What Happens When You Fail Out of AIT or Tech School?

I recently received an email from a reader who was interested in what type of discharge he would receive if he failed out of Army Advanced Individual Training, or AIT (also called Technical School or Tech School by other branches). Here is his full question, and my answer: Question: I’m in AIT and on my…
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I recently received an email from a reader who was interested in what type of discharge he would receive if he failed out of Army Advanced Individual Training, or AIT (also called Technical School or Tech School by other branches). Here is his full question, and my answer:

Fail out of AIT or Tech School

Question: I’m in AIT and on my 9th week here and I realized that the Army is not for me. Do you know what discharge I would get for failing out? I have one negative counseling and it was for being late. Will the discharge affect my career outside the military?

Answer: The first and most important thing I can tell you is that technical training is not the same as the operational military. Things are much different, and in most cases, much better, once you leave training. Start with Basic Training: you learn all the basics of being in the military—discipline, customs and courtesies, how to dress, how to march, how to maintain and fire a weapon, teamwork, and on and on. You will be whipped into shape both physically and mentally.

By default, Basic Training must be rigorous and rigid in its format and teaching. You will be yelled at. You will be put under stress. You will be force fed your branch’s history, and structure, and way of life. In short, you must learn all you can learn about living and functioning in your branch of service in just a few short weeks. It is stressful because it has to be. It is stressful because the military needs to weed out those who aren’t cut out for the military way of life. They aren’t trying to weed out people who decide one day they don’t want to be in the military—they are weeding out those who can’t physically or emotionally meet the criteria. You made it through Basic Training, and that is an accomplishment.

What You Really Need to Know About AIT & Tech School

Here is something your recruiters probably never told you: AIT and Tech School are in some ways an extension of what you learned in Basic Training. You see, the Army or any other branch of service just can’t let you cut loose right after leaving Basic Training. If they did, they would have a huge problem on their hands. Trainees would go crazy and unlearn everything the Army just put them through. Instead, the Army must ease their training population into the active duty service. And this means they must enforce standards on their trainees that won’t be found outside of a training environment. Things like falling into formation at O-Dark-Thirty for crazy fun runs. Marching to class. Remaining in uniform 24-7 for the first few weeks or months of class, confinement to base, room inspections, and all kinds of details that seem over-the-top to trainees. It also means more yelling, quick-paced learning, lots of tests, and lots of stress.

In many ways, the military keeps the stress level high on purpose. There are several reasons for this: They need to keep students focused on completing their training. Otherwise students will let their newly found discipline slack, and they will fail out of their training and be kicked out of the military. That costs everyone a lot of time and money.

The quick pace is designed to put students through the course as quickly as possible—again to see if they can handle it, but also because it costs the military a lot of money to train their troops. Finally, the stress level is high because each branch needs to see if their trainees are physically, mentally, and emotionally tough enough to handle the stress the military will throw at them. You are training for war, after all. And if you can’t handle the stress of AIT or tech school, how can you handle being in a war zone?

Can You Fail out of AIT / Tech School?

The answer, as you well know, is yes. You can fail AIT or Tech School. But I’m not going to recommend it, for several reasons. First, it takes a lot to fail out of AIT. If you fail a section, they will simply roll you back a couple weeks and you will repeat those weeks of training. During that time you can expect tutoring or extra homework to make sure you pass.

If that isn’t enough and you fail the same section more than once, you may fail your AIT. At that point, the Army is simply going to reclass you into a different MOS. This can take several weeks, or even a couple months. During your waiting time, you will have the honor of performing details around the squadron, including fun tasks such as cleaning, checking passes, and whatever else they can find for you. All the while you have to watch everyone on your squadron graduate and move on to the operational Army while you wait around for your next assignment. Not only will this be boring and make you hate the Army more, it will feel demeaning to bear the social stigma of being someone who couldn’t hack it through the training.

Then you get your assignment and get shipped off to your next Tech School. At that time, you start over at the beginning in a new career field. It’s likely you will also have to start your restrictions back at week one (meaning you must wear the uniform 24/7, must remain on base, etc), until you reach the same level as the rest of your classmates.

