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  • Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

    In your experience, have you noticed a distinct difference between officers that are straight out of college/OCS (who enlisted 09s) and officers that have spent some time on the enlisted side? I'm specifically talking about: ability to lead effectively, decision making, professionalism, etc...

    Your thoughts?

  • #2
    Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

    Incoming!!

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

      There is no difference.

      E1-E4 time is not going to make you a better officer in any way at all. You learn all the same soldier skills in a commissioning program. The years of being in a military environment are fine, but not worth the time wasted.

      Time as an NCO does bring some clear positives, but it also creates a LOT of things you need to un-learn. The problem is you aren't going to start into NCO ranks for several years. It's for sure not worth putting off your commission date to reach that point.

      ROTC-SMP is the best way to get experience while staying on track to commission & get moving in your officer career. I think OCS is a better training program, but with less troop exposure & money for you. Really, don't waste time enlisted if your goal is to be an officer. Just work hard & become a good officer.

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      • #4
        Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

        Originally posted by dnall
        ROTC-SMP is the best way to get experience while staying on track to commission & get moving in your officer career. I think OCS is a better training program, but with less troop exposure & money for you. Really, don't waste time enlisted if your goal is to be an officer. Just work hard & become a good officer.
        I agree with this for the most part. A lot of the money for SMP cadets is from VA benefits and FTA. Those can be had by completing IET, so OCS is n't far behind. The last sentence is excellent advice.

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        • #5
          Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

          Originally posted by cyall
          The last sentence is excellent advice.
          Yes, but what does it mean to be a good Officer? Does it have the same meaning to both Officer and Enlisted?

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

            From my experience there is a great chasm inbetween the two.

            I know several retired career officers all o-4 and o-5, when I told them I was enlisting, they acted all confused and asked why would I do that when I could become an officer?

            I know several career enlisted also, many of which have all the qualifications to be great commissioned leaders. And I've asked them on occasion why they haven't become officers. I've heard things like, "Officers have too much paperwork," "I enjoy soldiering," "I like to work." One went as far as to say that you have to have someone to blame (officers) when something goes wrong. From my understanding, they just enjoy their jobs.

            As an officer more is expected of you. A junior enlisted person is told everything to do. Sometimes they just let us candidates figure out how to do it.

            I heard a joke, what is the difference between a 2LT and LT when ordered how to paint the top of a flag pole with a ladder that only reaches halfway?

            Well the 2LT takes the ladder out and tries to paint it. The LT says, "First Sergeant!!!!!"
            Last edited by Chaplain4me; January 16th, 2010, 12:11 AM.

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            • #7
              Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

              Your situation is unique and there are other considerations you have to think about, such as, your age? You may be approaching the maximum age limt to commission.

              Consider also, if you do go 09s, are you wanting to go on active duty? It is more difficult for officers to get released than enlisted.

              You may have a mos that you would love doing, as an officer you have less say as to your branch.

              If you are already a college graduate and are young I would just do 09s; because if you were to go from enlisted to officer you would still have to fulfill the time in grade requirments for promotion. Everyone starts off at 2LT, except say the specialty branches. 18 months is what it takes to become a LT. Might as well get an early start. ??? my 2 cents.

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              • #8
                Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                I apologize for posting a novel, but officership and officer development are really important subjects.

                Anecdotal evidence abounds when soldiers swap stories about officers that those with enlisted experience perform in a superior manner in contrast with their non-PS peers, especially in the junior officer grades. I specifically recall two cadets in my class with prior service in the infantry (3-75 and 7th ID respectively) who were truly stellar performers. In contrast, a third prior service cadet in my cohort was in no way equipped to be commissioned. The most evident skills this individual possessed were complaining about the demands of the program and a marked ability to avoid responsibility. So we’re dealing with a range of individuals, as in any walk of life.

                The positives of prior service include familiarity with customs and courtesies, drill, wear and appearance of the uniform, basic soldiering, and a general understanding of the rhythms of how a small unit functions. More importantly, one develops empathy for the troops and their lot, having learned to be a follower and dealing with being the CQ runner, duty driver, guard at the heavy drop rig site, etc. That buys a new officer some early credibility with soldiers because they feel since you walked in their shoes, you understand their issues.

