Earning a Commission
Earning a commission as an Army officer is not an easy task and it’s not one to be taken lightly. Even the newest commissioned officers are given a great deal of responsibility. After completing your time in ROTC, you’ll earn your commission and go to Basic Officer Leaders’ Course to receive training in your specific branch. When you arrive at your first unit, you’ll be assigned a platoon to lead. Depending on the branch, the Platoon Leader is in charge of 20-45 soldiers and will be responsible for their well-being and the accomplishment of the mission. This task puts immense responsibility on your shoulders as you may need to make life or death decisions for your soldiers, however, the skills learned through the experience of a commission officer are invaluable and will make you a prime candidate for any civilian job.
Your first steps after commissioning
After you have been assigned your branch and given a commission, you will be required to attend Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC). Each branch has a different duration of BOLC with some being as short as 12 weeks and others taking up to one year. Officers that have branched to the national guard or reserve will go to whatever unit they have chosen and will continue to train part time with them as a platoon leader. Officers that branched to active duty will go to their first duty station for 2 or 3 years where you will be a platoon leader for up to 2 years and may have the chance to become a company executive officer or work on staff.
18 months after commissioning (Guard or Reserves) or starting active duty, you will be promoted to first lieutenant and at 4 years beyond commissioning, you will be promotable to captain. Once reaching Captain, you will have the opportunity to attend Captain’s Career Course in your field and may even have the opportunity to change jobs. Additionally, new career opportunities will open up for most officers. Branches like Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations become available to you.
Most captains are afforded the opportunity to command a company of soldiers, totaling anywhere between 60 and 250 soldiers. This experience is quintessential to creating job and leadership skills that will be transferable to the civilian sector. Company commanders have a tremendous amount of responsibility for accomplishing missions, conducting routine tasks, and looking after soldiers’ well-being. Successful completion of company command will make any Army officer be a prime candidate for management positions in the civilian sector.
A company commander directs an AH-64 Apache helicopter onto its target during a training exercise.
Life after the Army
The Army offers a wide range of great retirement benefits. At 20-years of service, soldiers can retire with a full pension for life. This means the average ROTC graduate could retire at age 42. Additionally, reaching 20 years of service allows for access to a number of retired military discounts and retired military members will still have access to military installations to obtain tax-free goods and services.
Of course, not everyone wants to stay in the military for 20+ years. Luckily, the benefits of serving as a military officer are still incredibly high for people who leave the military with less than 20 years of service. Many companies actively seek out officers because of their military experience. Officers are trained to work well under high-stress situations, making them perfect for the fast-paced workforce. They are used to a regular and demanding workday, meaning they can be relied on to work hard and accomplish their tasks. Officers in some branches may receive technical training in systems that will allow for an easy transition to civilian or government contract work as this reduces training time and costs for the companies. Furthermore, all officers require a secret security clearance, and some officers require top secret security clearance. This makes officers very marketable to many government agencies, like the FBI or CIA, because it eliminates the costs of earning the security clearance. Lastly, officers are well-sought after in business because of the leadership experiences they have, making them perfect for higher level managerial positions.