How to Get a Direct Commission in the Army

For the most part, to become an Officer in the US Army you must go through some sort of a Commissioning source.  It may be ROTC, OCS or attendance at one of our nation’s fine military academies such as Norwich, the Citadel, West Point, etc.  However, the Army does offer opportunities to serve as an Officer without going through a Commissioning source.  People with highly specialized skills and careers are able to receive a Direct Commission in the Army.

While this is a very appealing opportunity, it is very limited.  In fact, the Army only offers Direct Commissions to Officers within the following three (3) branches: Medical Department, JAG and Chaplain Corps.  However, in the National Guard and Army Reserves, there are often opportunities for other Direct Commission areas.  Here is a little information about each branch and how to receive a Direct Commission in the Army.

Army Medical Department:  It is a very large understatement to say that the Army Medical field is the most advanced in the world.  What a better team to be a part of than the men and women of the Army Medical Field?  As a Directly Commissioned Officer, you have doors of opportunity opened to you for careers as a physician, dentist, nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, optometry, podiatry…the list goes on and on.  After completing your civilian schooling and licensing requirements, you are then able to enter the Army with a rank designated by the medical command (most enter as a Captain).  I think one of the greatest incentives for this as a National Guard or Army Reserve Officer is that you have the flexibility to maintain your own, independent practice outside of your service obligation!

Judge Advocate General, or JAG: As a Directly Commissioned Officer and practicing lawyer in the Army, you will weigh in on topics which have an impact on military operations such as criminal law, labor and employment, operational law, civil and administrative and also provide legal assistance to Commanders regarding implementation of UCMJ.  The requirements are pretty straight-forward and are as follows:

  • Graduate from an ABA-Approved Law School
  • Been admitted to the bar of either a Federal Court or highest court in your state
  • Be under the age of 42

It must be noted that the JAG route of Direct Commissions in highly competitive and difficult.  Basically, there are just more applicants than there are open positions.  The Army only accepts the best and brightest to serve as JAG Officers…particularly when Direct Commissioned.

Chaplain Corps: As you may or may not know, Part-Time Commander has published an entire article which discusses the Army Chaplain Program.  To be brief, Army Chaplains offer their skills to bring Soldiers, comfort, counsel and religious support during their time of service.  The requirements to become a Chaplain are a bit more difficult than the previously discussed areas and are as follows:

  • Obtaining ecclesiastical endorsement from your faith denomination which certifies that you are:
  • A clergy member
  • Qualified spiritually, morally, intellectually and emotionally
  • Sensitive to pluralism and are able to provide the free exercise of faith regardless of religious denomination
  • Earn bachelor’s degree with no less than 120 semester hours
  • Earn graduate level degree in theological or religious studies
  • Obtain Security Clearance
  • Minimum 2 years full-time experience as a practicing clergy member
  • At least 21 years or older

So there you have it.  Three great, professional areas within the US Army, National Guard and Army Reserve where you can bring your civilian skills to bear and earn a Direct Commission in the Army.  The Army Medical Field, JAG Corps or Army Chaplin Corps are three great ways to serve as an Officer, Part-Time Soldier and Professional on behalf of your Country.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “How to Get a Direct Commission in the Army”

  1. Yes, I agree Dan. Most people direct Commission, much like Amy had mentioned, into the medical or dental field. However, we do have some direct Commissions in the Combat Arms but they are very rare…very rare because they are very difficult to do.

  2. Great article, Chuck. Did you know that the direct commission program for the Army Medical Field includes dentists and veterinarians? The Army Veterinary Corps has over 200,000 veterinarians in service. Members of the Vet Corps are part of military public health by providing medical and surgical care, safety and defense of the food supply, and conduct some interesting biomedical research and related development. The Veterinary Corps is also often very active as responders to emergency situations such as natural disasters.

  3. I started the direct commission process to become an infantry officer many years ago, but the process was interrupted by our first deployment, and then I was promoted, and given my age (getting close to 40) I decided not to pursue it. One of my platoon sergeants is currently working on a direct commission packet, and my former troop commander had been direct commissioned from the rank of E7. In my experience E7 is the most common rank for a direct commission; below that units will typically direct you to OCS.

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