                In terms of preparing one to actually serve as an officer; enlisted time does not have a direct impact. As stated by Dnall, every candidate and cadet goes through the same program of instruction for commissioning, whether through OCS, USMA, or ROTC. The pace and intensity of each program varies (a different discussion), but everyone completes the same tasks to earn their bars. Prior experience may help some excel but is no way necessary. Upon commissioning, the playing field is equal and your are judged by what you do, not what you once did.

                When a new officer joins a unit, that individual is on display: appearance, fitness, competence, attitude, everything. A new lieutenant leading a platoon is in the un-enviable opinion of leading troops while also learning from them. At that point, even officers with prior service are in a learning mode due to changes in doctrine, tactics and equipment that may have occurred since he was last on the line, as well as getting used to local SOPs, not to mention the roles and responsibilities of an officer.

                At the most basic level, NCOs are responsible for individual training and readiness, and officers are responsible for collective training and readiness. This means that in addition to learning how one’s platoon functions and its mission in combat, a new lieutenant is also learning about training management, maintenance, command supply discipline, and the multitude of additional duties that crop up such as urinalysis coordinator, safety officer, or MWR officer to name a few. The new lieutenant is learning from the company commander and XO about METL development, vehicle service schedules, 10% inventories, the eight step training model…there is always something. Even prior service NCOs find they are in a new world as they focus on echelons above team, squad and platoon to see how their efforts are collectively integrated into a larger picture. Again, each lieutenant is judged by how they perform in this environment. Here, some (not all, emphasis on SOME) prior service officers can experience trouble in that they were successful NCOs, and revert to the same behavior once commissioned. They are narrowly focused on the individual tasks that support the platoon’s battle tasks and may micromanage the individual training the NCOs are mandated to conduct.

                In the midst of all this, officers are responsible for the well-being of the troops. Team Leaders, Squad Leaders and PSG are all tracking the issues involving their soldiers. The PL needs to be read in as well, not to micromanage, but in order to affect positive change when someone hits a brick wall of a problem. Pay issues, sick family members, screwed up paperwork… does the PL know and care enough to help? New officers need to quickly learn about ACS, AER, and the FRG (for starters) and know who they can contact to provide their troops aid when they need it. An officer needs to be a servant leader, and ensure the troops’ needs are met. This is a readiness issue. If a PL doesn’t care, the troops take notice and that means more to them than whether that officer was once enlisted.

                After a few years of this, an officer starts to become truly value added, is an experienced soldier in his own right and ready to command his own company. Then he needs to start training his new officers in what right looks like. At this point the distinction of prior enlisted time vs. non-PS is moot.
                Last edited by MAJ Powers; January 16th, 2010, 07:38 AM.

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                • #9
                  Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                  Sir, I agree with everything you're saying. If I can just boil down a couple of those paragraphs to emphasize the point I was trying to make...

                  Originally posted by MAJ Powers
                  The positives of prior service include familiarity with customs and courtesies, drill, wear and appearance of the uniform, basic soldiering, and a general understanding of the rhythms of how a small unit functions. More importantly, one develops empathy for the troops and their lot, having learned to be a follower and dealing with being the CQ runner, duty driver, guard at the heavy drop rig site, etc. That buys a new officer some early credibility with soldiers because they feel since you walked in their shoes, you understand their issues.

                  [snip]

                  After a few years of this, an officer starts to become truly value added, is an experienced soldier in his own right and ready to command his own company. Then he needs to start training his new officers in what right looks like. At this point the distinction of prior enlisted time vs. non-PS is moot.
                  Everyone's always concerned with that first day you step in front of your first platoon as a brand new LT. First impressions are important, but that only goes so far.

                  YES, prior soldier experience is going to give you a leg up for the first few months. There's still going to be volumes you don't know, but at least you're competent at being in the Army. It's not valueless, but it's not worth the cost.

                  2-4-6 years enlisted to gain advantages that are going to exist for a few months to maybe a year? It's not worth putting off your officership to get that experience. When you're a MAJ or LTC looking at how long you have left to retirement - when you start seeing remaining time as the limitation on what you're going to be able to achieve in life and this career, you're going to want those years back. You're going to wish you didn't put off your commission for something that wasn't worth the cost.