What happens if you fail a second AIT? At that point they may look to separate you from the service, or they may try one more time to reclass you into another career field. Either way, it will take several more weeks for them to process you. That’s several more weeks that you have to perform mind-numbing details. And that’s several more weeks you will be stuck in the training environment that you don’t like.

Did you join the Guard or Reserves? In that case, you may or may not be reclassed into a new job immediately. The Army may send you back to your unit for them to determine what to do with you. That could mean reclassing you into a new job, or it could mean kicking you out. Either way, it will probably not be a quick process.

What About Failing Your PT Test?

Sure, you can get kicked out of the military for failing your PT test. But don’t try it at AIT / Tech School. You wouldn’t be the first person to try it. All they have to do is look at your scores from Basic Training and where you are now, and they will see that you aren’t trying. All that means is you will get put on remedial physical fitness training, which will be monitored, and you will have to test every week or every other week until you pass. It will be very difficult to fail your test under these conditions. Sure, you could fail on purpose, but that’s not a good idea. I’ll cover that when we discuss discharges.

What Type of Separation Do You Get from AIT / Tech School?

And now to answer your question… There are a couple types of discharges you could get if you are forced to separate from AIT / Tech School. The most common type of separation is an Entry-Level Performance and Conduct Separation, which is also commonly referred to as “failure to adapt.” This is an uncharacterized separation, meaning it is neither good, nor bad.

But here’s the deal: you can’t request a “failure to adapt” discharge. This can only be initiated by your Commander. Here’s the other thing you need to know: to grant this discharge, the Commander must view your actions as unintentional. In your case, he must believe you simply cannot pass your training. A commander will not grant this type of discharge if he believes you are intentionally failing your coursework.

If your Commander believes you are purposely failing through AIT, then it’s possible you may receive a non-judicial punishment, a court-martial, or a more punitive discharge. If you are very lucky, that could be a general discharge. But more than likely, it would be an Other than Honorable Discharge. This can have a negative impact on your future employment potential, especially if you want to ever work for a state or federal government, both of which will require you to disclose any and all military service, including your discharge status.

Final note on discharges: yes, it is possible to get a discharge upgraded. But don’t listen to the barracks lawyers who “know everything about everything,” including how to get out the military and get your discharge upgraded. It can be done, but it is usually a lengthy process and requires you to prove there was an error during the discharge process. In short, don’t count on it.

(Here is the Army Reg on Enlisted Separations; read this to understand the types of discharges, and what they mean for you).

Say Goodbye to Military and Veterans Benefits

If you are like most people who joined the military, you probably did so for several reasons, including a sense of honor and duty to your country, to face and pass a major challenge, and possibly for the numerous benefits you are eligible to receive through your military service. But most of those benefits are only available while you are serving, or after you serve a minimum amount of time. You won’t qualify for most, of not all, of the major military and veterans benefits if you throw in the towel during training.

Say goodbye to your Tuition Assistance benefits, and the opportunity of earning a free college degree while you are on active duty. Say goodbye to the Montgomery GI Bill and all the money you paid into it if you signed up for the MGIB in Basic Training. Say goodbye to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the opportunity to transfer it to your wife and/or children (this could be a huge benefit, even if you aren’t married or don’t have children right now). You can also say goodbye to a variety of other benefits, including access to home loans through the VA loan program, job training, and various veterans benefits programs.

Do You Really Want to Set This Precedent for the Rest of Your Life?

I’m all for freedom of choice. We make decisions big and small everyday. And these decisions define us in the long run. I chose to join the Air Force. It was difficult at times. Sometimes very difficult. But I don’t regret that decision at all. In fact, I’m proud I pressed through, even when times were hard. I am a better man because of it. And I believe you will be too, if you stick with it.

Here’s the deal. Basic training is tough. So is AIT / Tech School. But it’s designed that way for all the reasons listed above, and more. The military wants to weed people out. They want people to quit, because it means their force is stronger than it would be if they opened the doors to everyone.

But how will you handle quitting? Knowing that you went back on the oath you swore to your country when you enlisted? Knowing that you could have performed better, but you chose to take the easy way out? Will taking the easy way out now make it easier for you to quit when things get hard in the future? Because they will. You will face difficult times many times in your life. The decisions you make now will impact your future decisions.

