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Military:  Recruitment and Enlistment

On This Page:

Cut to the chase
Military Enlistment Regulations
General Information
Military Enlistment by Homeschooled Graduates
HR 3753/ S 1691:  Section 10 of The Home-School NonDiscrimination Act of 2005 (separate page on this site)
Accurately portraying military enlistment for homeschooled grads

External link:

Homeschoolers and Tier I enlistment category (2007)

Cut to the chase

In general the military recruiter is looking for something that he or she recognizes:  bureaucratic pigeonholes in the form of paperwork and documentation.  In some cases if the enlistment candidate has a skill that is in high demand, bureaucratic pigeonholes become less important.  For the majority of people who have skills of a more general nature, a recruiter will want to see evidence of a 'proper' education, ie, one that looks familiar and fits into the regulation.

In the case of a person who wants to enlist, and has the goal of completing the first hitch, the courses of action that have the best results are:

  • Attending public or private school
  • Participating in a JROTC program
  • Acquiring at least 1 full-time semester of college (15 credit hours)

Both the mass-school choice, and the college credit hours will gain the candidate Tier I status, the priority status for enlisting in the military services.  The JROTC participation has an excellent track record concerning completion of the first military enlistment, but is not recognized in law.

My point is only to specify which options have the best outcomes, not to denigrate homeschooled enlistees.  My own kids were homeschooled so it isn't as if I harbor animus against the breed.

IF a young person is attracted to military service, then the preparation that provides the best result -- meaning completion of the first term of service -- is some form of institutional schooling.  Public school and JROTC participation are tops, followed by public school (perhaps just the senior year), and finally, 1 full-time semester of college.  Homeschoolers do succeed in the services as enlisted members, otherwise the results of the CNA survey would show 100% attrition, which it didn't.  Still, as Louis Pasteur said, chance favors the prepared mind. 

There is, as yet, no data on the homeschooling + JROTC combination, but the odds of doing well probably increase.  I'd say it was an option.


Update after the 6 January 2006 signing into law of Section 591 of the FY 2006 Defense Authorization Act:

Enlistment by homeschooled grads in the armed forces

The main focus of The Military Homeschooler website is the needs of families whose sponsor (as military heads-of-household are called) is actively serving in one of the military services.  Recruiting of homeschooled graduates is a side-issue which only recently became a matter of interest to the homeschooling community in general, because of federal legislation requiring the Department of Defense to implement a uniform policy for recruiting homeschooled graduates.  Military recruiting is not the focus of this site, but it seems to have found a home here.

According to a telephone conversation I had with a staff member in the Pentagon office that deals with homeschool enlistment in the military services, the policy on homeschool recruitment has been written.  I have not yet received a printed copy of the policy, but it is very similar to that contained in the current Army regulation.

Recruiting particulars are flexible, as they have to be, in order to balance the number of people coming in to the service, with whatever number of people leave the service.   Military units have specific staffing limits, and units are known in the Army as either TDA or ToE, depending on mission (support or combat).   The other services probably have similar staffing structures.  Theoretically, units are not supposed to be either under-strength or over-strength, but mission, and personnel supply and demand, can affect this balance.   If a service loses, for instance, 50 people in the mess kit repair field, it doesn't help to recruit 50 people as dental assistants.  Job-fields can also be over-strength if a service compensated for a projected loss that didn't happen. The services also have to take into account the number of people any one school can train.  If classes are full, then there is a waiting list, and entry into those fields can be delayed.   School availability is affected, not only by new recruits who need to be trained, but also by active duty personnel who want to change job fields, and re-enlist to do so.  Add all this to complications concerning homeschool education credentials, and the field is ripe for misunderstandings.

As with college entrance requirements, military entrance requirements are best met during the 'secondary' portion of homeschooling.  If a homeschooled young person's desire to enlist in one of the military services isn't clear before the age of fourteen, it is hard to make those preparations, one of which is that the homeschooling 'high school years' be modeled on what most people see as 'traditional' schooling, meaning a teacher/student relationship for 5-days per week, roughly 170-days per year, and with assignments, grades and tests.

For applicants whose credentials do not meet the 'traditional' standard, one way to meet the requirements is to acquire 15 college credit-hours, or the equivalent in semester hours.  Yes, this is an added requirement for homeschooled grads, but it applies to all alternative credential holders, not just homeschooled grads.

As soon as I receive it, I will post the current enlistment policy to this site.  In the meantime, the specifics in the Army regulation are a  useful guide.

Military Enlistment Regulations

The Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy enlistment regulations are linked on the Military Enlistment Requirements page on this web site.   Each service's requirements of homeschooled applicants is copied from the latest online edition of each regulation.

So far, the Coast Guard regulation has not been 'found.'  It's out there, somewhere, but the search words haven't yet made themselves known.  Each service has it's own vocabulary, so the same words don't always have the same meaning between services.

  • The following is an email sent to me from the listowner of the Armed Forces Network (AFN) Yahoo group:


    One reason the Services have trouble operating jointly is that they don't speak the same language. 

