After several years of growth, the Army is scaling back on opportunities for soldiers to attend Regular Army Officer Candidate School and tightening selection requirements. Above, soldiers in their first week of OCS walk along to provide safety as a fellow soldier navigates an obstacle on Bolton Confidence Course at Fort Benning, Ga., in March 2008. (Kenneth R. Toole / Army)
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After several years of growth, the Army is scaling back on opportunities for soldiers to attend Regular Army Officer Candidate School and tightening selection requirements.
The change is among several for the OCS selection program for fiscal 2011, including changes in the age limit and waivers.
A tentative board schedule released in late June by Human Resources Command indicates the Army will conduct two OCS panels in 2011 to select in-service soldiers for the branch-immaterial course at Fort Benning, Ga.
The goal is to commission 522 lieutenants from among in-service applicants and more than 1,200 from Recruiting Command's OCS enlistment option.
That equates to hundreds fewer slots than in recent years.
Prominent among policy changes that will apply to the 2011 boards is the suspension of the program that authorized general-officer commanders to select outstanding Regular Army enlisted soldiers for OCS.
This was a particularly popular program because it allowed commanders to waive the requirement for a local, structured interview board.
This program replaces one put in place in fiscal 2005 and was designed to expire at the end of 2006.
"With reduced in-service missions since 2006, coupled with a successful Recruiting Command effort to enlist OCS Enlistment Option candidates, the direct select program is no longer required," according to a June 23 notice to field commands.
For the past several years, the federal OCS program has commissioned about 2,000 lieutenants annually, with roughly 30 percent of those officers coming from the ranks of serving enlisted soldiers and warrant officers, and 70 percent from the civilian sector via the OCS enlistment option.
Enlisted soldiers and warrant officers who successfully complete the demanding 12-week training program will be commissioned as Regular Army officers.
A new hard-and-fast rule requires soldiers to have a four-year degree from an accredited college if they plan to get a commission through Officer Candidate School.
That change took effect Oct. 1 and remains in force for the 2011 program.
The requirement applies even if soldiers are otherwise qualified.
Previous policy allowed soldiers without college degrees to apply for OCS if they had at least 90 of the 120 college credits normally required for a baccalaureate degree.
Not only do most lieutenants face deployment or deployment preparations soon after completing initial military training, but they become eligible for promotion to captain at three years of service.
Since federal law mandates a baccalaureate degree for promotion to captain, lieutenants without degrees were under tremendous pressure to meet requirements for their Army job, family commitments and academic studies.
Other key changes and or items of interest for the upcoming OCS selection year:
• All applicants must appear before a local, structured interview board. A written statement on "Why I want to be an Army officer" must be hand-written during the local board proceeding.
• The Army practice of convening selection boards to assign career branches to OCS officers "is suspended indefinitely," according to Human Resources Command.
Under a new branching system, officer candidates will compete for branch assignments based on their class standing in OCS.
• The maximum age for OCS eligibility has been reduced from 38 to 35. Waivers are not authorized.
• Acceptance of medical waiver requests "is suspended indefinitely," according to HRC. Applicants must meet the physical standards for enlistment and appointment as prescribed in Chapter 2 of Army Regulation 40-501 (Standards of Medical Fitness).
Officials note that accession standards are more stringent than the retention standards prescribed in Chapter 3 of the regulation.
• Waivers to the 10-year time-in-service ceiling for applicants are not authorized.
• Recruiters, drill sergeants and training platoon sergeants who have been selected or scheduled for training are not eligible to apply for OCS until they are in the last six months of their tour.
For more information about changes in federal OCS eligibility rules, application requirements, waivers and selection procedures, consult MilPer Message 10-164, which was released June 23 by Human Resources Command.