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Is my military career over if I have a positive UA?

I used illegal drugs once and failed the urine analysis test–is my Army career over?

Company Command: The Bottom Line - Army Leadership Guide

Short answer:  Most likely / bordering on definitely.

During the current downsizing of the Army, every misconduct is being scrutinized.  A positive UA is a definite detractor from your career.  IAW AR 635-200 and AR 680-35 (ASAP) separation proceeding must be initiated for drug use.  If you are a first term Soldier I would say there is a 99.9% chance you will be separated.  However, the final determination is up to the Separation Authority, normally the first Colonel in your chain of command.

The only way I could see a Soldier even being considered for retention by the separation authority is if the following were true:

  1. The Soldier had no other misconduct, ever, and the positive UA was for THC (marijuana) and not a drug such as cocaine or heroin.
  2. The Soldier has an over abundance of exceptional service which would outweigh the one drug use.  Multiple deployments, purple heart, etc.
  3. Your entire chain of command up to and including your Battalion CSM and CDR recommend retention to the separation authority.

Even having said that, retention is usually not an option for NCOs. It would be near impossible to lead Soldiers, especially if you were to stay in the same unit, after having an article 15 for drug use. Not to mention the negative effect it would have on the morale, good order, and discipline of the unit. NCOs are held (and rightly so) to a higher standard than junior enlisted Soldiers.

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Staff Sergeant(R) Douglas “Eck” Eckstein is a former Paralegal NCO with over eleven years of service in the Army. He has served overseas tours in Korea and Iraq. Eck served on active duty for seven years working in the personnel administration field then, after a break in service, returned to active duty in 2009 when he earned the Military Occupational Specialty, 27D (paralegal). He has worked in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate from Division level down to unit level. He has expertise in all aspects of military law, with extensive emphasis in Administrative Law and Soldiers Rights. “I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.”

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Company Command: The Bottom Line - Army Leadership Guide

Disclaimer: Though all content posted on AskTOP.net is reviewed by our qualified subject matter experts, you should not make decisions based solely on the information contained in this post. Use information from multiple sources when making important professional decisions. This is not an official government website.


  • Luis


    My CO wrote up a separation packet for serious misconduct. One of the situations occurred prior to my entry into the service, but it was labeled bad. My parents and I had a fight, in order to get me to leave their house, they filed a restraining order, now it’s on my records as a Domestic Violence Charge. Fast forward, my ETS (8 years) is approaching this December, and I reach out to the BC, CSM regarding the separation packet. They tell me they will allow me to ETS on my ETS date and notify my CO, who in turn, has my first line write up the counseling that states they will allow me to ETS in December. Moreover, I received an ETS checklist. I forwarded this to my JAG attorney and everything seemed resolved. Fast forward to yesterday, my attorney calls me, and my attorney tells me that the prosecutor reviewing the case is still pursuing a board for an OTH separation. Can this be done? I spoke to the BC, and the CSM..Can they just go back on their word, on the counseling?

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