    For example, if you told Navy personnel to "secure a building," they would turn off the lights and lock the doors.

    Army personnel would occupy the building so no one could enter.

    Marines would assault the building, capture it, and defend it with suppressive fire and close combat.

    The Air Force, on the other hand, would take out a three-year lease with an option to buy.


General Information

Because some military homeschoolers choose to follow in a parent's footsteps by enlisting in the military I'm including a page on enlistment requirements.  I won't include information on becoming an officer because any homeschooler who chooses that route will necessarily need to attend college (or receive a battlefield commission) which renders the homeschooling status moot.  The information on the page will accumulate (as do the others) as I find it.


Military Enlistment by Homeschooled Graduates

  • The horse's mouth:  I'm assuming this fellow's an Army recruiter because of the way he denotes rank.  If you're interested in Army recruiting, try reading his blog.
    Confessions of a Military Recruiter
  • Military service:  officer/enlisted differences
  • Military service is not often the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about the aspirations of homeschooled children (even military Brats), but still, it is the choice of some.  Because of the clash between the sometimes 'loose' homeschooling style, and the distinctly 'unloose' style of the military, homeschooled teens without college credit hours have found it difficult to enlist in the military.  Some of those homeschooling parents took their concerns to HSLDA, and in 1998 an amendment to H.R. 3616, the Defense Authorization Bill, was made establishing a five-year pilot program to allow homeschooled graduates to enlist in the military services as Tier I recruits instead of Tier II recruits.**  This amendment was not universally cheered in homeschooling circles. 

    In 2004 the study concluded, and in January 2005 the study was published: Final Analysis of Evaluation of Homeschool and ChalleNGe Program Recruits.   The results aren't what many expected.  Homeschooled recruits do not have as good a record in completing initial enlistments, or in re-upping, as do high school graduates.  The cause of this is, strangely enough, a lack of being in a mass-schooling situation.  A mass-school diploma, or 1 semester of full-time college, is the best predictor of success in completing a first term of enlistment. 

    Because of the expense of training military recruits, "Attrition is costly to both the military and the taxpayer--estimated at $18,400 per premature separation in 1987 dollars (Laurence 1987)," the military services want to recruit the people who show the best record of returning value for the cost of training (i.e., they complete their enlistments, they re-up).  Other costs to factor in are the costs of recruiting.

    It must be remembered that service in the military is not a right, it is a privilege.  Because of the special nature of military service, restrictions are placed on the people who are allowed to join. People who are too tall, too short, too heavy, too thin, or who have a condition such as asthma, are restricted from serving.

    Concerning the Tier assignment of homeschooled applicants, the report's recommendation is: "Given that tier placement is based on attrition rates, the data do not support considering ChalleNGe or homeschooled recruits on a par with high school diploma graduates or permanently placing these credentials in Tier 1."  (page 51 of the report)

    Concerning the Tier assignment of a homeschooling diploma/credential, which is categorized as a Tier II credential, this is not discrimination because all diplomas/credentials that are alternatives to a day-school diploma/credential are categorized as Tier II.  It is the alternativeness of the credential, not the worthiness of the applicant, that has been categorized.  By acquiring day-school experience, the applicant's credential will be categorized as Tier I.

    If a homeschooled teen wishes to join the service, and to be considered as Tier I, the chances of enlistment will be enhanced by taking college courses and accruing a minimum of 15 credit hours.  Otherwise, check with a recruiter for the service under consideration.  Other alternatives are to acquire a college degree and either enlist or be commissioned as an officer, or to seek admittance to one of the service academies.  (see the service academy links under the 'College' entry on this site's Beyond Homeschooling page)

    **Tier II recruits are alternative-diploma holders, not drop-outs; Tier III persons are those who hold no secondary school diploma and, unless they have exceptionally high scores, are not recruited. 

    The misinformation on many homeschool websites about homeschoolers being 'discriminated against' concerning military recruitment was not 'discrimination.'  The Tier II categorization was based on the military's experience with traditional high school graduates, non-traditional graduates and non-diploma holders (many of whom were probably drop-outs).  If you want to play in the Establishment's game, you have to jump through the Establishment's hoops.
  • ====================================================

Accurately portraying military enlistment for homeschooled grads

In making available information about enlistment in the U.S. military services, it is a kindness to ensure that the information dispensed is accurate in fact, and in view.  What prompted this concern, on my part, was reading linked pages at HSLDA's website, a collection of broadcasts from the Home School Heartbeat  titled, "Homeschoolers and Military Enlistment."

It is one thing to sincerely support enlistment in the U.S. military services, it is another to encourage it with half-truths.  The people who will be responsible for fulfilling the enlistment contract from beginning to end (the recruits), should be given the full story concerning homeschool-graduate enlistment, not just optimistic encouragement.

My objections are to statements at the website pages:

A viable path
Equal treatment for homeschool grads
Where to start
Preparing for a military career
Planning ahead

  • A viable path
    "Success in the military is based on mental aptitude, self-discipline, physical training, and personal integrity. Does your high school program focus on character-building—if so, your student has what it takes to impress a recruiter."

