Step 2: Choose the Right Path

One Army - Two Commitments - Full and Part Time

In today’s changing global climate it takes a multi-tiered force of highly trained, committed Soldiers to protect our freedoms and defend democracy. This force consists of Active Duty Soldiers and Soldiers in the Army Reserve. These two groups work in tandem to create the strongest fighting force in the world.

Active Duty - Serving Full Time

Active Duty is similar to working at a full-time, civilian job. There are hours when Soldiers must be training or performing their jobs and then there are off-hours when Soldiers can do what they like. For an Active Duty Soldier, length of service can range from two to six years.

Army Reserve - Serving Part Time

The Army Reserve is more like a part-time job that enables Soldiers to keep their civilian careers while they continue to train near home and serve their country. Soldiers in the Army Reserve typically spend one weekend a month in training, and attend a two-week Field Training Exercise (FTX) once a year. Service options for the Army Reserve range from one to six years, depending on the individual’s Army job and where their Army Reserve Center is located. In addition, Army Reserve Soldiers may be called up to Active Duty (called "mobilization"). Many professionals as well as college students are Soldiers in the Army Reserve.

Three Types of Soldiers and Officers

The US Army is made of committed Enlisted Soldiers and Officers serving together to protect America’s freedoms and to preserve the peace. This kind of commitment makes each and every one of these Soldiers the embodiment of selfless service.

In the simplest terms, the Army has three categories of Soldiers: Enlisted Soldiers, Warrant Officers, and Commissioned Officers. Each has its own specialized training, responsibilities, and areas of expertise. Together, they are critical to the Army’s ability to defend our country, our freedoms, and our way of life. You can see the insignia, paygrade, and initials for each of the ranks HERE.

Enlisted Soldiers

Enlisted Soldiers make the Army a strong, adaptable force that can respond to any threat. They work in tandem with Officers to achieve mission success even in the harshest of conditions. While Officers give orders, Enlisted Soldiers are encouraged to show initiative in order to get the job done.

Warrant Officers

Warrant Officers are highly specialized experts and trainers in their career fields. By gaining progressive levels of expertise and leadership, these leaders provide valuable guidance to commanders and organizations in their specialty. Warrant Officers remain single-specialty Officers whose career track is oriented toward progressing within their career field rather than focusing on increased levels of command and staff duty positions, like their Commissioned-Officer counterparts.

Commissioned Officers

Commissioned Officers are the leaders of the Army. They lead Soldiers during every aspect of a mission. Commissioned Officers make decisions quickly, always focusing on completing the mission successfully, and showing respect for their subordinates. Commissioned Officers lead from the front and adjust to environments that are always changing. To be a Commissioned Officer is to be respected as a Soldier, an inspiring leader and a servant of the nation.

In addition to exhibiting self-discipline, initiative, confidence, and intelligence, Commissioned Officers are physically fit and can perform under physical and mental pressures. They are judged by their ability to make decisions on their own and bear ultimate moral responsibility for those decisions.

Four Ways to Become a Commissioned Officer

ROTC

ROTC provides college students the ability to train to become Army Officers. In ROTC, Cadets take a curriculum of elective leadership and military courses to lead Enlisted Soldiers once they join the Army. There are multiple ways to enroll in ROTC.

Earn college credits and get the cash—enroll in ROTC and you may compete for up to $80,000 in scholarships.

To enroll in Army ROTC you must be:

  • Accepted or enrolled in a participating college or university
  • A US citizen
  • Physically Fit

Officer Candidate School (OCS)

Officer Candidate School (OCS) is another way to become an Officer in the Army. After completing Basic Combat Training, candidates participate in rigorous training for 14 weeks and then attend the Officer Basic Course.

To attend Officer Candidate School, you must be:

  • At least 19 years old and not have reached your 29th birthday prior to training
  • A US citizen
  • A college graduate with a four-year degree or higher, or for the Army Reserve option you must have completed 90 semester hours
  • Healthy and in good physical condition
  • In good moral standing

United States Military Academy at West Point

West Point is one of the country’s top universities. It’s a competitive environment that produces some of the nation’s best leaders. Many graduates of West Point become leaders in the military, in government, and in the civilian world.

If you’re up for the challenge, listed below are some of the basic general and academic requirements for West Point. An applicant must be:

  • At least 17 years old and not have reached your 23rd birthday as of July 1 of year admitted
  • A US citizen
  • Single, not married
  • Not pregnant or with any legal obligation to support a child or children
  • An above-average high school or college academic record
  • Congressionally nominated or have a service-connected nomination
  • A recipient of strong scores on either college entrance exam—ACT or SAT

Direct Commission Officer

Each professional branch of the Army—Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, the Army Chaplain Corps, and the Army Medical Corps—has its own officer training program that allows civilian degreed professionals to apply to receive a direct commission in their career field. Training time for direct commission officers varies depending on the career field and generally includes courses in military history, Army leadership, and career-specific courses designed to adapt civilian skills to Army practices.

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