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NCO to Officer

By Crystal Bradshaw

NCO Journal

Nov. 20, 2017

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NCO to Officer

Noncommissioned officers are the "backbone of the army" for a reason: "In battle after battle, when officers went down, Americans counted on a corporal or sergeant to take charge," said retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army.1

NCOs have more direct and interpersonal time with their Soldiers. What happens when an NCO becomes an officer? For some Soldiers, becoming a commissioned officer is a goal. For others, it is an unanticipated career turn.

This was the case for Capt. Robert L. Shepherd, detachment executive officer, 574th Quarter Master Support Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, who was an NCO for more than a decade, before enrolling in the Army Green to Gold Active Duty program.

"I really appreciate the time in ROTC because it allowed me to learn a lot of the things about officership and make necessary changes to my 'NCO' ways," Shepherd said.2

According to Shepherd, the primary challenge was maintaining his NCO mindset for plan execution while learning a new thought process and focusing on the "bigger picture."3

"Shepherd is different from other officers-in-charge because he has the experience to connect with two worlds," said Master Sgt. Parrish Byrd, then battalion operations noncommissioned-officer-in-charge, 70th Brigade Support Battalion, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "He can talk enlisted business and officer business at the same time, which captivates his audience by knowing both sides of the house."4

There are several ways for Soldiers to become commissioned officers:

Green to Gold ROTC Program

The ROTC offers multiple enrollment options based on Soldiers' needs:

  • Green to Gold Scholarship Option - Soldiers leave active duty to attend college on a scholarship, which covers "full tuition or capped room and board, flat rate book payment and a monthly stipend."5
  • Green to Gold Active Duty Option -Soldiers attend college while on active duty.
  • Green to Gold Non-Scholarship -Soldiers leave active duty to attend college and receive a monthly stipend.6

All options result in a bachelor's or graduate degree along with a commission. For the active duty option, Soldiers attend college for two years while receiving their current pay, but are responsible for the cost of tuition (e.g., books, room, board, etc.).7

Soldiers may receive any Montgomery GI Bill benefits they have earned since joining the military, but tuition assistance is not allowed and MGIB payments, for active duty Soldiers, have limitations.8 Soldiers are also able to use their Post 9/11 GI Bill to assist with tuition costs as well.9

For questions about ROTC options, read the ROTC information booklet, or visit the ROTC FAQ page. For questions concerning the MGIB, Soldiers should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs.10

Simultaneous Membership Program

The Simultaneous Membership Program allows Soldiers to attend Army ROTC while serving as officer trainees in the Army Reserve or National Guard.11 SMP cadets "perform duties commensurate with the grade of second lieutenant," while also gaining additional training and completing a college degree.12 While in SMP, Soldiers are non-deployable.13

Upon graduation and commission, SMP cadets can continue their Army career on active duty or in the reserves.14

SMP Requirements:15

  • Be enrolled in college and have completed at least 30 credits
  • Have completed Basic and Advanced Individual Training
  • Be under 30 years old by graduation. Waivers can be granted if applicants are under 39 by graduation
  • Pursue an Army-approved academic major, such as nursing, engineering, business, science, and other majors.16
  • Must have at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • Meet physical standards

Battlefield Commission/Appointments

Battlefield commissions are awarded to Soldiers who conduct exemplary acts of merit and courage in a combat zone. This type of commission promotes an enlisted Soldier to a commissioned officer "for outstanding leadership on the field of battle," by exhibiting merit and ensuring the success of the mission.17

There are numerous examples of World War II and Vietnam War battlefield commissions, such as the late Audie L. Murphy, who earned a battlefield commission from staff sergeant to 2nd lieutenant and became the most decorated U.S. Soldier during World War II.18  

Maj. Richard J. Meadows, who was commissioned from master sergeant to captain on April 14, 1967, is another example of a battlefield commission. 19 During his military career, Meadows risked his life numerous times. He is most well-known for his leadership role in the 1970 Son Tay raid to rescue U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.20

Army Regulation 601-50 states:

Major Army Commands who have been delegated authority per Army Regulation 135–100, paragraph 1–4b may announce temporary appointments as second lieutenants of warrant officers and enlisted personnel on active duty in the Army.21

The criteria for such appointments is as follows:22

  • Must have shown fitness for appointment by actual leadership performance
  • A table of organization and equipment and table of distribution vacancy must exist
  • The Soldier need not appear before an examining board.
  • The commander concerned may waive the mental test and minimum education requirements
  • The Soldier must meet the qualifications in section IV, except as stated in bulletin 3
  • Battlefield appointments may be tendered to Soldiers for assignment to the Medical Service Corps. They will not be tendered for assignment to any other AMEDD corps


Active duty enlisted Soldiers and reservists between ages 19 and 32, with at least a bachelor's degree can apply for this option.23 Officer Candidate School is 12 weeks of tactical and leadership training designed to challenge a Soldier's ability to lead.24 Upon graduation, Soldiers are commissioned as a second lieutenant.