    Success in the military has been statistically linked to attendance at a mass-instruction-school, such public or private high schools.  Studies have been done for decades, the results of which have been codified in Tiers that categorize recruits.  "The system was developed after research indicated a strong relationship between education credentials and successful completion of the first term of military service." 

    What it takes to most impress a recruiter is a high school diploma, or a college transcript.

  • Equal treatment for homeschool grads
    "The military considered them dropouts and didn't want to bring them in because they figured they'd drop out of the military."

    I've seen this statement so many times that it looks like an attempt to say something often enough in order to make it seem true. 

    DoD did not consider homeschoolers "dropouts."  Young adults who were homeschooled and wanted to join the military were categorized as Tier II recruits, a category established in 1987, a time before many homeschooled kids were looking at military enlistment.  Tier II recruits are "alternative credential holders."  Dropouts are Tier III.

    From the same page:  "Well, in the last six years, we've had a pilot project that's enabled homeschoolers to come in as high school graduates. And they've performed well and done well."

    I'm sure that there were homeschooled recruits that performed well, because in the study only a percentage of the recruits who had been homeschooled didn't complete their first enlistments -- and this is what matters.  In cash this matters, because each recruit that washes out costs the taxpayers his or her training costs, plus the cost of his or her replacement.

    The final report on the pilot program, the Final Analysis of Evaluation of
    Homeschool and ChalleNGe Program Recruits
    states, on PDF page 52, "Although there are good reasons to explore recruiting avenues beyond traditional public high schools, given the attrition rates of homeschoolers compared with other high school diploma graduates, homeschooled recruits seem to be a less desirable recruiting market than was originally thought."

    How anyone can look at the report and state that "they've performed well and done well," while talking about encouraging more of the kids to enlist, as-is, is beyond me.

    As it now stands, recruits with only a homeschool diploma do not do as well as publicly schooled recruits concerning retention and re-enlistment.  This is not a shameful thing, in and of itself, because the recruits may only need to be given the tools with which to succeed at a higher rate than they do now.  Those tools are either mass-school education (perhaps only the senior year), JROTC participation, or 1 full-time semester of college.

    The mass-school experience, plus JROTC participation has the best track record.  Mass-school attendance comes next, in statistical terms according to the CNA survey, and the semester of college last.

    Using one of these options will not only boost the recruit's chances of completing that first term of enlistment, but it also boosts the recruit from the alternative-credential-holding category of Tier II, to Tier I.  The college semester is a double-win for the recruit, triple if you count the education.

    Again from the same page:  "This means, of course, that when they come to the recruiter's office they get special treatment ..."

    Oh, give me a break.  There is no homeschool-halo conferred by a recruiter.  If the potential recruit has what the recruiter needs, the recruiter is interested.  If not, then the recruiter isn't.

  • Where to start
    "In your visits to the recruiter, did your homeschool background become an issue?"

    This question is disingenuous.  On the page linking to this particular segment, the profiled young man's intentions are to attend not only a college, but VMI, and then join the military as an officer.

    "After high school, Jonathan plans to attend Virginia Military Institute, and upon graduation, be commissioned as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps."

    Jonathan's homeschooling years will not be an issue because he will have a college degree from the West Point of the South, and it's unfair to use him as an example of how easy it is for an 18-year-old homeschooled grad to get in to the military.  The story would be if he graduated from VMI and didn't get in to the military.

    "So they said your homeschool high school diploma was not a problem?"

    The only institution that will be concerned with Jonathan's high school credentials is VMI.  Once he has a degree, the homeschool status is moot.  You'd think a lawyer, especially one who works in Virginia, would know something like that.
  • Preparing for a military career

    Take 2:  "Zach, you decided to join the Marines during your senior year at Patrick Henry College. Did your homeschool background affect your ability to join the Marine Corps?"

    This is the same situation as Jonathan, above.  "Zach Martin is a 2005 graduate of Patrick Henry College with a bachelor's degree in public policy."

    PHC may not be VMI, but if 1 semester of college will get you Tier I status, then a degree should be even more effective.

    Both of these young men intend to be officers in the military, but the pilot program evaluating the retention record of homeschooled grads was for enlisted only.

  • Planning ahead

    Finally, some straight talk. 

    What took so long?

    The upshot is, if your 100% homeschooled child wants a career in the military:
    -- Use a traditional curriculum
    -- Teach the courses, or use tutors or classes
    -- Participate in extra-curricular activities such as Scouts and JROTC
    -- If you live on a military installation, document any volunteer time, and keep any Volunteer Certificates of Appreciation for the portfolio
    -- Take a semester of full-time college classes

    Otherwise, cut to the chase.

    Remember that we often can have anything we want, but we can't have everything we want.  Homeschooling doesn't rule out enlistment, but it may take that extra mile to get up enough oomph to jump through the enlistment hoop.




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This site was last updated:  Wednesday, 10 March 2010