                  The majority of what makes a good officer are personality traits that have nothing to do with the military, and you're not likely to pick up by just doing time. What we can teach, you'll learn in your commissioning and branch training programs. But, in reality, that first year for everyone is being thrown in the fire unprepared. You're going to get knocked down. You'll be humbled. And you're going to get back up into a mentor relationship with some officer(s) above you and some NCO(s) below you. You're going to learn your job and grow as a person. Whatever you turn into in 2-3-5 years is either going to be a good officer or it's not. You're going to have skills in certain areas and weaknesses in others. Nothing can fully prepare you for it, and nothing can substitute for it - not enlisted time or anything else.

                  I'm all for doing everything you can for self development & being as prepared as possible. I'm not in favor of shooting yourself in the foot to see what it feels like, or soldiers might better empathize with you or vice versa. Just quit worrying & get to work.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                    I find a lot a value in the thoughts shared here. Believe me when I say I'm middle of the road about this whole thing. I'm definitely not afraid to be humbled and learn new things.

                    I also like the fact that the Guard has the State OCS option available. It seems like that would give new officer candidates more time to get used to the "military way".

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                      Great post Major.

                      In the midst of all this, officers are responsible for the well-being of the troops. Team Leaders, Squad Leaders and PSG are all tracking the issues involving their soldiers. The PL needs to be read in as well, not to micromanage, but in order to affect positive change when someone hits a brick wall of a problem. Pay issues, sick family members, screwed up paperwork… does the PL know and care enough to help? New officers need to quickly learn about ACS, AER, and the FRG (for starters) and know who they can contact to provide their troops aid when they need it. An officer needs to be a servant leader, and ensure the troops’ needs are met. This is a readiness issue. If a PL doesn’t care, the troops take notice and that means more to them than whether that officer was once enlisted.
                      That's what I was waiting for.

                      The one thing that I've noticed about former enlisted officers is the absence of the sense of entitlement. Great, you're an officer and you've been to college but what are you going to do with your "power"?

                      PV2 Snuffy hasn't received his BAH yet, how does that affect you? How do your orders, especially the ones that raise eyebrows, affect your troops? Is your soldier showing signs of PTSD or is he genuinely a PITA. It's all about readiness.

                      Ultimately, I believe, it's all about what you want to take away from of it all. Is the journey or the destination more important?

                      I would highly recommend any leader read MSG Paul Howe's book about leadership. It's just another tool in the box.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                        More importantly, one develops empathy for the troops and their lot, having learned to be a follower and dealing with being the CQ runner, duty driver, guard at the heavy drop rig site, etc. That buys a new officer some early credibility with soldiers because they feel since you walked in their shoes, you understand their issues.
                        Except many prior service officers shoot right past this line into babying their troops or if they were NCO's, they forget they are no longer NCO's.

                        Enlisted time will not make you a better officer.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                          Like all career paths, you are the sum of your education and experience.

                          I think empathy towards your enlisted and the lacking a sence of entitlement are great points. Qualities I would be lacking had I not spent time enlisted.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                            I was an E5 Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Div. and I think being a young Non Commissioned Officer in the Deuce was the most challenging thing I ever did. I had 9 Men I was in charge of, I knew there PT Scores, I knew where they was at all times, I knew what made them tick. What aggravated me was when I got a new guy, and molded him to where I wanted him such as PT or finally broke him from being jacked up all the time the Platoon Sgt took him out my squad and gave me 2 more jacked up guys. He wanted to spread my guys out threw the platoon, I think thats not right. I got burned out. Its on other nco's to train there guys, dont take my guys after I trained them for 6 months and finally broke them of there bad ways and then give them to another nco. That nco needs to train his own guys, I see the platoon sgts thoughts hes tryin to make the platoon better, but He needs to hold that nco's feet to the fire. I use to come in every weekend till my guys knew I wasnt messing around. I made them understand that I had nothin better to do on the weekend and finally they straitened up. Im in ROTC and went there so I could make change once I got my own platoon. I would never take my time back as enlisted. People get so caught up on going officer early cause all they worry about is where there retirement scale is going to be in 20 years. I rather go enlisted first, cause I know both sides of the table, it will hurt me on my retirement check, but for me its not about money, its about leading soldiers and being a good leader. I feel I will be a better LT cause I was a young E5 sergeant. Thats just me though, going Officer without being enlisted isnt bad, its just not the route Id like to go. Being a Private really made me understand what my Joe's went threw. So in a sense I can relate not only to the Soldiers but the NCO's as well, cause I know how hard it is.
                            Last edited by SFC_Wilson; April 28th, 2011, 11:21 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Straight 09s or Enlisted to Officer?

