Legally finding someone's military history?
August 29, 2007 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Is there any legal way to find out a person's military history?

A female friend of mine ("Alice") is dating a guy ("Bob") who says he was/is a United States Army Ranger. Bob claims to have been involved in, among other things, a certain high-profile Ranger mission in another country ("Elbonia"). Alice sometimes wonders if Bob really went there, or if he is even a Ranger.

Is there any legal way to find out a person's military involvement, if you just know their name? How can Alice legally find out if Bob is telling the truth about having served in Elbonia, without actually demanding that Bob himself provide proof?

I'm stressing legally here, because I mean it - legally. Not nudge nudge wink wink. I mean, no poking things that end in .GOV or .MIL with a pointy stick. What, if anything, is available to Alice?
posted by sidereal to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Access to Military Records by the General Public. Looks you need his SSN (or Service Number), and I can't imagine this is a rush service.
posted by smackfu at 1:12 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

If she knows which unit he served with and when she could make a post to the Army Rangers Forum and ask. I don't think it is out of line. They take lying wannabes seriously.
posted by JJ86 at 1:23 PM on August 29, 2007

i think the bigger question is why alice has doubts? chances are, if he's giving her reason to question his veracity, something fishy is going on. i'm a strong believer in listening to one's gut.

i'm not sure how much she can find out without asking him outright. however, sneaking around behind his back isn't a great way to start a relationship if he really did serve.

she should just talk to him about his service. find out where he went to boot camp, where he was stationed, etc. she could "plant" a few telltale questions, like where he went to ranger school (fort benning) or what they give you when you become a ranger (spurs), or the ranger creed ("rangers lead the way").

but these are all easily findable on the internet, so a halfway decent con man could answer these questions convincingly. it's a tough call. ultimately, if she thinks he's lying, she should split.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:24 PM on August 29, 2007

Aptly named thinkingwoman, her friends and I agree with you, though that's outside the scope of this question. But yes, yes. We're talking about that too.
posted by sidereal at 1:28 PM on August 29, 2007

Quick Guide to obtaining military records.

Here's a list of phonies, you could search for him here.
posted by Floydd at 1:30 PM on August 29, 2007

plokent and 4ster, the parallelism between Alice, Bob, and Elbonia all in quotation marks would suggest that Elbonia is being used as a placeholder for a real country just for the purposes of this thread. Correct, sidereal?
posted by Durin's Bane at 1:38 PM on August 29, 2007

I'd definitely look into this. A friend is currently heading into a train wreck with this. Get the records to be sure.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:46 PM on August 29, 2007

Durin's Bane, yes, I'm trying to respect Alice's privacy as much as possible with all the munging.
posted by sidereal at 2:06 PM on August 29, 2007

My apologies. Thanks Durin's Bane for getting me straight on this.
posted by 4ster at 2:27 PM on August 29, 2007

In my experience, the guy's and girls who served overseas in hairy situations almost never talk about it, and the guy's, mostly guys, who give lavish details about how bad it was and how much ass they kicked are lying about it completely
posted by kanemano at 2:30 PM on August 29, 2007

4ster, no apologies necessary, you're working with a heavily munged post :) I'm sorry if this makes things awkward. The essential question is true, and I appreciate the links I've gotten so far (and so fast!)
posted by sidereal at 2:45 PM on August 29, 2007

Seconding Floydd's link to the POW network.

Other easy things to do that don't even require a computer:

Ask this guy to show you his DD-214. If he "can't find it", he's probably lying. If he didn't get one, he's lying.

Was he in a Ranger battalion? (Sounds like it.) He would have been required to attend Airborne school. Ask him the "five points of contact." If he doesn't know, he's lying.

Ask him what identifiers he has on his MOS. He should at least have a G for Ranger, or a V for Airborne Ranger. If he doesn't know, he's probably lying.

This is the best one, and can be worked casually into a conversation: Ask him to recite the Ranger Creed. If he doesn't know, word for word, he is 100% DEFINITELY lying.

(FWIW, I am a paratrooper, Afghanistan vet, and in Army special operations.)
posted by rentalkarma at 4:52 PM on August 29, 2007

Any chance your friend can engineer a meeting with another friend with military experience? I talked to a friend of mine once (who really was in the Army) and he told me that it's fairly easy for vets to spot poseurs, especially with a few key questions.
posted by jquinby at 4:54 PM on August 29, 2007

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