Filling Out The Contract, The DD Form 4
REVIEW THE ENLISTMENT CONTRACT BEFORE MEETING WITH A RECRUITER, ANY RECRUITER! Please read the In-Depth Look at DD Form 4 Enlistment Contract page for more advice and commentary on each section BEFORE filling out yours! You might also find it helpful to read Don’s preliminary research into the DD Form 4 Privacy Act Statement Authority Applicable Statutes HERE.
This short contract is full of legalese. You need a non-military-connected lawyer to decipher it, NOT an inexperienced high school student betting his/her life on his/her understanding during the recruiter-programmed two-to-three-minute scan as the recruiter typically keeps yammering on about what a great future you have in that particular military branch.
It is typically sprung on prospective enlistees after various “bonding sessions,” such as “I’ve been explaining what the military is like and (trust me) this is just a formality, so just initial here, here and here, and sign here.”
Notice that Paragraph 8.a. through c. is for the DEP sign-up, only, NOT for the eight-year enlistment conditions!
Use Sections 8 (BEFORE Section 8a) and 13a, to carefully (in blue ink) detail, by title and date, the list of agreements/assurances made by the recruiting office, and BE SURE to have the recruiting COMMANDING OFFICER (the C.O.) sign that annex. (Technically, by military contract law, a non-commissioned officer—which the recruiter you’ve been dealing with will be—cannot sign a legally binding contract…. Note Section 19 for an officer signature). Your recruiter may cite a Vocal Order of the Commander (a VOCO) as his authority to sign off on an Annex, but such a VOCO may conflict with the wording/provisions of Sections 8.c. and 13.a.
(NOTE the SPECIFIC CAUTION of paragraph 8.c.)
DO NOT think the back of the contract can be used for an Annex… it most likely won’t be copied.
Note Section 9.a.(1): “obey all lawful orders” and “perform all assigned duties” can and, at times, ARE mutually exclusive. The Nuremburg war crimes trials following WWII often came down to just that, that same dichotomy…. “I was just following orders,” yet MURDER was as unlawful in Germany then as it is now. (see our Section on “Atrocities and War Crimes”).
Be aware of Section 9.b.: This is a “universal out” on the part of the military that can negate your whole “contract.” As it is FAR easier to draft a military regulation without elected politicians approving of it as it is a law to get through the Congressional and Presidential review process. Laws are passed by Congress and signed by the President, Regulations can be issued by the DoD, or a military Branch without elected official reviews.
Notice that Sections 8, 13a and 14 may appear to be somewhat contradictory, but they, in fact force a prospective enlistee to PTSOP (put that s_ _ _ on paper) something he/she as a high school student and probably quite conscious of apparent “authority” (the recruiter), may not be particularly proficient at. BUT this is the best negotiation time the prospective recruit may have literally for years, and he/she either takes advantage of the situation or loses the opportunity because, once you’re IN the military, you’re NOT encouraged to question.
Basically, write in WHATEVER you desire from an enlistment. The worst that can happen is a ”NO”… the best that can happen is you’ll be labeled “too curious” or “unfit for military life” and won’t be bothered by them again. On the other hand, what if your stated desires actually opens a true dialog and, as the recruiter(s) start saying WHY they can’t answer or provide that, you may begin learning more military truth from those not being paid to tell that truth.
I once had a quite bright high school client whom I had specifically directed to read the Contract before I’d meet with him. After our session, at his request I accompanied him back to the Medford recruiting office, only to find it closed on Saturday morning, so my client called his recruiter at home, as the recruiter had told him. The recruiter couldn’t understand HOW my client had a copy of the Contract and my client simply said “the internet” (Yup, my website!)
When my client started asking questions the recruiter couldn’t answer, the recruiter claimed he’d never seen the DD Form 4, in fact didn’t think they had any in the office. That immediately implied four things that my client immediately caught on to:
1. The recruiter had never enlisted? or
2. The recruiter had never gone through recruiting school or had slept all through it (and, believe me, THAT is quite possible, or
3. That particular recruiting office was simply a poorly-run boondoggle, and/or
4. That recruiter had never signed anyone up for that military branch, because Block (or Section) 14 of the Contract SPECIFICALLY calls for the immediate recruiter’s signature!
That phone call ended when my client told his recruiter where he could go and it wasn’t back to recruiting school!
The Call-Up and Stop-Loss Provisions
In military terms, “stop-loss” means not letting a military member separate or retire once their required term of service is complete.
When anyone joins any branch of the United States Military for the first time, they incur a minimum eight-year total service obligation (some special jobs, such as pilot, can incur even longer obligations). Whatever time is not spent on active duty or in the active Guard/Reserves must be spent in the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR), which are subject to Call-Up.
Members of the IRR don’t drill, nor do they receive any pay, but they are subject to recall to active duty at any time during their time in the IRR.
For example, if someone joins the Army under a two-year enlistment, and then gets out, he or she is subject to recall to active duty for another six years. If someone joins the Air Force for four years and then separates, he or she can be recalled to active duty for four more years. In the past, some IRR members who have forgotten their IRR obligations and successfully built their lives, even to drawing down 6-figure incomes, have been recalled to active duty military-level incomes that have completely disrupted their lives.
This is spelled out in paragraph 10a, states:
“If this is my initial enlistment, I must serve a total of eight (8) years. Any part of that service not served on active duty must be served in a Reserve Component, unless I am sooner discharged.”
While this is not considered stop-loss, it is often assumed to be. This is part of the President’s Reserve Call-Up Authority.
Stop-loss is the extension of a military person’s term in the Guard, Reserves or active duty beyond what their normal separation date.
Those who join the military agree to this provision under paragraph 9c, which is the basis of stop-loss:
“In the event of war, my enlistment in the Armed Forces continues until six (6) months after the war ends, unless my enlistment is ended sooner by the President of the United States.”
The DoD maintains that the term “war” means anytime our military is engaged in hostile conflict, not just when war is declared by Congress. The stop-loss policy has been legally challenged, but federal courts have consistently found that military members’ enlistment times may be involuntarily extended under this provision.
Congress first gave stop-loss authority to the Department of Defense right after the draft ended. However, the military did not use the authority until the 1990/1991 Gulf War, when President George H. W. Bush imposed stop-loss on the military during the Gulf War and disrupted many families. This stop-loss was later revised to include only those deployed and individuals in certain critical job skills, but the contract, itself, does not reflect this, so it is a matter of being a time-variable interpretation.
President Clinton imposed stop-loss at the beginning of the Bosnia deployment and during the Kosovo Air Campaign. Stop-loss was also imposed for a brief period following the 9/11 attacks, and then again in 2002 and 2003.
The current stop-loss policy only affects members of the active duty Army, the Army Reserves and the Army National Guard; likewise, it affects those who are either deployed or have been notified that they are scheduled for deployment… they are prevented from separating or retiring from the point of deployment notification and up to 90 days following that deployment.
Title 10 U.S.C. 12302 provides that, in time of national emergency declared by the President, up to 1 million members of the Ready Reserve can be called to active duty for not more than 24 consecutive months. The Reserve Components of the Armed Forces are: The Army National Guard of the United States, The Army Reserve, The Navy Reserve, The Marine Corps Reserve, The Air National Guard of the United States, The Air Force Reserve, and The Coast Guard Reserve.
Understand that DEP participants are considered to be Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) members and can be called to active, even without training.