                              Originally posted by batman
                              I was an E5 Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Div. and I think being a young Non Commissioned Officer in the Deuce was the most challenging thing I ever did. I had 9 Men I was in charge of, I knew there PT Scores, I knew where they was at all times, I knew what made them tick. What aggravated me was when I got a new guy, and molded him to where I wanted him such as PT or finally broke him from being jacked up all the time the Platoon Sgt took him out my squad and gave me 2 more jacked up guys. He wanted to spread my guys out threw the platoon, I think thats not right. I got burned out. Its on other nco's to train there guys, dont take my guys after I trained them for 6 months and finally broke them of there bad ways and then give them to another nco. That nco needs to train his own guys, I see the platoon sgts thoughts hes tryin to make the platoon better, but He needs to hold that nco's feet to the fire. I use to come in every weekend till my guys knew I wasnt messing around. I made them understand that I had nothin better to do on the weekend and finally they straitened up. Im in ROTC and went there so I could make change once I got my own platoon. I would never take my time back as enlisted. People get so caught up on going officer early cause all they worry about is where there retirement scale is going to be in 20 years. I rather go enlisted first, cause I know both sides of the table, it will hurt me on my retirement check, but for me its not about money, its about leading soldiers and being a good leader. I feel I will be a better LT cause I was a young E5 sergeant. Thats just me though, going Officer without being enlisted isnt bad, its just not the route Id like to go. Being a Private really made me understand what my Joe's went threw. So in a sense I can relate not only to the Soldiers but the NCO's as well, cause I know how hard it is.
                              That's a point of view. The problem now becomes how a person like this performs as a LT.

                              As an NCO in that situation you see it as unfair that the PSG has you fixing hard case soldiers & then moves them out to other squads. You feel he should be holding those other SLs & TLs accountable & ensuring they perform as NCOs should. That's a valid complaint, but it's short sighted.

                              I'm glad you understand the PSG was trying to improve the whole Plt, and that was more important than you getting a fair deal. That's his job. Maybe he could have done more to get those other NCOs to perform, maybe not, I don't know. Maybe those other NCOs were bad, you were great as a trainer, and he was playing into the resources he was dealt. Whatever.

                              The fact remains that as a leader your job is to make the unit as strong as it can be with the limited resources you have. That very often means someone's not going to get a fair shake. Your job isn't to empathize with that NCO who feels like he's getting screwed & try to give him some relief. It's to exploit the skills of that NCO to train your joes. In a perfect world that load would be balanced, but that's just not the environment we work in. You would hope in the longer term you could work to bring more balance to the situation, but that's not always possible, particularly at high optempo.

                              A lot of prior NCOs have problems when they come across because it takes them a long time to quit thinking like an NCO. It's hard for them to not yell at that jacked up soldier, but rather talk logically to the troop's NCO instead. It's hard for them to reject individual feelings of troops in the trenches & focus on the bigger picture. You can't micromanage. You can't focus on individuals. You can't get personally involved in every little thing. You have to stay back & guide subordinate leaders while answering to higher on their priorities. It's extremely difficult for a lot of NCOs to un-learn a lot of what made them successful as NCOs, and to adopt a new way of doing things that has to be completely different.

                              I don't think it makes them bad officers by any means. I just think it's a challenge that counter-balances most of the gain they got from their prior experience. If it's worth it or not is a very individual equation that can't be defined for everyone.

                              That's NCO experience though. If you're talking about coming from being an NCO, that's one conversation. If you're talking about a kid off the street thinking about enlisting to spend a year or two as a private before going to a commissioning program, that's a different conversation all together, and that is not worth the time wasted for what can be gained.
                              Last edited by SFC_Wilson; April 28th, 2011, 11:24 AM.

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