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Choose Your Path to Becoming an Officer

You may decide that you want your military career path to include becoming an officer. If you come to that conclusion, do some soul searching to determine whether you want to be a pilot first or an officer first.

The standard interview answer is to say that you want to be an officer first, but be honest with yourself; some branches’ officers don’t put in a lot of time in the sky, so if you truly want to be a pilot first, those paths/branches may not be for you.

Based on your answer, look at how the different branches utilize both commissioned and warrant officers and what the various mission profiles are to help you make your decision. The best way to discover this information is to get insight from current and former pilots from all branches of the military.

If you do decide that life as an officer is for you, officer training is in your future. Here’s an overview of each branch’s training program, as well as some of the various paths to becoming an officer:

  • Warrant officer training (Army): Upon selection as an Army Warrant Officer Candidate (WOC), you report to Fort Rucker, Alabama, for a rigorous six-week course.

  • Officer Training School (Air Force): The Air Force Officer Training School consists of a 12-week indoctrination and training program at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

  • Officer Candidate School (Navy): The Navy operates its Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. The program consists of a 12-week course that fully integrates future leaders into the lifestyle and responsibilities of a Navy commissioned officer.

  • Officer Candidate School and Platoon Leaders Class (Marine Corps): Marine officer candidates go through either a ten-week initial officer candidate training program or two separate six-week training sessions over two different summers in Quantico, Virginia. After this training, Marines are commissioned as Second Lieutenants and then attend a six-month basic school to expand on their leadership skills before aviation training.

  • Coast Guard paths: You can follow multiple paths to become a commissioned officer within the U.S. Coast Guard, ranging from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to Coast Guard Officer Candidate school to direct appointments as a commissioned officer.

  • Military service academies: The United States has four military service academies in various locations throughout the country. (Why only four? Future Marines attend the U.S. Naval Academy because the Marine Corps is a department of the Navy.) Graduates of the academies receive both a four-year degree and a commission.

  • Direct appointments: A relatively smaller and lesser-known program is a direct appointment utilized in the Reserve and Coast Guard. This rarely used, needs-directed program fills personnel shortfalls with otherwise-qualified applicants.

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