To see a full list of OCS requirements, go to

West Point

Every year, the U.S. Military Academy has 170 positions for prior-service Soldiers, up to 85 are reserved for active duty Soldiers.25

"We are always seeking future leaders for our officer corps," said West Point admissions director Col. Deborah J. McDonald. "Nearly 15 percent of each West Point class can come from prior service."26

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, also strongly encourages enlisted Soldiers to apply to West Point.

"When we have a high number of Soldiers admitted to the U.S. Military Academy, it adds to the diverse composition of the Corps of Cadets. This diversity invaluably increases the overall educational and leader development opportunity for those who attend. In short, experienced Soldiers who join the Corps of Cadets help strengthen our future officer corps from within."27

Soldiers can apply to West Point through the Rapid Application Completion Exercise program or regular admissions. RACE founder and former U.S. Military Academy Directorate of Admissions, Maj. Jason C. Dupuis, entered West Point as an enlisted Soldier in 2001 and found the application process difficult. He found that many enlisted Soldiers simply gave up because the application process was so long and difficult that it interfered with enlisted duties."28

As a result, Dupuis created RACE to assist Soldiers with the West Point application process, such as completing paperwork and exams, while also having their questions answered by experienced coaches.29 RACE cuts the months-long process to a single day.  

A brief video with examples of Soldiers at Camp Casey, South Korea participating in the RACE program and completing USMA application packages is available at

Before attending a RACE session, candidates are encouraged to take the ACT or SAT and have a recommendation from their commanding officer or officer-in-charge.

After completing RACE and being accepted to West Point, Soldiers participate in West Point's 10-month preparatory school, which prepares them for an academic environment.30

Read West Point's FAQ for additional information or contact Capt. David S. Mason, West Point soldiers admission officer and RACE program manager at or 845-938-5780.31

Enlisted Soldiers also have the option of applying to West Point on their own. However, if a Soldier is not accepted into West Point, he or she is automatically considered for the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School with a nomination from the company commander.32

West Point admission requirements are as follows:33

  • Strong ACT and SAT scores (competitive scores for USMA are SAT 1100 and ACT 23)34
  • Must be at least 17 but not 23 years old on July 1 of the year admitted
  • Not married
  • Not pregnant or with any legal obligation to support a child or children
  • Must have a recommendation from first-line commander
  • U.S. citizen

Army Medical Department of the U.S. Army Active Duty Programs

The U.S. Army Health Care Enlisted Commissioning Program is available to Soldiers interested in a nursing degree and becoming commissioned officers in the medical field. Soldiers attend college full-time and receive a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Qualified Soldiers receive full pay and allowance while also maintaining promotion eligibility. Other benefits include financial assistance up to $9,000 per year for tuition and $1,000 per year for books.

Requirements: 35

  • Able to meet prescribed medical and moral standards for appointment as a commissioned officer
  • U.S. citizenship
  • E-4 grade or above with a minimum of three years (waiverable) and a maximum of 12 years (non-waiverable) of active federal service at time of commissioning
  • Between 21 to 41 years old
  • 110 General Technical score or above on the ASVB test
  • 450 verbal and 450 math or above on the SAT within the last 5 years
  • GPA of 3.0 or above

For more information, visit the Army Medicine's Currently Serving Programs page.

The Interservice Physician Assistant Program is a two-year program for Soldiers interested in a master's degree in Physician Assistant Studies. Qualified Soldiers have the option of attending as an active duty officer or full-time student. Soldiers "receive full pay and benefit allowances as an active duty enlisted or officer status, based on grade."36

About 150 Army Soldiers are accepted to train in the Army Medical Department Center & School in Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston, Texas per year.

