Discharge documentation include:
A DD214 is a separation from Active Duty. By definition, it is only received after discharging from an active duty status. Most people outside the military, and even many Veterans – do not realize the difference between a DD214 and other discharge paperwork, because of this many services mistakenly require it as proof of qualifying service.
This DD214 is not a final discharge though, and typically isn’t sufficient to prove qualifying military service.
Reservists and National Guardsmen/women will have received a DD214 other than the initial training DD214 mentioned in the last paragraph only if they have been activated into an active-duty status, usually under Title 10 orders.
From a procedural perspective – an activated Reservist or National Guardsman will be released from their contract to the Reserves/National Guard and enrolled in to an active duty state. After completion of their new contract (deployment), they are discharged from active duty, receiving their DD214. At this point discharged from active duty, and immediately re-instated into their original Reserve/National Guard status/contract for the remainder of their original service contract.
A graphical representation of this process follows on the next page.
Active Duty Paperwork Flow
Traditional Reserve/National Guard Paperwork Flow
Activated Reserve/ National Guard Paperwork Flow
Obtaining DD214 and other Discharge Documents:
To obtain a DD214 other military paperwork is a fairly strait-forward process. In fact, there are several options – each with its advantages.
By Mail or Fax:
Fill out the Standard Form 180 (SF-180) and fax it: (314) 801-9195
Mail it to the National Archives.
National Personnel Records Center
(Military Personnel Records)
1 Archives Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002
National Guardsmen/women receive another form of final discharge. Many of them, have one or several DD214’s however, it is not their final discharge – this takes the form of the NG/22.
Most of the key points on an NG22 are the same as a DD214 – with differences being:
In a DD214, individual units are not usually named. An active/activated service member is likely to have served with several different units. Whereas a National Guard member is assigned to a unit based on geography and job.
In a DD214, specific job roles are not identified. There may be mention of trained skills and military schools attended, eg. Field Radio Operators Course, Combat Marksman School, etc, but duties assigned while at the service members daily job are not highlighted.
On an NG22, you can usually find the job role the National Guard troop performed in their duties, eg. Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, etc.
Physical location of discharge records:
DD214’s and other military records are typically kept at the respective service of the Veteran for a period of time, then transferred to the National Archives in St. Louis for permanent record keeping.
Records for National Guard personnel are kept at their state Archives - in Washington:
PO BOX 40238
OLYMPIA WA 98504-0238
Traditional Reservists - those that served their entire contract without an activation, will not have received a DD214 except for the one they received at the completion of their initial military training (boot camp, basic training, job school). In the absence of a federal activation, the only discharge paperwork these troops will receive is a DD256 – Honorable Discharge Certificate. Unlike a DD214 or an NGB22, the DD256 does not elaborate on any aspect of military service, it is merely a statement of honorable service. Another key difference between the DD256 & the DD214/NGB22, is that it is only issued after the completion of the entire service contract.
Medals, awards, and citations can be a useful item to look for and give you insight into the individual Veterans history and thus resources they may qualify for. Honestly, unless you have intimate knowledge of Veterans culture it’s not practical to expect you to know the relative significance of each award or citation. When in doubt, the best thing you can do is ask.
You might find it uncomfortable to directly ask, “What medals or awards were you awarded?” If so, excellent - that would be an uncomfortable question for nearly all Veterans to respond to. Instead, you’ll have to either let them bring it up in conversation or if you get a chance - take a good look at their discharge paperwork, specifically any DD-214 or NGB-22.
Within both the DD214 and NGB22 are sections that list military Awards & Citat
ions - using these documents to guide your conversation can be of great help in bridging your gap of a given Veterans history. Remember, you’re the expert on resources, they’re the expert on their own history - use the documents provided to meet in the middle.