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.