In the Army, there are three different types of Army Officers.
There are Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers.
My goal today is to give you a brief overview about each type of officer and to talk about the different ways to earn your commission.
Let’s get started.
# 1 Non-Commissioned Officers: Also known as NCO’s, these leaders hold the rank of either Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant First Class, Master Sergeant, First Sergeant, Sergeant Major or Command Sergeant Major.
NCOs are first line leaders of Soldiers.
They handle the individual training and the discipline, welfare and morale for Soldiers.
They also advise Commissioned Officers on Soldier issues.
NCOs are the backbone of the Army.
They handle the day-to-day affairs in the Army and keep things running smoothly.
NCOs execute the mission plans that the Commissioned Officers create.
# 2 Warrant Officers: Warrant Officers are Subject Matter Experts and technicians.
They serve in a variety of career fields to include pilots, food service technicians, information technology technicians, maintenance technicians, personnel managers and much more.
Most Warrant Officers serve on staffs and advise commanders on their specific area of expertise.
Other Warrant Officers manage sections.
Most Warrant Officers previously served as NCOs, prior to being appointed as a Warrant Officer.
Most pilots are Warrant Officers, too.
Serving as a Warrant Officer might just be the best kept secret in the Army.
# 3 Commissioned Officers: Army Officers are commissioned by the President of the United States.
Army Officers begin their Army service as young leaders, providing a mixture of valuable skills and knowledge.
With their self-discipline, ambition, confidence, and judgment, they use their dynamic problem solving skills to identify solutions and accomplish the mission.
These officers hold the ranks of Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General and General.
The primary mission of an officer is to plan for missions, develop OPORDs, develop leaders and create policies and procedures.
What Army Commissioned Officers Do
Army Commissioned Officers are responsible for completing demanding missions while ensuring the welfare, morale, and professional development of their Soldiers.
Their primary mission is to lead troops in combat.
Army Officers have a proud, unique heritage in the United States Army.
Dating back to 1775, many of America’s most influential people previously served as Army Officers.
Some of the more famous Army Officers include General Patton, President Eisenhower, General Custer, President Teddy Roosevelt, President Ulysses Grant, and countless others.
Army Officers lead Soldiers in combat and peacetime.
They manage tasks and lead Soldiers.
Army Officers accomplish their mission through others.
Army Officers must be tactically and technically proficient.
They must thoroughly understand military tactics and have a keen sense of leadership.
They must be calm, poised and confident at all times.
If you were to compare an Army Officer to their civilian counterpart, they would compare with supervisors, managers, and directors.
The major difference between Army Officers and their civilian counterparts is their level of responsibility.
The Army entrusts a great deal of responsibility among all Army Officers.
In fact, few civilian agencies or companies would give a young 22-25 year old manager the same responsibility the Army gives a new Lieutenant or Captain.
As an Army Officer progresses through the officer ranks, they could eventually lead 5,000 to 20,000 or more Soldiers.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
- From Bad Army Officer to Top Block Army Officer: My Story of How I Did It
- The Army Officer Oath of Office: What You Should Know
- Army Officer Military Service Obligation: What it is and How it Works
- Army Officer Competitive Categories
- How to Pick the Right Army Officer Branch When You Get Commissioned
How to Earn Your Commission as an Army Officer
In essence, there are five ways to become an Army Officer.
# 1 Army Officer Candidate School: On Active Duty, enlisted Soldiers can submit a packet to attend Officer Candidate School, also known as OCS. Officer Candidates attend a rigorous OCS class to learn about leadership, military tactics and ethics.
Once they graduate, they are commissioned as new Second Lieutenants.
In the Army National Guard and Army Reserves, Officer Candidates can attend a phased OCS class.
Some candidates might choose to do the one-weekend-a-month class, while other candidates choose the accelerated OCS class.
# 2 United States Military Academy: Also known as West Point, the United States Military Academy has a proud tradition of producing quality Army Officers.
