What Happens if You Fail Basic Training? Options, Rights, and Support Explained

by | UCMJ | 1 comment

Failing basic training can feel like the end of the road, but it’s not as final as you might think. Many recruits worry about the consequences, but understanding what happens next can ease some of that anxiety.

When you don’t meet the required standards, the military has specific protocols to help you improve or guide you through the next steps. From additional training opportunities to potential reassignments, the options vary depending on your circumstances. So, if you find yourself struggling, know that you’re not alone and there are paths available to help you move forward.

Understanding Basic Training Failure

Reasons for Failure in Basic Training

Recruits might fail basic training for various reasons. Common reasons include physical performance issues, such as not meeting required fitness standards. Some struggle with mental resilience, finding it challenging to cope with stress and discipline. Others might fail due to medical conditions, either pre-existing or developed during training. Critical areas like marksmanship, drill procedures, or academic tests also contribute to failures if not mastered.

Immediate Consequences of Failing Basic Training

Failing basic training triggers several immediate consequences. Initially, you undergo a review process to understand the reasons behind the failure. You might receive additional training to address specific deficiencies, such as physical improvement programs or remedial classes. In some cases, transfer to a different unit or role might be an option. If deemed unfit for continued service, discharge procedures might start, leading to an exit from the military.

Options After Failure

Repeating Basic Training

If you fail basic training, repeating it is one option. Recruits can retake sections of the training, focusing on areas where they struggled. Military instructors provide extra support to address specific weaknesses. Repeating basic training can help you strengthen skills and build the resilience needed for a successful military career.

Alternative Military Paths

You may explore different roles within the military. Special programs accommodate those who fail basic training but show potential in other areas. Options include administrative functions, technical roles, and support positions. These paths allow you to contribute to the mission even if the traditional route isn’t suitable.

Transitioning to Civilian Life

If the military deems you unfit for any role, transitioning to civilian life is an option. Support services like counseling, career workshops, and veteran assistance programs ease this transition. Utilizing these resources prepares you for the civilian job market and helps you find alternative career paths that leverage the skills acquired during basic training.

Legal and Administrative Implications

Discharge Types Explained

Failing basic training may result in several types of discharge from the military. An Entry-Level Separation (ELS) occurs when you’ve served less than 180 days. This type of discharge is neither honorable nor dishonorable, and it indicates that you didn’t meet the initial requirements. An Honorable Discharge can happen if you demonstrate good conduct but still can’t complete the training. This discharge means you met the military’s standards of behavior, even if the skills were lacking. A General Discharge under honorable conditions is another option if you’ve completed part of the training with some misconduct or performance issues.

Rights and Appeals Process

You have specific rights when challenging a discharge decision. First, you can appeal through the Discharge Review Board (DRB) if you believe your discharge was unjust or incorrect. The DRB reviews cases within 15 years of discharge and can reclassify the discharge type. You also hold the right to petition the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) for changes to your military records, including the discharge status, within three years. In addition, utilizing the Veterans Affairs (VA) services for guidance and representation can help ensure that you understand and exercise your rights effectively.

Emotional and Social Impact

Psychological Effects of Failing

Failing basic training often induces significant psychological strain. You might experience feelings of inadequacy, loss of self-esteem, or depression. The stigma attached to failure could lead to anxiety about future prospects. It’s not uncommon for recruits to feel isolated or misunderstood. According to the National Center for PTSD, up to 20% of recruits may face mental health challenges after failing basic training.

Support Systems and Rehabilitation

To mitigate these effects, the military offers various support systems. Counseling services aim to help you process emotions and develop coping strategies. Peer support groups provide a sense of community where shared experiences foster mutual understanding. Family support programs offer resources to help your loved ones understand and support your recovery. Rehabilitation programs, including physical fitness training and educational workshops, aim to rebuild your confidence. Each branch of the military has specific initiatives to ensure you don’t feel abandoned after failing basic training.


Failing basic training isn’t the end of your journey. With various support systems and options for appeal, you have multiple pathways to move forward. Utilize the resources available to you, such as counseling and peer support groups, to navigate the emotional and social impacts. Remember, the military offers rehabilitation programs to help you regain your footing. Stay informed about your rights and the processes to challenge any discharge decisions. Your resilience and determination can open new doors, even if the initial path didn’t go as planned.


post page form.


Next Steps: Sync an Email Add-On

To get the most out of your form, we suggest that you sync this form with an email add-on. To learn more about your email add-on options, visit the following page (https://www.gravityforms.com/the-8-best-email-plugins-for-wordpress-in-2020/). Important: Delete this tip before you publish the form.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.