Whether you're researching your genealogical history or getting proof of service, the National Personnel Records Center is the place to go for military records. You can submit a request online, by mail, or by fax.
Step 1: Locate Request Form Fill out an electronic request form at the National Archives website -- archives.gov. Click on the link for Military Service Records. Many types of service records can be obtained through this method.
Step 2: Print form Download Form SF-180 to a PDF reader and print it if you prefer to mail or fax the request instead of submitting it online.
TIP: Form SF-180 may also be available at federal information centers, such as your local library, VA offices, or other veterans organization.
Step 3: Get permission if a non-relative Obtain written authorization from the service member or service member's next-of-kin if you are not directly related. The records center will disclose only minimal information without the family's permission.
Step 4: Contact branch for current service members Contact the appropriate military branch directly if the service member is still in active service or in reserve status.
Step 5: Contact branch for recent service members Contact the branch directly regarding service members who were inactive from the Navy as of 1995, from the Marine Corps as of 1999, or from the Air Force as of 2005. The National Personnel Center may not hold their records.
Step 6: Specify information requested Be as specific as possible about the type of information you need. Health records may have to be obtained separately, from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
FACT: On July 12, 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records destroyed 16 to 18 million Official Military Personnel Files.