As a service member, you’ll need to pull out your ID a lot. We’re talking daily. This card — known as a CAC card — gets you exclusive access to your base and restricted areas on various military installations. It’s as important as your driver’s license or social security card, so making sure it’s on you at all times is a must.
Your CAC card benefits are important ones, so you’ll need to get this card as soon as possible. It may also need to be updated — depending on your role — at each new command.
The Department of Defense(DoD) issues CAC cards and a Uniformed Services card to dependents. Both are important to the everyday lives of military families. We’ve included insight into obtaining both in this post.
Need to know how to get a CAC card or Uniformed Services ID? Read on for all the details!
What is a CAC ID Card?
A CAC ID card, also known as a Common Access Card is essentially a “smart card” that holds important information on it for active duty uniformed service personnel, selected reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel.
CAC benefits include:
- Base access
- Access to buildings and controlled spaces
- Provides access to DoD computer networks
Who Needs a CAC ID Card?
There are four different types of cards. Active duty armed forces, reservists, DoD contractors, and civilians may all have a CAC card. Card uses will vary depending upon the command you support. Additionally, your status determines special color-coding on your card indicating if you’re a non-U.S. citizen, a contractor, or another type of personnel.
How to Get a CAC Card
If you’re new to the military, it can seem as though there’s a lot of red tape to cut through and unanswered questions more often than not. This can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to obtain all the necessary documents and ID to enter your new command.
Your CAC ID is one item you’ll want to have on you at all times. Consider your CAC ID essentially as important as your driver’s license or social security card. Keep it secure at all times!
You’ll need to follow the below steps to receive your card:
Step 1: Get Sponsorship to Determine Eligibility
Upon applying, you’ll need to be sponsored by a DoD government official or employee. This will generally be a person in the Human Resources department. Ask your command for details.
Step 2: Registration & Enrollment
In order to get your CAC card, you’ll need to be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) before your sponsor can request a card for you.
Step 3: Background Check
Sponsors will do a background check on all potential cardholders. This will include an FBI fingerprint check along with a National Agency Check (NACI) with Written Inquiries. The NACI process can actually take up to 18 months, but your card may be issued before this as long as your fingerprint check comes back fine.
Step 4: Receive Your Card
You’ll need to visit a Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) site in-person to finish your card processing. Upon arrival, be sure to bring the following information and items:
- Two original forms of ID like a passport and social security card.
- A pin – Think of a 6-to-8 digit number pin you’ll want to use.
- Government unclassified email address – You can get this from your computer system administrator if you will need access to DoD computer networks and systems.
Learn more about CAC details here.
Have a Dependent? They Need a Uniformed Services ID Card
This ID card is strictly for military family members and retirees.
Whether they want to get on base, go to the military exchange, or use the base gym, they’ll need this card. It means they can get on base without a service member, too, so it’s important to get this card ASAP. It also serves as a health insurance card if you’re using the Tricare system.
It does expire, so be sure to keep an eye on the expiration date to prevent any issues accessing base. Your status determines which category you’re in as there are seven different categories of cards, too. DEERS staff will explain this to you if needed.
Pre-arrival steps before heading to the DEERS office includes:
- Completing a signed DD Form 1172-2
- Filling out eligibility documentation
- Locating two forms of ID
Important note: All ID documents must be originals. No photocopies are allowed!
New to the military? Check out the full-length Department of Defense DEERS enrollment checklist to learn how to get your new ID card. If you have additional questions on how to enroll in DEERS or get a military ID card, reach out to a DMDC/DEERS Support Office for help!
Curious about your new duty station? Check out our post 7 Ways to Learn More About Your New Duty Station to learn how to get the details about your new base before you go!
Feature image courtesy of Kelly White, U.S. Air Force