Only you can answer these questions. But I would encourage you to stick with your training, graduate from AIT, and enter into the operational military. You will quickly see that life on the other side of training is much different than living and working in a training environment. You will also gain the satisfaction of staring down a difficult task, and defeating it. Give it a shot. It’s much easier and more beneficial than purposefully failing your way out of the military.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Veronica Flores says

    My son in the army his passes his ait training passes his first pt but the second fail he said the ds wasn’t counting his sit up and fail him my complain and the ds got mad and said so u gonna quit and son responding I want to will they use that against him

  2. Charlie says

    There was intent Ryan the intent was he wanted to show off make himself look like a hero instead of being a coward and inlist like the real heroes do

  3. Michael says

    I know someone who failed out of AIT but is claiming veteran status towards things. Would doing that be considered stolen valor.?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Michael, If the person served in the military, they may be able to claim veterans status, even if they were discharged early. It’s situational, and not something anyone can determine via a single email. The individual’s military records would need to be reviewed.

      Regarding Stolen Valor – I’m not an expert on this subject. However, I believe there has to be an intent for personal gain. The Wikipedia page shows this, “The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it a federal crime to fraudulently claim to be a recipient of certain military decorations or medals in order to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.”

      So we don’t have enough information to go on.

  4. Slade says

    I didn’t get a bonus since I only signed up for a 3 year contract with 5 years in the IRR. To my knowledge, the NCOs at RSP will look not just at my ASVAB scores, but also my eligibility for a clearance (I’m ineligible), OPAT scores, PULHES profile, whether or not I have a DL (I don’t have one), and possibly my APFT scores when it comes to reclassing jobs.

    I’m ineligible for jobs that require a clearance or a driver’s license. If the job I was being reclassed to required higher OPAT scores than the one I currently have, I’d need to retake the test to meet that standard. So I don’t think I’d have to worry about being reclassed as into a combat MOS.

  5. Slade says

    According to the recruiter, MEPS National Guard career counselor, and RSP NCOs, reservists and guardsmen have greater negotiating power when it comes to reclassing MOS compared to their active duty peers, who have very little say in the process.

    Lastly, is it possible to switch MOS mid-contract (after AIT) as long as the one I signed up for didn’t come with a hefty bonus? I’m aware that signing up for a job with a bonus puts me on the hook to pay it back should I fail to serve in that job for the length of the contract. But if I didn’t get a bonus and the job isn’t undermanned, there’s little reason I shouldn’t be able to do reclass to a different job.

    As I do not have a car, my biggest fear is that I will potentially be relocated to a unit where there is little public transportation. I would simply have no way of getting to work and back. In such a scenario, I wonder if a discharge is possible simply because this recruit has no way to commute to work and back.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Slade,

      Yes, from what I have heard and read, Guard and Reserve members do have more say in regard to reclassing their MOS compared to active duty. But as mentioned in previous comments, each situation is handled on a case by case basis.

      Is it possible to switch MOS mid-contract? Yes, it can be. As you mentioned the bonus situation is one of the major factors. And again, each situation is case by case and is determined by the needs of the unit. You would need to speak to your recruiter or career counselor for more information.

      Regarding having a car or other transportation – your unit will not always relocate you. You should address this issue if it arises. There may be workarounds, such as commuting with someone who lives near you, borrowing a car, renting an inexpensive car for the weekend, finding alternate public transportation, such as a Greyhound Bus or train, or other means of getting to your duty location. I have no comment on whether this is a means for being discharged – I simply don’t know how this would be handled. Probably on a case by case basis.

      Simply put – it’s good to think about these things, but you can’t plan for every single contingency prior to joining the military.

      Best wishes.

  6. Slade says

    But who is the ultimate authority who decides whether the reserve/guard service member should be reclassed or discharged? His company commander?

    What counts as time spent in active duty? Does it have to be an overseas deployment? If the guard was mobilized for humanitarian purposes in another state where a natural disaster occurred, does that count as active duty time?

    Lastly, this isn’t really relevant to me but what is the typical workweek of an active duty army soldier?

    My recruiter was an active duty marine prior to transferring to the guard and he told me he sometimes worked 100 hours or more as a helicopter mechanic when the engines failed.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Slade, it’s common to have many questions prior to joining the military. This is a major life decision and there are many unknowns. It’s simply impossible to predict or plan for every contingency. At some point, you have to accept that and press forward.