In fact, West Point is one of the most prestigious universities in America.
Once the student graduates from this four year institution, they are commissioned as a new Second Lieutenant.
# 3 Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC): R.O.T.C. allows “cadets” to take military leadership classes while they are pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at an accredited institution.
Upon graduation, they are commissioned as new Second Lieutenants.
Read more about my R.O.T.C. experience.
# 4 Direct Commission: A direct commission provides leaders in professional fields such as law, medicine and religion the opportunity to become an Army Commissioned Officer.
Upon completion of their Officer training program, they are commissioned at a rank determined by their career branch.
# 5 Military Junior College: The Army has five military junior colleges.
Some of these schools participate in the Early Commissioning Program that lets you get commissioned in just two years.
These schools include Valley Forge, Wentworth, Georgia Military Institute, Marion Military Institute, and New Mexico Military Institute.
Once a new Army Officer is commissioned as an Army Officer, they follow a career path based upon their basic branch, career field, their skill-set, desires, and duty assignments.
These career fields vary widely and will be discussed in other pages on this website.
I will also add that there is one other way a soldier can be commissioned, but it hasn’t been used since Vietnam.
It is field commission, in which a soldier is raised to Officer level in the field.
This has become nearly non-existent.
In conclusion, there are three types of Army Officers: Non-Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers and Commissioned Officers.
Serving as an Army Officer is a challenging, fun and rewarding career.
Leading troops into combat is an awesome responsibility.
For nearly 250 years, Army Officers have served their nation with distinction.
And, they continue to do so today.
What are your thoughts?
Have you served as an officer before?
Leave a comment below to share your story and experience.
Thank you and have a great day.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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8 thoughts on “Army Officer Information”
It's always interesting for me to read about another branch of service's breakdown of ranks. I've never personally served with a Warrant Officer.
Working in the medical field currently I've seen a lot more direct commissions than I ever saw in a regular ops position. The need for Doctors, in particular anyone with psychiatry experience, is so great right now that we are actively recruiting doctors at hospitals and in private practice.
It appears that you are using a USMC CWO3 rank insignia to represent the Army Warrant Officer Corps – as I know that you know, US Army WO rank insignia changed in 1973 to a silver bar with one to four black enamel squares representing WO1 – CW4, respectively (CW5 was added later). The old style Army WO insignia used brown bands (vice red, as on the USMC bar) on either gold or silver bars (gold w/ one or two breaks for WO1 and CW2, and silver w/one or two breaks for CW3 and CW4).
Great site and I know you want it correct.
(I am a former CW2 Army Aviator and a retired USMC officer and Naval Aviator.)
“Above the Best” and “Semper Fidelis”
Thanks, Chief. I will remove the picture ASAP. All the best.
Great information Chuck!
There are many individuals who think that an officer is someone who has went through the military academy. Very few realize that even Corporals are officers. Candace touched on that. This information should be readily available with all recruiters so they can point out how a new inductee can become an officer. For anyone who is in college and considering a military career, ROTC is a great choice, as it will give you the basics before you join.
Great article, Chuck. A lot of people forget that NCOs are officers, and warrant officers are commissioned officers too. We all have a distinct role for a reason, and we couldn’t do it without each other (well, maybe warrants could do it on their own, since they are superheroes, right?)
As a civilian, I found this information about the various types of Army Officer. I did not realize the history of the Army Officer dated back nearly 250 years. What a solid tradition. We had ROTC in my college and I didn’t know how that benefited the students. Looks like they are able to get commissioned after graduation.
Thanks for sharing this Army Officer information. When I was a younger, I had aspirations to serve as an Army Officer, but I never got around to it. Looking back, I could have been retired by now and working on a second career!
Thanks for the comment Noreen. Time sure does go by fast. I meet lots of people who wish they would have became an Army Officer. In fact, I’ve never met an Army Officer that regretted their decision to serve, but I met many people who never joined, but wish they would have.