This information regarding how to smoothly Check Out of your unit and EAS from the marine corps was compiled at Camp Pendleton between February and June of 2012. Be advised that the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is a Dept of Labor course, and not subject to military orders, etc. As such, while the procedures may vary slightly between locations, it should be fairly consistent. If your experience is different from what I’ve described, please let me know in a comment so I can continue to provide accurate information.
Step one: Medical: For most of us on this site, our enlistments have been spent getting injured in some way shape or form, and then getting a couple of Motrin from the corpsman and going back to training because going to the BAS is eternally frowned upon. Your first step is to correct this. Go to Medical, and get any little ache or pain you may feel documented, this will assist you in applying for VA Disability benefits. It is not required to document a condition for you to claim it for VA benefits, but it is recommended. If you do not have it documented, the VA may ask for a letter from a co-worker or the chain of command supporting your story.
Also, when they ask you to describe your pain on a scale of 0-10 (with 10 being the worst pain imaginable) DO NOT give any answer less than an 8. They are asking you to assign a number to your pain, when the fact of the matter is you are either in pain or you are not, so hand out 8s, 9s, and 10s and make them take note. (This is the advice given to me by the TAP class instructor; I’m not just making this up)
Finally, there is a paper that should be in your Medical Record called the “Medical Surveillance Questionnaire” (If it’s not there, you need to get one). This is your chance to SELF-REPORT any contact with hazardous materials (i.e. CLP, CS gas, OC spray if you’ve been pepper sprayed, mold, fumes and smoke from an Afghanistan burn pit, etc.). You DO NOT need a corpsman to fill out the Medical Surveillance Questionnaire, you can do it all by yourself. (Please note that any contact with hazardous materials should be filled out in PART III, which is on the backside of the sheet about halfway down.)
Step two: Final Physical:
The Final Physical can be done any time within 6 months of your EAS. While it CAN be done after TAP class, it is recommended that you do it beforehand. To make this go as smoothly as possible there are a few things you should make sure you have done.
The first thing you’re going to want to know is that they’re going to need to do a blood draw, and a urine sample. For this blood draw they need you to have not eaten or drank anything (except water) for the past 12 hours. Also, no tobacco products for the past 12 hours. Note: The docs at my BAS informed me that they have a lot of marines who come in having not eaten for almost 18 hours, and they pass out during the blood draw just from not having eaten for so long and then having a portion of their blood removed. To prevent this, it is recommended that you walk in the door to medical after 11 hours and 30 minutes of no eating or drinking, that way by the time the paperwork is done you’re right at 12 hours and your chance of passing out from the combination of hunger and blood loss is as minimal as possible.
[Update, Nov 27 2013: One commenter below has informed me that Medical is no longer requiring you to fast prior to the blood draw. If anyone reading this could confirm or deny this information I'd be very appreciative.]
Now, when you walk in the door at 11 hours and 30 minutes of no food, drink, or tobacco, one of the docs is going to take you into his office and ask some basic questions about your health while they go through and look at your medical record. (This is a good time to bring up any little ache or pain that you may want documented for VA benefits) The doc will also give you a packet of paper for you to fill out that asks more detailed questions about your health.
Note: This packet will also inform you that you will need to have an up to date Dental exam, Hearing conservation exam (audiogram), and Optometry exam (ONLY if you wear glasses). Females also need to complete a Well Woman exam. You will need to bring the paperwork packet with you to these appointments so that they can sign off that you’re healthy enough to EAS.
Once the packet is complete return to your BAS and they will schedule your Final Physical. Getting the actual physical done is very quick; I was in and out in less than 20 minutes. All you really need to remember is to be sure to bring the packet with you. The doc is going to ask a couple of questions, check your pulse, check your blood pressure, etc, all the basic medical stuff that everyone knows about, and then they’ll sign your paperwork, and you’ll be done and on your way. Once you’re done, look through the packet and find the “Memorandum For The Record” and ensure that both the “Medical Officer” and “Dental Officer” lines have been signed. Ensure that you keep the “Memorandum For The Record” in a safe place, you will need to take it to IPAC when you EAS or go on Terminal Leave.
Step three: TAP Class:
Eligibility Requirements: Less than 1 year remaining in Active Duty. (Technically it is supposed to be done before you’re 90 days out, however they realized that some commands are run by idiots and will accept you regardless.)
