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How to search military service records

Finding your or someone else’s military history is relatively simple since it is open to the people. At some point in your life, you might need it for ascertaining your legality or rights over something or for financial transactions.

The National Personnel Records Center is the concerned authority when it comes to getting military service records. The NPRC has over 70 million documents that it provides to the public upon request. It has service records of all military departments – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Accessing Military Service Records

The Freedom of Information Act allows you to access someone’s military status without asking for the permission of the service member or their family. However, there are a few details and confidential information that you will not get access to.

The FOIA keeps the data as transparent as possible, but it also protects the privacy of service members by not providing sensitive or personal information. The protection is granted under the Privacy Act. Such documents are accessible only to the service members or their kin and are made public only if the service members permit it.

The information available for the public includes the veteran’s name, photograph, service number, dates of the services, branch, final duty status, final rank, assignments and geographical locations, military education level, eligibility of the awards and decorations, transcript of courts-martial trials and places of entrance and separation.

The salary, source of commission, and promotion sequence numbers of the military personnel are usually not mentioned in their files. Similarly, separation documents (DD214), replacement records, and medical records are not made public. To get your hands on them, you have to go through a full verification process.

Steps to Request Military Service Records

The SF-180 form lets you obtain the personnel records of service members. You will get access to the person’s military record after filling and submitting the form, which is available in the form of a PDF document online. You have to fill the form and mail it to the NPRC on the following address for further processing:

1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, Missouri, 63138. You may also fax it to (314) 801-9195

Just like the National Personnel Records Center, the National Archives office also holds military personnel files 62 years past their service termination. The records under 62 years are held by the Department of Defense.

Sometimes court or other concerned authorities want to obtain the military status of service members to determine if a person is on active military duty. In such cases, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects those who are active on their military duties, called up for one, or retired recently. The SCRA military search helps the authorities to apprise on the details of the person and determine if they are entitled to certain protections when being sued.


You may need your or someone else’s military service records for various reasons, such as availing or providing certain protections granted to existing or former military personnel. Use the methods explained in this article to search for and get access to military records.

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About the author

Jimmy Rustling

Born at an early age, Jimmy Rustling has found solace and comfort knowing that his humble actions have made this multiverse a better place for every man, woman and child ever known to exist. Dr. Jimmy Rustling has won many awards for excellence in writing including fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes. When Jimmies are not being Rustled the kind Dr. enjoys being an amazing husband to his beautiful, soulmate; Anastasia, a Russian mail order bride of almost 2 months. Dr. Rustling also spends 12-15 hours each day teaching their adopted 8-year-old Syrian refugee daughter how to read and write.