      But who is the ultimate authority who decides whether the reserve/guard service member should be reclassed or discharged? His company commander?

      — This depends on the situation. If this is at AIT it could either be the commander at the member’s AIT, or the commander at their home unit. They will usually work together (or at least communicate) to ensure the correct action is taken. Just focus on your assigned duties and you should be fine.

      What counts as time spent in active duty? Does it have to be an overseas deployment? If the guard was mobilized for humanitarian purposes in another state where a natural disaster occurred, does that count as active duty time?

      — Speak to your recruiter or human resources office to learn more about active duty time. It does not have to be deployments. It could also be certain other duty statuses. There are dozens of types of orders, which is much too detailed to cover in a comment thread or email. Just be aware that, no, you do not have to deploy to be on active duty orders, and yes, some activations may qualify for active duty.

      Lastly, this isn’t really relevant to me but what is the typical workweek of an active duty army soldier?

      — There is no typical workweek for an active duty Soldier. Being in the military is all about fulfilling mission requirements, however long it takes. That said, some jobs in the military may have different duty requirements. Some jobs may resemble a traditional 9-5 office job. On the other hand, some jobs may have 12-hour shifts (these may also be staggered with several days on, several days off – this is common in medical, security forces, and some other jobs). A 100-hour workweek would be almost 14.5 hour days, 7 days a week. This is possible, but would not be the normal operations schedule. This seems like something that might happen on a deployment, or during certain other situations. But this would not be the expectation for ongoing operations.

      Right now, I would focus on preparing for basic training. It is a good idea to gather information on other topics. But don’t let these things scare you.

  7. Slade says

    I enlisted in the national guard last week and am leaving for basic on the 29th.

    If I failed out of AIT, does the company commander decide whether I get reclassed to another job depending on my ASVAB scores and current national guard needs? Do I get any kind of say in the process?

    Will I have the option to get discharged?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Slade, Congratulations on joining the military! Each situation is unique, so I can’t give a one-size-fits-all answer to your question. In general, most Guard units will work with the member to try and find a new job if there is something the recruit is qualified to do and there is a need within the unit. So yes, you very well could get reclassed to another job depending on my ASVAB scores and current national guard needs.

      So you have any say in the process? Maybe – it depends on the situation and again, the needs of the unit. For example, if there are 5 open jobs you are qualified to do, they may let you pick whichever one you have the most interest in.

      Will you have the option to get discharged? I’m not sure. Again, it will likely be handled on a case by case basis.

      Your recruiter should have more information on the options that may be available to you. Best wishes, and good luck in basic and AIT!

  8. Mona says

    PLEASE HELP
    My daughter has informed my that she would be getting a separation form AIT because she has failed her PT test by 7 sec. She said that her sergeant has recommended her for separation while others have gone on to retake their test. Now her group has graduated and she is left doing extra duty and do not know when they are letting her go home. No one will tell her anything except that her paperwork is in legal. She has spoken with others NCO and they all have said that she is being treated wrong. That they would have work with her to make sure that she passes her PT test being that she was so close. Is there anything she can do to fight this and stop her separation? They said she can try again in 6 months. She is being treated like she did a crime. She can’t leave the barracks, she cant have visitors and she wasn’t allowed to attend church because she doesn’t have a battle buddy. Is there anyone I can talk to and fine out what is going?

  9. Damien Wells says

    Hi I am currently in tech school training and was wondering if I fail, can I come back after being discharged and try again? Or join a different branch or are the chances unlikely after being separated? Try again for a different MOS*?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Damien, Thank you for your question. Your best bet for trying a new MOS is at the time you are about to fail out of your AIT course. Speak with your leadership to see if there are any other options for remaining in the service, even if it means taking a different job.