TWO COPIES of DD Form 2648: The form must be filled out entirely (For pages 2-4, you can pretty much go down the line checking “yes” for everything.), you must sign and date Block 28A and 28B, and you must have your career planner sign Block 27 (DO NOT let him sign Block 28C and 28D.)
ONE COPY of your S.M.A.R.T.: Click “Transcripts” across the top, then “Transcript” down the left side, right-click the document that shows up in the frame, and open it in a new window, this will give you a transcript that you can print. The UNOFFICIAL Transcript is the one you want. DO NOT request an Official Transcript; that’s the one you would send to a college.
ONE COPY of your VMET: You can log in on the right side with your MyPay information. PRINTING INSTRUCTIONS: MAC Users: Across the top of the page click “Request Document”, then click anywhere on the actual document itself (this is important). Go to File, Print Current Frame. PC Users: Across the top of the page click “Request Document”, then click anywhere on the actual document itself (this is important), then go to File, Print Preview, and make sure the second box from the right says “Only the frame selected”. (In case I’ve confused you I’ve enclosed a picture for PC Users)
YOUR MEDICAL RECORD: Can be checked out from your BAS by filling out a small pink slip stating your name, the date you checked it out on, and where you’re taking it. This can seriously be accomplished in 5 minutes or less, depending on how quickly the BAS finds your medical record. You will need to make TWO COPIES of all of the paperwork in your medical record. If you wish to make additional copies, that is advisable but not required. (Your dental record is never specifically mentioned, but if you have had any sort of dental trauma – such as chipping a tooth, getting a tooth knocked out, etc – since you’ve been in the marine corps, bringing two copies of your dental record is also advisable.) Once you’re done making copies of your Medical/Dental records be sure to return them to your BAS.
YOUR SERVICE RECORD BOOK: The marine corps has gone paperless with SRBs. So now in order to get a physical copy of your SRB you must go to Marine Online. On the far right hand side click on the tab that says “My OMPF” and print all of the Image files contained therein. (Image Below) Be advised that this will most likely be in excess of 60 pages, so if you’re printing at a Learning Resource Center or on-base library where there’s a printing limit, it may take several trips to print all of it.
[Update, April 12, 2014: One commenter has informed me that TAP is now requiring you to schedule with your Career Planner and your Company. He also says that it is possible to go back and attend TAP up to four times to attend different "pathways". If another reader would confirm this, I'd be very grateful.]
First of all, let me make it clear, on Camp Pendleton, you DO NOT SIGN UP for TAP. You show up at 0700 and hope you get a seat (Not as hopeless as it sounds, I got a seat on my first try, and if they turn you away they sign your DD 2648 guaranteeing you a spot at the next week’s class). On Camp Pendleton, the location of the TAP classes moves. It is usually at the Base Theater, however, to increase your chances of being at the right spot you can call: 760 725-6324 (Camp Pendleton ONLY!)
As I said before, show up (in cammies for the first day), with all of the above-mentioned paperwork at the appointed location at 0700. It’s good to be a little early, just so you don’t get turned away for being late; however, admission is granted based on how close you are to your EAS (unless you were previously guaranteed a spot) so showing up several hours early doesn’t increase your chances of getting in.
Camp Pendleton’s TAP personnel allow the use of cell phones because of their camera function (You can take a photograph of the slides rather than having to copy the information), however using cell phones for games, Facebook, etc. is not tolerated, and it is still recommended that you brink a pen and paper for any information the instructors pass that is not on the slides.
Step Four: Filing a VA Disability Claim:
While you are attending TAP Class, you should at some point have your medical record screened by a representative from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), or Disabled American Veterans (DAV). He will tell you that you need to make a copy of your medical record (Which you should already have since you’re reading this), fill out a couple of forms, and then go next door to one of the VA offices and tell them you need to file a claim.
Step Five: EAS Interview/Separations Worksheet:
The EAS interview is best done as soon as you reach your 6 month mark to make the Separations Worksheet go as smoothly as possible. You will need to set up your EAS interview by going to your Career Planner, and getting the paperwork. This paperwork should be pretty much entirely filled out for you, so no worries there. Once you have the papers you need to go to the Company office, and arrange for the interview with the Company Commander (Not to insult your intelligence, but arrange the meeting with the clerks! Don’t go knocking on the Captain’s door, it’ll just get you yelled at). The interview is pretty straightforward, the CO will ask what your plans are, where you’re going, what you plan to do for work, etc. etc. He’ll jot down his notes on the interview sheet, then you’ll both sign it and you’ll be on your way.
