The Army Deferred Enlistment Program

The Army Deferred Enlistment Program, or DEP is a program established to help deal with the volume of enlistments and limited availability of open “slots” for Basic Training.  More simply put, when a Soldier walks into a recruiters office trying to enlist, you can’t simply sign and ship out that same day.  The Basic Training units are structured such that they have their “slots” reserved months out.  That means, that when you sign, you have to wait a while before you ship off to boot camp.

So, what happens typically is that when you “enlist” you are actually enlisting into the DEP.  The DEP is essentially the inactive reserves.  When you “enlist” at MEPS, you are realistically enlisting in the DEP and your signature is your agreement to report for Active Duty once that slot is scheduled.  In essence, the DEP is a legal, binding contract (i.e. an enlistment) that secures you in the Army in an IRR status for up to a year.

The verbiage of the Enlistment Contract essential says that, “If you decide not to show up for your Basic Training ship date, the Army can order you to Active Duty and if you refuse, you could possibly face a military court-martial.”  Now, please do your own due diligence here, as I am simply paraphrasing Paragraph 8a of a typical Enlistment Contract.

Please also understand that the National Guard and Reserves do not have a Delayed Enlistment Program.  The second you raise your right hand and sign on the dotted line, you are in the NG or AR.  The difference between the National Guard/AR and Active Duty is that the recruiter is assigning you to a “manpower” slot in a specific unit for which they know they need to fill a vacancy.  If you decide to fold on your enlistment, then the receiving unit Commander become responsible for dealing with discharge packet.

I hope that helps to explain the DEP Process to all our viewers out there.  For more information to the NG/AR Specifics of dealing with a discharge see AR 630-10.  Chapter 5 should help clear up what you can do, as a Commander, to deal with a Soldier who refuses to ship.  Unfortunately for us, Active Duty’s process is too easy.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “The Army Deferred Enlistment Program”

  1. As Amy mentioned, I too was under the impression that the waiting is the hardest part, and that things can change at the last minute that could result in not being enlisted at all. My question now is… do recruiters recruit for active duty, National guard, and the reserves all in one location? Or are there separate different types of recruiters for different sorts of “branches”?
    I love part-time-commander for all of it’s great leadership lessons and discussions, but as I read more I come to realize that I know very little about how the military works – and I come from a very large Military family with members representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

  2. Amy Skalicky

    It’s my understanding that the waiting period is the hardest part, for it could be as long as several months or a short as a week or two before you head out to Basic Training. Regardless of the length of the wait time, it is a great time to learn some military material, such as rank structures, and to work on physical training. If a new recruit has several months to wait, he could essentially be up to standard on PT before even putting on his uniform for the first time. The wait time is an opportune time to exercise being proactive.

    1. I agree that having wait time could definitely help. Unfortunately, most new recruits don’t really prepare themselves during that time frame. If you have a few months to prepare, consider yourself lucky. Work on your PT, read about military customs and courtesies and get your mindset right!

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