Prospective officers arrive at Officer Candidates School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Despite the drawdown and budget pressures, the Marine Corps intends to continue setting aside about 10 percent of its slots at OCS for enlisted Marines. (Lance Cpl. John Kennicutt / Marine Corps)
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Although the most common path for enlisted Marines to earn a commission is the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program, there are three other avenues for active-duty and Reserve Marines to become mustangs. Each of the three requires applicants to have a two- or four-year degree in advance, however. All four enlisted-to-officer programs give Marines the opportunity to become a second lieutenant. Here are the highlights of each program:
MECEP: Marines selected for the program attend Officer Candidates School before enrolling in an accredited college or university to earn a four-year degree. They are responsible for school costs but can use the Post-9/11 GI Bill, grants, scholarships and loans to pay tuition, room and board.
Enlisted Commissioning Program: Those applying must have already completed a bachelor’s degree for consideration. If selected, they attend Officer Candidates School before earning their commission.
Selected Marine Corps Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program: Those applying must have already completed a bachelor’s degree for consideration. If selected, they attend the Officer Candidates School before earning their commission.
Meritorious Commissioning Program-Reserve: Those applying must already have earned an associate-level degree or completed at least 75 semester hours of college work at an accredited institution.
Source: Marine Corps
Another 39 enlisted Marines have been given an opportunity to earn a commission by the fiscal 2013 enlisted-to-officer selection boards. With 67 already selected earlier in the year, that brings the total for 2013 to 106.
The results show enlisted-to-officer programs remain healthy, despite significant budget and manpower cuts elsewhere in the Marine Corps. The service plans to continue drawing 10 percent of new officers each year from the enlisted ranks, according to Marine Corps Recruiting Command officials.
With the goal to recruit 1,400 officers in fiscal 2014, the number of enlisted Marines going mustang could grow to 140 next year, said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Shelato, an MCRC spokesman.
According to the most recent results, two Marines were selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program, one for the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program and 36 for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program.
Each program results in a commission, but is tailored for active duty and Reserve Marines with varying levels of education.
For enlisted Marines who have a college education in their sights — and would like a bump in pay and responsibility — the E-to-O programs are a solid option. The GI Bill remains a hugely valuable benefit, but the future of another popular avenue to a college degree — Tuition Assistance — remains uncertain.
Marines interested in vying for a commission through one of fiscal 2014’s three E-to-O boards must submit an application by May 24 to be considered by the first board of the year, which convenes July 15. The deadline for the second board is Sept. 20 and for the third, Jan. 17. Those boards convene Nov. 18 and March 17, 2014, respectively.
For guidance on how to apply, visit www.mcrc.marines.mil. On the right rail, select “Marine Officer,” then “Officer Programs.” There, Marines can browse a wealth of information about any of the E-to-O programs, including sample applications.
Marines selected by one of the boards will be scheduled for the next available class at Officer Candidates School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
The boards are meant to align with classes, although Marines are not guaranteed a slot in the next class. Classes made to align with the boards are:
Class 214: Sept. 30 through Dec. 6.
Class 215: Jan. 20, 2014, through March 28, 2014.
Class 216: June 2, 2014, through Aug. 8, 2014.
In years past, Marines tapped by one of the boards would first attend college and then OCS after earning their degree. But in July 2011, the order was reversed as a cost-saving measure. Too many Marines who earned a degree were then unable to complete OCS. Marines have two chances to complete OCS if, for example, they become sick or injured.