Terms of discharge from the military, including dishonorable discharge, are outlined in enlisted soldiers’ or warrant officers’ military service personnel records. Although a background check may reveal service history details, you may also petition the Department of Defense to release an individual’s military record so you may verify the conditions under which he or she was discharged from the military. To obtain a soldier’s official records, submit Standard Form 180 to the National Personnel Records Center.
Download the SF-180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, form from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The file includes instructions for how to complete SF-180.
Complete Section I of SF-180, filling in the soldier’s identifying information, including his name, date of birth, place of birth and Social Security number. The form also asks for the soldier’s branch of service, rank and active duty, reserve duty or National Guard designations.
In Section II, check the first box “DD Form 214 or Equivalent” in Question 1 of SF-180 and select “Undeleted.” The undeleted version of this record includes details such as character of separation and reason for separation. In Question 2, select the reason for your request for military records.
Complete Section III of SF-180 by filling in your name and contact information and identifying yourself as a family member, guardian or “other.” You must then sign the form.
Determine the Custodian of Record
Select the soldier’s service branch in Column 1 of the first table on page 3 of SF-180, choosing from Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard.
In the second column, choose the designation that applies to the person you are researching. The rows for each branch of the military are divided by time period. For example, the second row in Column 2 is for Air Force personnel deceased, discharged or retired for the period from 5/1/1994 to 9/30/2004.
Follow the correct row to the third column in the table, which is labeled “Personnel Record.” Circle the code on the form.
In the second table on page three, find the mailing code you circled on the page above and note the corresponding address. This is the address to which you will mail or fax your completed SF-180.
You do not have to fill in every identity component to submit the form, but the archive may not be able to fulfill your petition if too many items are missing.
If you are unsure of which branch of the military the person you are researching served in, file a separate form for each branch.
Enrica Jang has written for various websites since January 2010. She is an author and the founder of Red Stylo Media, a publishing and consulting company in Cold Spring, N.Y.