From Army Officer to NCO: Why Some Officers Resign and Become NCOs

from army officer to ncoToday, I’d like to talk to you about going from Army Officer to NCO.  We all know that many NCOs transition into the officer ranks each year via ROTC and OCS.  But, most people do not know that some officers resign their commission and transfer to the NCO ranks.  That’s right; there are many NCOs in the Army that were previously commissioned officers.

During my 15 years in the military, I’ve personally met somewhere between 10 and 20 NCOs who previously served as commissioned officers.    At a few points in my own career I thought about doing the same thing myself.  Sometimes I got so frustrated with being a “Staff Officer’ that I would have done just about anything to be back supervising troops and working at the unit level.

From what I’ve found, the most common reasons officers resign their commission and join the NCO ranks include:

  1. Passed Over for Promotion: Some officers get passed over twice for promotion and have to resign their commission.  In most cases, this happens because the officer did not meet certain education requirements, such as having a Bachelor’s Degree or certain military education requirements, such as the Captain’s Career Course.  Many of these officers have “no other choice” if they want to retire and collect a pension.
  2. Sick of the Politics: Many officers get tired of the politics within the officer ranks.  They get tired of the back stabbing, the “corporate politics” and butt kissing.
  3. More Hands On: Some officers are naturally hands on.  They’re not really big picture thinkers and “staff” oriented.  Some officers just want to supervise troops and work at the small unit level.

As I’ve grown and matured during my career, I’ve learned a few things along the way.  First and foremost, being an officer isn’t for everyone.  Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with serving as a commissioned officer, but for some folks it isn’t the best course of action for their career.  Unfortunately, some officers don’t figure that out until AFTER they become an officer.

Next, there’s nothing wrong with being an NCO!  It’s true the NCOs are the backbone of the Army.  And without them, most officers would not have a job!  Serving as an NCO is honorable and extremely important.  In most cases, they are the ones that work at ‘ground zero’ and make us officers look good.

Furthermore, managing our own military career is our personal responsibility.  I believe we all have a responsibility to trust our instincts and do what is best for our own career.  Only YOU know what is best for YOU.  If that means some officers decide to transition into the NCO ranks, so be it.  Their experiences as officers will make them exceptional NCOs.

What are your thoughts on this subject?  To share your thoughts just leave a comment. Also, if you have any questions, you can ask them below. Thanks.

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12 thoughts on “From Army Officer to NCO: Why Some Officers Resign and Become NCOs”

  1. First, I notice the writer of this blog post said the NCOs … make us officers look big, but are not NCOs also army officers? I don’t mean to sound nitpicking. Second, some officers may find that balancing career with family and other life responsibilities such as church, illness of loved one, health and fitness … all this leaves little time for the military education or finishing the Bachelor’s degree to be eligible for a promotion. Last, either way they go, they should be able to retire with better benefits than people in private industry jobs … even with recession and a volatile economy. Which has more responsibility and stress: staff officers or NCOs? It depends on the leader and the tasks involved and how well the combination fits the leader.

    1. It is true that ‘Non-Commissioned Officer’ implies that the Soldier is an officer that is not commissioned by the President of the United States. However, when people refer to NCO vs Officer, the term ‘officer’ generally refers to people who are commissioned officers (whether O grade or a Warrant Officer).

      If an officer decides to resign their commission and become an NCO or even to change from, say, a CPT to a WO1; they will still retire at the highest rank they have held. I have many friends in the aviation community who reached the rank of MAJ, which is typically when an aviator stops flying as much and is stuck at a desk, and decide to revert to warrant officer ranks so they can continue flying as much as possible.

      I believe the stressors on NCOs and Officers are there, but different types. It is up to the individual on what kind of stress they can handle best.

  2. There comes a time when you can max out your time as an officer or the movement for promotion and job change just isn’t there. I’ve seen a few Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels transfer to Warrant Officer positions. They will still retire and collect a pension for the higher rank but this way they are able to continue their service and keep a commission.

    1. Good points, Emily. I know lots of officers switch to the Warrant program, especially in the Aviation fields. Like you mentioned, they still get to retire at their highest rank. Most of the former officer NCOs that I’ve known didn’t make it past the rank of Captain.

  3. I never thought of a commissioned officer resigning her/his commission and returning to the NCO rank. However, the reasons you cited make it easy to see why an officer would make that decision. Politics, unfortunately, plays into most careers. Being passed over for promotion without good justification would certainly make me consider a change. I also can see the need for a “hands on” officer wanting to return to a role where he/she worked more closely with the unit.

    1. It’s not awfully common but some officers do resign and become NCOs again. While it is sometimes looked down upon, I’ve always believed that only we can do what is best for our own career. Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy, especially for a long period of time. All of the former officers I’ve met, who were currently serving as NCOs, seemed to be quite happy.

      1. I deployed with a SGT who commissioned as a 2LT in the infantry, enjoyed his job, but had a dream to pursue aviation. I think he got some strange information, but whatever it was, it led him to resign his commission and join an aviation unit as an NCO in order to better facilitate his warrant officer fed rec packet and IERW packet. He was willing to do whatever he had to in order to achieve his dream of flying. It was impressive, and I could understand his dream, but he is also a bright leader that is able to see the bigger picture and would have made a stellar officer had he chosen to stay on that path.

  4. I’ve heard of lots of NCOs become Officers, but never heard of anyone going from Officer to NCO. It sounds like a “demotion” to me and I don’t understand why anyone would want to do that.

    Taran

    1. I definitely don’t see it as a demotion. Ultimately, we all have to decide what is the best career route for us. Serving as an Officer is not for everyone. And there definitely isn’t anything wrong with serving as a NCO. The Army needs good Officers and NCOs. Sometimes having experience in both career fields can give you an added edge over your peers. Thanks for your comment.

      Chuck

    2. Having done both jobs now, I would never say that rejoining the ranks as an NCO would be a demotion. My husband is a SFC and an infantry platoon sergeant, so not only does he have to manage his platoon and mentor his squad leaders – he also has the task of developing his PL, who is a new 2LT. It’s a huge honor to be a senior NCO, especially at his age and years of service. I have so much respect for NCOs, because the higher up they get, they not only have to be subject matter experts in their unit and be the ultimate standard bearer that enforces these standards down the chain; they also have to become concerned about the same things that officers do – the world gets more political for them. I admire the NCOs that are able to handle these responsibilities with panache.

      When I first commissioned, I saw my “promotion” as something that was more like a career change. My way of thinking is better suited to what officers do, therefore I can be a better asset to the force. Pinning the bar on was a sign that I got immense responsibilities to carry out to the best of my abilities, but my NCOs were there to help me execute and mentor me in my new path. I am very thankful for them.

  5. I definitely think everyone will get to a point in their career where they have to seriously consider their next move. It makes sense for officers to resign and switch, especially if they know they are not qualified and constantly get past up on promotions. Politics also plays a big part of it, but you have to know what you want and how you’re going to get it. You also have to think about your future, as well.

  6. To me I can easily see getting sick of the politics in any work place, especially a military workplace that involves such rigid procedure and practices. I would not want an officer who is obviously tired of the rigors of the duty.

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