Transfer from Active Duty to the National Guard or Reserves
There are a few routes for early separation from active duty
Some of the armed services (such as the Air Force) allow personnel to request early separation to service in the National Guard or Active Reserves, under programs called Palace Chase and Palace Front.
The other active duty services do not have specific programs but occasionally will allow you to request a discharge from active duty to serve in the Guard or Reserves under a Convenience of the Government Discharge.
When the Military Could Request a Discharge
The military can also use this provision when it wants to initiate a separation but doesn't have a basis to require your separation under any other program.
For example, if you won the state lottery and became a multi-millionaire overnight, the military probably would find it disruptive to morale (for the other personnel). In such a case, they would likely approve a discharge request under "convenience of the government."
However, in order to qualify, you must be within a designated time (usually one or two years) from your normal date of separation. Approval is not automatic and approvals for transfer are generally based on the needs of the service at the time.
Military Service Commitment
It may surprise you to learn that everyone who joins the military for the first time incurs a minimum eight-year service commitment. It doesn't matter if you signed a two-year active duty contract, a four-year contract, or even a six-year contract.
Your total military commitment is eight years.
Any time not spent on active duty must either be served in the Active Guard/Reserves (the program where one performs drill one weekend per month, and two weeks per year) or in the inactive Reserves (one doesn't perform drills, but can be recalled to active duty at any time for war, or national emergency).
Early Discharge from Active Duty is not Easy
While you can easily get discharged from the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP), getting out of the military once you are on active duty and before your active duty commitment ends is not a simple process. In almost all cases, the onus will be on the military member requesting the discharge to prove that the action is justified.
Other Reasons for Early Discharge from Active Duty
The Department of Defense (DOD) will allow a military member to be discharged early to pursue their education if they are within 90 days of their normal separation date.
Sometimes the Navy or Air Force will approve a request for longer than 90 days, but no such provision exists in the Army or Marines. There are some conditions, however.
Unlike in the past, when pregnancy was a reason for automatic discharge for women in the military, there are now specific rules about when a pregnant woman can request leave and for how long. These will vary based on the branch of service she's in and her specific medical circumstances.
Be advised that if you do receive a discharge due to pregnancy, the type of discharge (honorable or general) will affect the type of benefits you're entitled to and your veteran status.