Note: Before you let that paperwork out of your site, look a few lines above your signature for your “RE Code” (it may be on the bottom of the previous page if your career planner isn’t very good with computers). If your RE Code is “1A”, no worries you don’t have to do anything special. If it is anything OTHER than “1A” you will need to include your Page 11 entries when you fill out your Separations Worksheet.
The Separations Worksheet is the paper you need to apply for Terminal Leave, so needless to say, it’s an important document that no one will ever tell you about if you don’t ask for it specifically. You should be able to retrieve this magnificent document from your unit’s S1 shop. The worksheet needs to be TURNED IN TO IPAC (For Camp Pendleton it’s Bldg 22162) WITH ALL applicable add-ons, at least 90 days PRIOR to the day you want to take Terminal, or if you’re not taking Terminal leave, it needs to be in at least 90 days prior to your EAS. (In general if the worksheet asks for something that makes you say “How the hell would I know that?”, leave it blank, it’s probably for someone else to fill out. ) If you intend to take more than 30 days of Terminal Leave you will need the Battalion/Squadron Commander, and SgtMaj to sign off on it, otherwise the Company Commander and 1st Sgt, will suffice.
ADD-ONS TO THE SEPARATIONS WORKSHEET:
You will need to attach a copy of your EAS Interview; and if you’re reenlistment code is anything OTHER THAN “1A” you will need to attach a copy of your Page 11.
Two less common add-ons to the Separations Worksheet are: A letter from S1 if you are taking PDMRA/PTAD, and A RELMs message if you will be receiving Separations Pay. Like I said, these two are less common and most likely won’t apply to you, so you don’t need to bother with them.
Note: NOT taking Terminal Leave is a foolish thing to do. If you choose to sell back 30 days of leave, then you receive 30 days worth of BASIC PAY ONLY! That pay then has taxes removed etc, leaving you with only a portion of 30 days of Basic Pay. If you take 30 days of Terminal leave, then you receive BAH for those 30 days, which is NOT taxable. So basically you’re receiving roughly the same amount of extra money one way or the other, but when you take Terminal leave, you don’t have to work for the extra money.
Note: Although you are supposed to have the Separations Worksheet turned in 90 days prior, IPAC understands that some commands are ran by imbeciles, so if you turn it in late, they will most likely understand. I know a Marine who turned his in at 48 days prior to the start of his Terminal Leave, and IPAC accepted it, so take the sheet down to them regardless, and the odds are pretty good that you’ll be accepted as well.
Step Six: Checkout Sheet:
You should be able to retrieve your unit checkout sheet from either your Battalion S1, or your Company clerk, depending on your unit, I would recommend starting with the Clerk, just because staying out of Battalion is usually a very sound means of SKATE-ing.
CHECKING OUT OF THE BASE
Once you are in possession of this glorious document that will finally be paving your way to freedom, a good starting point would be the areas that are most likely not in your general area of Camp Pendleton (i.e. the library, Joint Education Center, navy and marine corps relief society, etc.) Checking out of all of these places should realistically take you two to three hours.
CHECKING OUT OF CIF/IIF
From there, the next logical choice would be CIF/IIF (They recently changed their name). We’ve all heard the horror stories about IIF, but I’ve personally never had any real issues with them. Here’s a few pointers:
I know every unit has a ban on washing your IIF gear in the washing machines: Ignore that. If anyone really believes that putting your magazine pouches in the wash will damage either the machine or the pouch more than washing a pair of blue jeans, they’re on drugs and you should probably turn them in to the SACO. Now, if you’re going to wash your gear in the washing machines, there are a few helpful tips to make sure you don’t get caught by some motivator who happens to be walking around at that exact moment:
- Button all of the Buttons! The buttons on the end of loose straps on the magazine pouches will clink and clank in a dryer so loud that people on the next deck will be complaining. So button them all down, and they won’t make nearly as much noise.
- Remove all of the Buckles! Same thing with the plastic buckles, they’re nice and quiet in the washing machine while there’s water swishing all around them, but once they go in the drier it’s gonna sound like someone’s lobbing mortars inside that drier, so remove all of the plastic buckles and you’ll have a nice quiet load of laundry that won’t draw unwanted attention.
