Military Service Laws
How old must I be before I can enlist in the military?
You must be 18 to enlist without parental consent, and 17 if you have parental consent. Both men and women may enlist for military service. Enlistment, however, is contingent upon meeting security, health, and aptitude requirements. You must also (with very few exceptions) have a high school diploma or GED.
Federal law requires that virtually all men register with the Selective Service Administration within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The exceptions to this rule are very few and include:
- nonimmigrant aliens on student, visitor, tourist, or diplomatic visas
- persons on active duty in the U.S. armed forces
- cadets and midshipmen in the service academies and certain other U.S. military colleges.
To register, you go to a U.S. Post Office and request a selective service registration form. You then complete the form and return it to a postal employee. Registration can also be done online at www.sss.gov. Until you turn 26, you must also let the Selective Service Administration know of any change in your address.
Failure to register is a federal offense for which you may be prosecuted. Failure to register may also affect your ability to obtain financial aid for post-secondary education as well as most federal employment.
A conscientious objector is someone who opposes any form of war, based on sincere moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. This status is not given to an individual who believes that only a particular war is wrong or immoral. Conscientious objectors must still register with the Selective Service Administration, although they could be excused from combat duty in the event of a draft.
If you join the reserves, you have entered into a commitment identical to that of a person who joins any other branch of the military. As a member of either the reserves or National Guard, you are subject to overseas deployment, possibly with very little notice. Such deployments could include service in combat zones for periods of up to several months. Failure to obey orders during a war or at any other time has serious consequences, and should not be taken lightly. During periods of non-deployment, reservists generally must attend training sessions one weekend per month. Additionally, once each year, reservists attend a 14-day active- duty session. Talk to a recruiter for more specific information.