Posted by: Jacqui Murray | December 21, 2010

I (Still) Want to be an Officer

What happens when your best efforts get you into a Military Academy, but you don’t make it? Maybe the academics get to you or a physical injury forces you out, but you

usna gradution

USNA Graduation

still want to be a military officer? How do you get back in once they’ve rejected you?

Andrew over at Ex Vita Verbum covers that topic in depth. He lived it and here’s what he has to say:

So, because of the lack of help or support for “ex-cadets” from Military Academies, I decided to write this step-by-step how to guide for those ex-cadets to get back into the military and become an officer.

Step 1: Determine Your Separation Status

In other words, how did you leave the Academy? Did you receive an honorable discharge, general, less-than-honorable, dishonorable? Did you leave for medical reasons? Was it due to grades, physical fitness, conduct, or honor-related? What is your reenlistment code?

If you didn’t receive an honorable discharge for whatever reason, it will be much harder, but not impossible, to return to the Armed Forces, especially as an officer. While this is unfortunate, and hard to fix, again it is not impossible. eHow gives a good idea on how to get started on this incredibly challenging process by clicking here.

If you left due to medical reasons, it also may be extremely challenging to return to the military. If a medical review board considered you unfit for service, or you were medically discharged, the only way to get back in is to look at your reenlistment code, and/or have a physical which deems you healthy and fit to serve. If you are collecting VA disability payments, you will have to lose them to go back in.

The reason for your leaving the Academy will also play a big role in your ability to become an officer. If you were dismissed due to an honor incident or “in lieu of honor,” than special paperwork will have to be done to go into ROTC and OTS. If grades were the issue, your problem might be getting accepted into another 4-year institution. If physical fitness was the problem, as long as you can pass a military physical fitness test by the time of reentry, there is no problem, and if conduct was the issue, it will all depend on your reenlistment code and discharge type.

Check your reenlistment code. For most ex-cadets, their DD 214 will show a code which means that they were in officer training and did not complete. Reenlistment codes vary depending on military branch, so double check here before you listen to a recruiter tell you that you are not eligible. Also, check here to see what your specific code means. If your reenlistment code makes you ineligible, there is an appeal process. You will need to submit a DD Form 293 to the Board for Military Corrections. This can be done online by going to You can apply online and then send supporting evidence (reference letters, DD Form 214, etc.) that proves you are ready for service.

Step 2: Select the Proper Route for Your Return

There are plenty of options to returning to service, which include: enlisting, OTS (Officer’s Training School) or OCS (Officer’s Candidate School), ROTC (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps), and even going back to the Academy. Your options determine the way you left the Academy, your career plans in the service, and your accomplished prerequisites.

While enlisting is not what I would recommend for someone who went to an Academy, it is definitely an option. If you were prior enlisted before attending the Academy, it is not impossible to go back in, and most likely required if you still have time on your contract. If you left the Academy because you wanted to deploy soon, or you wanted more a military aspect than an academic one, or you don’t think that being an officer is for you, I challenge you to really consider becoming an officer before you decide to go the enlisted route. If you change your mind later, however, it still is possible for you to become an officer again later on the enlisted track. I was once told that if “you were deemed worthy enough to get accepted to an Academy, than you can make it through the Academy.” Definitely don’t choose the enlisted route just because you’re discouraged because you didn’t graduate. One benefit of going the enlisted route is the ability to earn the Post 9/11 GI Bill after years of service. If you are active duty enlisted for four years, then you will receive 4 years of college completely paid for after your service. You can also use TA (Tuition Assistance) which will completely pay for education while on Active Duty. This makes it very easy and cost-free to get a degree and become an officer after you have experience as an enlisted person.

Before deciding to apply for OTS/OCS, you must first decide which type of school you want to apply for. You can either apply to the Active Duty school or the Reserve school, which will reflect on your commissioning status. The school are pretty much the same, but the difference is whether you will end up as a reserve officer or an active duty officer. Also, make sure you realize that you will have to finish a four year degree from an accredited institution before you apply, but also know that you may be able to pick your career type before entering, and the military accepts online schools as eligible to become an officer. This makes it easy to work and finish your degree fast to get back in. In some cases, if you work hard enough, you could even be commissioned before your classmates at the Academy. Click here to learn more about the different types of Officer Schools.

ROTC is tricky coming from a service academy. If you hope to do Navy/Marine Corps ROTC, and you are a transfer student, you cannot do it if you have more than 30 credit hours under your belt (there are exceptions with a waiver from the NROTC unit commander). If you want to go into Air Force ROTC, it will be better for you if you left the Academy as a freshman or sophomore. If you are a junior, or have completed your sophomore year, you may have to join ROTC without a scholarship for a semester and apply for a scholarship alongside other hoping contenders, which can cause you to graduate a semester later than expected. Army ROTC, on the other hand, has a two year program, which is separate from their other programs and have a separate application and competition group. As a final note, please keep in mind that just because you attended the Academy, or possibly received an ROTC scholarship before you chose to go to the Academy, this does not guarantee your automatic admittance, scholarship, or anything else with ROTC. You must earn it all over again, just like everybody else.

Surprising to many ex-cadets, another possibility of becoming an officer is to reenter the Academy. Downsides of this include having to reapply for a nomination. If you left in good standing, receiving a second appointment to the Academy is generally easy. Most ex-cadets who left in good standing should find no problem returning. If you are an ex-cadet who left because of academics, it may be a requirement to retake all deficient classes with an acceptable, much-improved score. If you left because of physical fitness, prove that you have improved. If you left because of an honor violation, it is not impossible to return. While it may be difficult indeed, if you can show that you have learned your lesson and have worked hard after leaving, showing steadfast improvement and character in all that you do, it is very likely that you could be readmitted. If you do want to reapply, talk to your Congressman, as some have a strict policy in not nominated ex-cadets.

There are also other programs to become an officer through nontraditional means. The Navy has two other programs for commissioning. The Seaman to Admiral Program (STA-21) allows you to enlist in pursuit of a commission through hard work and dedication. The Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program (BDCP) allows you to finish a degree and get paid as an E-5 while in school on Active Duty. No uniforms or military training will occur until after graduation. The downside to the BDCP is that it is very competitive and may take up to 18 months for an acceptance/denial letter. The Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) is program for the Marine Corps similar to OTS/OCS, only taken during summers while still in college.

Step 3: Make it Happen

Having a dream is no good unless you pursue it. If you left the Academy disappointed and discouraged that your dream to serve your country as an officer has failed, do not give up hope. As you have read above, there are plenty of options to be able to achieve your goals and become the officer that you were told you would never be.

I, myself, left the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2012 due to poor academics. Through plenty of disappointment, discouragement, pain, and turmoil, along with almost a semester of research, I decided to finish my degree online and apply to the Air Force Active Duty Officers Training School. I will graduate in the coming months of 2011 and I should be set to complete OTS with a commission as a second lieutenant nearly six months before my Academy graduating class.

Any questions, please contact me at

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  1. […] I (Still) Want to be an Officer […]

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