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Lying to an Air Force recruiter
It disappoints me that I find a need to write this article, but based on the questions I get on this site as well as the weekly newbie threads at reddit.com/r/airforce, it is obvious that many people have questions about lying to a recruiter in order to enlist or commission in the US Air Force. People consider lying about drug use, medical and mental health history, criminal history, and more.
The enlistment contract you sign when joining the military includes a section that reads as follows:
“13a. My acceptance for enlistment is based on the information I have given in my application for enlistment. If any of that information is false or incorrect, this enlistment may be voided or terminated administratively by the Government, or I may be tried by Federal, civilian, or military court, and, if found guilty, may be punished.”
So don’t try to pretend that you didn’t know lying was bad, or that you could get in trouble for lying in order to gain enlistment in the military.
The first reason you shouldn’t lie to a recruiter is that as soon as you enlist in the Air Force, you are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is an extra set of laws that only apply to military members. The UCMJ is divided into articles, which are individual laws.
One of those articles is Article 83 – Fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation. You can be charged with this article if you enlist or are appointed, and you knowingly misrepresented or deliberately concealed a certain material fact regarding your qualifications to do so. Which basically means that you lied about something that would have disqualified you in order to enlist.
The possible punishments for fraudulent enlistment include:
- Dishonorable discharge (this will follow you for life and make it very difficult to obtain any decent job)
- Forfeiture of all pay and allowances (this means you give back all of the money the government every paid you)
- Confinement for two years (jail)
Court martial and jailtime are extreme examples of course, most people with that fraudulently enlist will simply receive a general discharge. But, it’s still not worth it. Depending on how they classify the discharge, it could make it difficult to find a decent job in the future.
But my recruiter told me to lie!
Most recruiters are good, honest people and will not tell you to lie about your background, but there are always stories of those that encourage recruits to leave out negative medical history or drug use. But guess what, they aren’t the ones that are going to get kicked out of the military or be sent to jail for fraudulent enlistment, you are. They can simply deny that they ever told you that, and you’re left facing the consequences. There is no chance of them letting you off the hook because your recruiter told you to lie. It is your responsibility, your choice, and you will face the consequences alone for your actions.
How will they find out?
Some people seem to think that if they pick a job that only requires a secret security clearance, no one will ever find out about their lie because the background check won’t be as thorough. Many times, your job may not require a top secret clearance, but a particular assignment will, so you may end up getting a TS anyway, which involves a very thorough background investigation and interviews with many people from your past.
There are lots of stories out there, including some good ones on this about.com article, about people getting hit with fraudulent enlistment.
Common situations are:
- They find something during your security clearance investigation that doesn’t match up with your enlistment papers.
- You are injured or develop a medical condition that they suspect was a pre-existing condition, so they search through your medical records and find something.
- You get in trouble for something else and fraudulent enlistment is lumped into the charges.
To find out what medical issues may disqualify you, you can search DODI 6130.03. Keep in mind however that you aren’t a doctor, and the decision is ultimately up to the medical staff at MEPS. Just because your condition is or isn’t listed here doesn’t mean you can say for sure that you are qualified or not.
How often does it happen?
These numbers are straight from the Lackland AFB JAG/Legal Office.
- 909 trainees were kicked out of BMT for erroneous enlistment (they didn’t know about a pre-existing condition)
- 407 trainees were kicked out of BMT for fraudulent enlistment (knowingly lied to get in)
- 624 trainees were kicked out of BMT for erroneous enlistment (they didn’t know about a pre-existing condition)
- 530 trainees were kicked out of BMT for fraudulent enlistment (knowingly lied to get in)
Keep in mind that these are only for people that didn’t make it through BMT before they were caught. There are many more that may have been caught months or years later.
Lying is wrong. You know it’s wrong. There are severe consequences for lying to get into the military. You are not entitled to entry into the military, and there are standards in place for a reason. There are many cases where someone hid a medical condition which developed into a more serious problem through the stresses of military training. There are also many that had a history of mental illness/depression that ended up in a very bad place after going through stressful military training, or after feeling isolated moving away from home. Lying will likely harm you and harm the military. If you’re not qualified for military service, find other ways to serve your country.