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Approximately 27 percent of military recruits are discharged before the end of their first term for reasons that result in an adverse Interservice Discharge Code (ISC). ISCs indicate the justification for the discharge, but not necessarily what the recruit did to deserve the separation. The ISC system also lacks a way to indicate multiple reasons for a discharge. This study investigated the actual reasons for early, adverse separations through an analysis of recruits' hard-copy personnel records. It also examined the relationship between these reasons and such recruit characteristics as gender, race, service, year of entry, education, and military occupational specialty. The most prevalent reasons for early discharge involved work/duty, training, minor offense, and mental health problems. Most of the recruits separated for three or more reasons. Certain causes — major and minor criminal offenses, drugs, and alcohol — tended to occur together. Recruits who had one or more of these four problems were unlikely to separate for mental health reasons. Recruits who separated because of homosexuality were unlikely to have work/duty problems. The results were fairly consistent across services.

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