections process? If so, leave a comment below and let us know how it went.