How to Re-enlist With a RE-4 Code

The French Foreign Legion isn't your only hope of resuming a military career.
... Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Re-enlistment eligibility (RE) codes characterize a veteran’s prior service. They can range from a full-blown welcome back any time (RE-1) to a brick wall that forever bars re-enlistment (RE-4). RE-4 is military shorthand indicating not only that you were trouble in your prior service but also that nobody wants you back. While any number of RE-3 re-entry codes also can supposedly block re-enlistment, most are eligible for a waiver that would make a return to uniform possible. Accordingly, a determined RE-4 has at least one shot at redemption.

Upgrade your discharge to an RE-3 through an appeal to the board charged with reviewing the discharges of your prior branch. Under federal law, each branch maintains a separate five-member tribunal to determine whether the earlier, more-severe discharge was appropriate under the circumstances or applied erroneously or improperly.

Download DD form 293, an Application for Review of Discharge from the Armed Forces of the United States. You lay out your case for a discharge upgrade on this form. Follow the directions and attach any statements, records or other evidence that support your petition. Mail the materials (addresses are on the DD 293) to the appropriate review board, which is the one overseeing records of your earlier service, not the one you’re seeking to enlist in.

Wait for the review board to act on your petition. If it upgrades the RE-4 discharge -- by no means a sure thing -- take the amended DD 214, your new record of discharge, and visit a recruiter for the branch of service you wish to enter. The recruiter will advise you what remaining steps must be taken to clear the way for your enlistment, including a waiver if still needed.

  • 1 Section 1553 of Title 10 United States Code

Tom Bartley has spent a professional lifetime as a reporter and editor in the New York metro area and Washington, D.C. He now freelances as a copy editor and writer for print and the Web on topics ranging from history and government to DIY and model railroading.