      Otherwise, you will be discharged, and your opportunities to join the military again may be limited in the future. It may also be more difficult to join a different military branch, and may require you to get a waiver to join, since you would have already failed out of one tech school. You would need to speak to a recruiter in the different branches for more information. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  10. Michelle MacIntyre says

    My SIT failed his PT test during Basic by 2 points. He has now returned to Basic for a retest, but they said they are not going to retest him, now they are telling him that he is being sent to FTU, now he will miss reporting to his AIT. My son is now in a very dark place mentally, so discouraged from being told one thing from a DS and not doing what they said they were going to do with him in the first place. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated!
    My heart is breaking for my SIT!
    Thank you for your time.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Michelle, Thank you for sharing your story. The military is a complex organization, and flexibility is essential for success. Schedules change, procedures change, and the best a service member can do is adapt. Hopefully he will still have a chance to take his PT test, and will pass. He would then proceed to his AIT course. In that situation, the worst case is his start date is slightly behind the original start date. If that comes to pass, then he will simply look back at this as a small road bump.

      To put it another way – there is only one direction he should be focusing his energy, and that is passing his PT test. Worrying about things outside of his control will increase stress and not serve him in a productive manner. I wish your family all the best.

  11. Julie Bowman-Sugimoto says

    My enlisted son just informed our family that since he flunked out of AF Weather Tech. school, during the last month, he is being discharged. We are very sad for him, and were hoping that he would be reassigned to something a little less challenging, but no ,it is not to be. We were wondering what type of discharge he will be receiving ? Thank You

  12. Rob Larson says

    Im trying to make sense of something and find out if this is even possible…..My son let us know last night (supposedly one day before graduating) that he is being discharged from AF Tech school. He claims that his Sgnt is Discharging him because he did not “shave” at the proper times and he also said he had 2 failed room inspections. He said that he has some sort of “waiver” that was give to him regarding the shaving part due to a skin condition. Not really sure what that means, but said he had it. I think he can shave, just not as close as needed??? Anyway, He said he was being discharged, but that he can re-enlist in 6 months. He also said that his supervisor told him not to go outside the hanger to ask for help, because is would reflect badly.
    I’m just confused by this. Seems like there maybe something more going on here. I don’t have anymore details than that, but I wanted to see if you can shed some light on if its even possible to be Discharged for these things and if he does have any recourse he can take? I wish I had more details, but this is all we have at this point. Could something else be going on?

  13. Tina says

    My son graduated ait but failed all pt test due to upper respiratory. He is chaptered as of now and is going to read enlist in the same mos 91 b. Does he have to retake class or can he just retake pt test.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Tina, I can’t answer this, as I don’t know Army policy. They will determine this on an individual basis. He will need to contact his unit or the recruiter who is processing his reenlistment. The recruiter should provide all relevant details.

  14. Sad Parent says

    My son graduated Army basic with honors, but upon his 3rd full week at AIT training for his MOS he failed a written test (retook it the next day & failed) they are forcing him to take a chapter 11 discharge, without offering him any other choices to stay in.

  15. cbibby says

    My husband is at AIT, and he is at the last week of training, he’s 29 anf has passed all his classes but his pt missed by 1 pushup his last ot test and they already trying to chapter him out. He said they are giving him one more chance and thats it. But that doesnt sound fair or right. How can they say your out after he has worked so hard and he aint lazy.

  16. Pvt Globlek says

    Thank you for posting this article. While I dont want to leave the Army, I failed 12D AIT and was reclassed to 68T and I never wanted medical, so this answered alot of questions I was having

    • Ryan Guina says

      Glad it helped, Pvt Globlek.

      I encourage you to give it shot. You may find that you enjoy your new carer field, and more importantly, the opportunities you will encounter in the military. Remember, you can always apply to cross-train into a new career field after you complete your first assignment. There are also many opportunities after you finish your first assignment, including the possibility of joining the National Guard or Reserves, or possibly even transferring into the Reserves in a different branch, or the Air National Guard.

      Serving also opens the door to a lot of benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, VA Loans, and an assortment of other benefits. Take some time to look at your long-term options. 3 or 4 years in an active duty assignment isn’t that much time in the grand scheme of things. And it will open the door to many future opportunities.

      I wish you the best in your military career.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello Pierre, Just apply yourself and do the best you can. Your instructors will work with you and the others in your class. I promise they want to see you succeed. If you struggle, they will work with you. If you maintain a good attitude and still can’t pass, then they may be willing to help you get classified into a new MOS. Just do everything in your power to succeed and you will do fine.

        Best wishes, and good luck with your entry into the military!

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