Soldiers who complete the program graduate with a Master's degree and receive the rank of 1st lieutenant in the Army Medical Specialist Corps.37

Requirements: 38

  • At least 60 semester hours of perquisite undergraduate work
  • Active duty status


From Green to Gold programs to direct commission, the Army provides various opportunities for active duty Soldiers to become commissioned officers. When considering your options, be sure to take the time to conduct research and consult your mentors and commanders, who can provide additional resources and support.


  1. The Information Management Support Center, The Officer/NCO Relationship (Washington, D.C.: Pentagon, September 1997), 30,
  2. Pfc. Jaewoo Oh, "Green to gold: A transition from NCO to officer," U.S. Army Military website, 25 September 2015, accessed 02 September 2017,
  3. Oh, "Green to gold: A transition from NCO to officer."
  4. Oh, "Green to gold: A transition from NCO to officer."
  5. "Army ROTC Green to Gold: Enlisted to Officer Program," Go Army website, accessed 10 October 2017,
  6. "Army ROTC Green to Gold: Enlisted to Officer Program," Go Army.
  7. U.S. Army ROTC Green To Gold Active Duty Option Program, "Information Booklet," U.S. Army, 15 August 2017, accessed 3 October 2017, pp. 3,
  8. Green To Gold Active Duty Option Program, "Information Booklet."
  9. "Green to Gold Active Duty: Earn a Degree and Commission Serving Your Country," Go Army website, accessed 01 November 2017,; and "Active Duty Soldiers and Veterans: GI Bill, Green to Gold, and Other Information," Loyola University of Chicago Dept. of Military Science website, accessed 02 November 2017,
  10. Green To Gold Active Duty Option Program, "Information Booklet."
  11. "Army ROTC: Learn How to Enroll," Go Army website, accessed 18 October 2017,
  12. "Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP)," University of Alabama at Birmingham website, accessed 18 October 2017,; and "Army ROTC: Learn How to Enroll," Go Army website.
  13. "Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP)," Alabama.
  14. "Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP)," Alabama.
  15. "Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP)," Alabama.
  16. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)," U.S. Army Cadet Command: The Official Home of Army ROTC website, accessed 02 November 2017,
  17. Kathy Eastwood, "West Point SAMC looking for new members," Army Mil website, 14 July 2011,
  18. "Fort George G. Meade Museum: Army Values Honor," Fort Meade Army Mil website, accessed 03 November 2017,
  19. "Richard J. Meadows," Veteran Tributes website, accessed 02 November 2017,
  20. "Major Richard ‘Dick' Meadows Statue, Fort Bragg," University of North Carolina DocSouth website, accessed 02 November 2017,
  21. U.S. Army, Appointment of Temporary Officers in the Army of the United States Upon Mobilization, AR 601-50 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, December 4, 1987) 3.
  22. Army Regulation 601-50, 3.
  23. "Officer Candidate School," Go Army website, accessed 04 October 2017,
  24. "Officer Candidate School," Go Army website.
  25. David Vergun, "Enlisted Soldiers RACE to West Point," Army Military website, 4 March 2016, accessed 10 October 2017,; and Kevin Lilley, "Under pilot program, enlisted soldiers can apply to West Point in one day," Army Times website, accessed 10 October 2017,
  26. Vergun, "Enlisted Soldiers RACE to West Point."
  27. Vergun, "Enlisted Soldiers RACE to West Point."
  28. Vergun, "Enlisted Soldiers RACE to West Point."
  29. Vergun, "Enlisted Soldiers RACE to West Point."
  30. Vergun, "Enlisted Soldiers RACE to West Point."
  31. "West Point Admissions Team," USMA website, modified 07 July 2017,
  32. Vergun, "Enlisted Soldiers RACE to West Point"; and "FAQ- Soldiers Interested in Becoming Cadets," USMA West Point website, accessed 10 October 2017,
  33. "United States Military Academy," Go Army website, accessed 10 October 2017,; and Maj. Jason Dupuis, "West Point Soldier Admissions," Facebook website, 3 February 2016, accessed 19 October 2017,
  34. "FAQ- Soldiers Interested in Becoming Cadets," USMA West Point website.
  35. "Army Medicine: Currently Serving Programs," Go Army website, accessed 10 October 2017,
  36. "Army Medicine: Currently Serving Programs," Go Army.
  37. "Dear future Army PA," United States Army Recruiting Command website, modified 13 January 2017, accessed 01 November 2017,
  38. "Army Medicine: Currently Serving Programs," Go Army.