What is Prior Service Enlistment?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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Prior service enlistment is a form of military enlistment in which a person has served in a branch of the military prior to his or her current enlistment. In the US, different branches of the military define prior service in different ways, usually based on the total time spent in the prior military branch. One of the advantages of such enlistment is that someone often returns at the pay grade and rank that he or she had prior to his or her leaving the armed forces. Prior service enlistment can be difficult to obtain, however, as some branches of the military are hesitant about enlisting those with prior service.

The way in which prior service enlistment for different branches of the military is defined depends on each branch. There is not necessarily a set standard established by the Department of Defense regarding what amount of service is necessary for prior service status for re-enlistment. This can make the process of attempting to re-enlist with prior service somewhat confusing, and further details on specific requirements and opportunities for re-enlistment can be gained by contacting recruiters for various military branches. In general, however, prior service enlistment typically depends on the amount of time a person has served in the military.


This prior service enlistment status depends on the branch of the military a person wishes to enter, not the branch in which he or she previously served. These definitions for prior service can also change, so contacting recruiters is often the best way to gain up-to-date information. At the very least, someone must typically have completed basic training and he or she may need to have served a certain period of time prior to leaving the military. Most branches of the military also require certain conditions under which a person left the military for him or her to be eligible for prior service enlistment.

There are a number of advantages to gaining prior service enlistment. Someone who has gained a moderate rank and who was at a decent salary prior to leaving the military may be able to return at an equivalent ranking and pay. Branches of the US military, however, often have a limited number of enlistment opportunities for those returning to the military. Those interested in prior service enlistment usually compete with individuals who are in the service and wish to re-enlist, as well as people serving in the reserves who wish to enlist in active duty.


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