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What is the Oath of Enlistment?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The oath of enlistment is an oath sworn to and taken by individuals who enlist in military service. This oath can vary among different branches of military service, and typically varies among countries as well. In the US, for example, the oath is sworn with regard to the US Constitution and the president of the United States, while the oath in the UK is sworn to the reigning monarch and the monarchy in general. The oath of enlistment usually includes mention of God or a religious figure, and those who wish to avoid such religious content may be able to affirm loyalty instead.

Much like other oaths, such as the oaths of office sworn by military officers and government officials, the oath of enlistment is a statement of loyalty and purpose. It sets forth a clearly defined establishment of power structure and instills a sense of duty in those taking the oath. This oath often varies from country to country, usually including specific information related to a particular country, and the oath of enlistment can be altered for different military branches in a given country.

In the US, for example, the oath of enlistment includes a promise to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This oath also includes a vow of loyalty to “the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me” and concludes with the phrase “So help me God.” There is a separate oath taken by officers, which includes much of the same language as the oath of enlistment, but with additional provisions to properly handle his or her responsibilities as an officer.

The oath of enlistment in the UK, on the other hand, includes a statement of loyalty to the monarchy in general, often with specific mention of the current ruling monarch. Usage of the phrase “So help me God” in oaths is quite common in the Western hemisphere, and this religious association in oath-taking has led to alternative options such as affirmations. Someone can typically taken an oath of enlistment, but state that he or she “affirms” rather than “swears” that the oath is true, and not repeat any part of the oath that includes mention of religious concepts. This has been used by those who may have atheist views, as well as religious individuals who follow tenets that preclude swearing oaths in the name of God.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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