- Remove the Ballistics from your Flak Jacket. Really, what good is it going to do to clean the ballistic panels anyway? Just wipe them down with a wet paper towel if you feel the need. Plus, they’re heavy, heavy things make noise in driers, noise in driers attract motarded NCOs who would love the opportunity to yell at you for washing your gear in the washers. Don’t attract motarded NCOs, take out the ballistic panels.
- Don’t use your laundry bag, use your sleeping bag! The tag on the sleeping bag specifically says to machine wash it. So when transporting your gear from your room to the laundry room and back, throw it all in to your sleeping bag.
- Keep track of time. If you’re in a unit with either some nasty gear thieves or a terrible lack of washing machines (which I’m sure you all are), I’m sure the last thing you want is someone to see a washer that’s not running, open it up, and discover all of your IIF gear loaded into a washer. So set an alarm, try to be back in the laundry room a good 5 minutes before your laundry is done, that’ll give you some time to get it all back into the sleeping bag and out of the room before anyone shows up to “tactically acquire” your gear.
- The Kevlar: Remove the pads (if you have a lightweight, if not, just remove whatever you can) run some water over it (your sink should be just fine) use a scuz brush if you have any problems. Job done.
- The Tarp: The best way to clean this thing is to take a shower with it, and scrub it down in the shower. Once that’s done, it’s generally a good idea to find a place where you can hang it up to dry. If you discover any spots you missed, then get a sponge or some wet paper towels and take care of little spots.
- The Waterproof Sacks: For starters, turn them inside out and take a shower with them. If you used them to store dirty laundry in the field (and I’m sure a lot of you did) and they still smell (which I’m sure they do) scrub them down with 409 (or your cleaning agent of choice) and a scuz brush. When you’re done, leave them inside out to dry. If they still smell, flip them right side in, and put a couple of drier sheets in them. Don’t worry too much if they still smell a little, when I turned mine in they didn’t stop to smell the insides, so as long as it’s not an overpowering odor you should be just fine.
Finally, once you have an item that is clean, put it into a clean waterproof sack so that it doesn’t get dirty again! If you follow these steps, checking out of IIF should not be that big of a deal for you. It should be a fairly simple “in and out” process.
NOTE: You will be getting TWO stamps from IIF. One is for your Gas Mask, the other is for all of the rest of your gear. Some units do one stamp and then place two signatures by it, instead of stamping it twice. Whichever system your IIF uses, MAKE SURE that your sheet has been marked to state that you turned in your Gas Mask, and the rest of your IIF issued gear.
CHECKING OUT OF YOUR UNIT
At this point everything left on your checkout sheet should be in the general area you work in. Supply should be just signing out of a log book. Armory, clean your rifle really well (or slip your buddy in the armory a $20 and have him clean it really well), tell the career planner that you hate the marine corps so he won’t try to get you to reenlist, go say hi to the Chaplain, go say hi to the FRO, etc etc. The only thing that will slow this process down is if you have a unit where certain people (especially the FRO) just don’t feel like coming to work most days. This will most likely become annoying, but once you find this person, it’ll probably be about 2 minutes and it’s done so try not to get too worked up.
Realistically speaking, getting your checkout sheet fully signed on Camp Pendleton can be accomplished in as little as 2 to 3 weeks. For those of you who have PCS-ed from Okinawa before (myself included) this will come as a huge surprise, and you’ll most likely be wanting to check out several months in advance, but you need to remember that you are back in the U.S. this time around, and you’re no longer at the mercy of the Green Line’s ridiculous bus schedules. In all reality, 2 to 3 weeks is sufficient.
Step Seven: DD 214:
On the day of your EAS/Terminal Leave, you’re going to need to go back to IPAC Outbound (Bldg. 22162) at or before 0730. (Showing up early is a good idea to help you avoid the rush.)
You will need:
- Memorandum for the Record (The Medical and Dental Officers should have signed it after your final physical/dental)
- TAP class paperwork
- Unit Checkout Sheet (With 2 CIF/IIF Stamps & Pro Con Marks for Cpl. and below)
- Meal Card (If applicable)
[Update, Jan 15 2014: Prior to Jan 01 2014 you also had to bring your Medical/Dental records to IPAC in order to get your DD-214. I've been informed that this is no longer the case.]
Step Eight: Enjoy Your Life!
You are now done with the marine corps for good! Get off base and enjoy your life!
If you just need to find all of this info for yourself and have the sheer will power to sift through the 534 page Marine Corps Order on the subject to find the information that is relevant to you, check out MCO P1900.16F W/ Ch1 & 2.
Safety and Peace