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Joining the United States Marine Corps is not like working a typical civilian job. Once you sign the contract binding you to four years of service, you’re legally obligated to complete the terms. However, the Marine Corps did create the Early Release to Further Education Program (ERFE) to allow a marine to extricate himself from the military early to pursue educational opportunities. The program allows the marine to leave the Corps a maximum of 90 days before his original date of expiration of active service (EAS). However, a marine is not allowed to separate any earlier than one month ahead of the start of his classes.
Determine if you are eligible to apply for the ERFE program per Marine Corps Order P1900.16F. To qualify for early separation to further your education, you must be eligible for an honorable discharge. It follows then that if you are a reservist or six-month trainee ordered to active duty due to unsatisfactory participation in your reserve duties, you are ineligible for the ERFE program. Additionally, if your duties are essential to your command’s mission, you will not be allowed an early separation.
Provide proof of acceptance into an accredited college, vocational institute of learning or technical school. You must be admitted to school for full-time instruction for a minimum of three months. Contact your institution for an official acceptance letter or an alternative form of proof of your acceptance.
Obtain an application for the ERFE program from your company first sergeant well before 90 days prior to your original EAS date. According to the U.S. Marine Corps website, due to the various qualifications that must be met and verified, obtaining ERFE approval takes a considerable amount of time, so complete and submit your application to your company first sergeant at least three months ahead of your original EAS date. After you submit your application, your first sergeant with submit your application up the chain of command for approval.
Applying for the ERFE program will not have an adverse effect on your consideration for promotion should you be up for one.
If you are ineligible for ERFE, you may be able to receive an early separation under the Voluntary Enlisted Early Release Program (VEERP).