Enlisted Sailor at USNA

LiftsToFly

New Member
I'm a highschooler planning on doing NROTC, but considering other paths to a commission. Can anyone tell me about what it's like enlisting out of high school, and getting a degree from USNA or another school while in the Navy? If I were to enlist, it would be with the intention of becoming an officer down the road. What is the likelihood that I could make this happen - that is being able to go to a university or academy while in the Navy. Also, if I did so, would the four years at the academy count towards the 20 needed for retirement benefits?
 

lucky8

Member
I don't know much about your specific questions about the route of enlisted sailor to USNA, but I know almost everyone here will recommend that as your absolute last possible choice. Basically, there is no guarantee you'll ever be picked up for a commissioning program if you enlist. If you do, you've delayed your commissioning by several years. I can't recommend NROTC enough. It's a great experience and commissioning program. Also look into OCS after you graduate or NUPOC if you want to go subs. Good luck!
 

LiftsToFly

New Member
Thanks for the response! I do wish the military was a little bit more predictable. My biggest fear is passing up ROTC (a nearly sure path to commissioning) in favor of enlisting without ever getting commissioned. I find it odd that almost anyone who does ROTC in college is deemed fit to lead, yet the system is so much more difficult for enlisted persons.
 

Capt MJ

10-Year Member
I'm a highschooler planning on doing NROTC, but considering other paths to a commission. Can anyone tell me about what it's like enlisting out of high school, and getting a degree from USNA or another school while in the Navy? If I were to enlist, it would be with the intention of becoming an officer down the road. What is the likelihood that I could make this happen - that is being able to go to a university or academy while in the Navy. Also, if I did so, would the four years at the academy count towards the 20 needed for retirement benefits?
I encourage you to browse and search the USNA forum for the many threads addressing the enlisted route to USNA.

It is the long way around, with no guarantees.

Yes, there are spots reserved in each class for enlisted applicants. Some test very high in the enlisted schools pipeline right after boot camp, and usually get sent to NAPS (Naval Academy Prep School) for a year. Some serve in the Fleet or Corps, show themselves to be outstanding Sailors or Marines, get the support of their chain of command, apply from duty stations all over the world, usually get sent to NAPS, and have to raise their right hand on Induction Day before turning 23.

All the Services have other enlisted commissioning programs. There is Tuition Assistance for distance learning and after-hours classes (most military bases have college extension sites on base, google UMUC for an example); you need a college degree for a commission. There are also full-time college student programs for truly outstanding performers. One example is the Seaman to Admiral program, STA-21:
http://www.sta-21.navy.mil/

As I commented, this is the long way around and is not a path trodden by the majority. If you are ready to go to college after HS, shoot for the ROTC scholarships or try the college programmer path. If you are a HS junior or younger, you are in the zone of prepping for a USNA admission cycle.

A phrase you will see here on SAF, and everywhere in the Services, is the “needs of the Navy (or other Service)” drive all decisions. If you enlist, and there are shortages in certain rates (specialty areas), and your test scores make you eligible, that’s where you will go. Ditto ships/subs/squadrons/homeport. You will get to submit preferences, but “needs” come into play. Completing Academy and other officer program applications while deployed on operational missions can be a challenge. It can be done, and is done, but it’s a long, hard road.

The enlisted personnel of the Services are the technical backbone, the hands-on folks who make things happen. Officers work closely with enlisted leaders to set goals, clarify priorities, allocate resources, make decisions, be accountable and responsible for their people - to lead. It’s a strong and powerful partnership if working correctly, bound by mutual respect. Do your research on enlisted service. You start out as the lowest worker in the hive, which is how you learn to move up.

And, for fun, google “DFAS 2018 military pay charts” and look up the base pay differences between a newly commissioned officer (0-1 under two years of service) and a Seaman (E-3 under two years of service). Other allowances are also higher for officers. It’s not all about the money, but it is a factor.

Finally, the 4 years at USNA does not count for military retirement. It can be used for Federal retirement, if you leave the uniformed service and work in the civil service as a govt employee, whether after your initial service obligation or a full career.
 

lucky8

Member
My biggest fear is passing up ROTC (a nearly sure path to commissioning) in favor of enlisting without ever getting commissioned. I find it odd that almost anyone who does ROTC in college is deemed fit to lead, yet the system is so much more difficult for enlisted persons.
Don't count your chickens before they hatch. While yes it is possible to commission via nrotc, it is far from sure. You need to get picked up for a scholarship by the end of your sophomore year, otherwise you will be disenrolled. You need to maintain the gpa requirements and meet all the physical standards. Also, there is a clause that allows them to not commission you. That means you graduate as a midshipman but are not offered a commission. (Note: I haven't seen that in writing, just rumors from other mids. It's pretty much never used as far as I know)
 

usna1985

10-Year Member
There are three main paths to commission as an officer in the USN: (1) USNA, (2) ROTC, (3) OCS. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. As others have said, it is possible to earn a commission after enlisting but it's not an easy path. If you enlist, you should fully expect to spend four years (or whatever the minimum active duty commitment now is) as an enlisted sailor.

If your desire is to be a commissioned officer, you need to realistically to assess your chances in one of the above three programs. For those who don't have a stellar h.s. record but are prepared to kick it into gear in college, ROTC (trying to earn a scholarship while at college) and OCS may be better options. If you're not ready for college immediately upon graduation from h.s. (for academic or personal reasons), then enlisting may be a good option. You can do your initial enlistment, then take your benefits and attend college as a civilian.

Finally, I wouldn't worry about retirement benefits at the moment.:) But, as a general rule, time at USNA does not count toward military retirement; I believe it can count toward federal civilian retirement.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
CAPT MJ hits the nail on the head... some good information there.

Don't enlist if your sole objective is to become an officer. It's do able, but a long shot. If you do enlist, don't go in with the attitude that you are only there to become an officer -- you will get eaten alive by your peers. Instead, hit the deck running, excel in everything you do, and then work with your career counselor to make the request.


My biggest fear is passing up ROTC (a nearly sure path to commissioning) in favor of enlisting without ever getting commissioned. I find it odd that almost anyone who does ROTC in college is deemed fit to lead, yet the system is so much more difficult for enlisted persons.
There are no guarantees ...remember the term NEEDS OF THE NAVY ....theoretically, Navy doesn't have to give a commission to a USNA grad, although it would be rarity to spend all the money and get nothing in return. Officer manning level is set by Congress, and if there are too many Ensigns, someone doesn't get a job. This is usually handled by adjusting the number of OCS accessions, but I have heard of USNA grads getting RIF'd, particularly if they wash out of their initial training like flight school.
 

AF6872

10-Year Member
Mustangs are few and far between. It is a hard way to go but it can be done. Good Luck. It is my understanding that reduction in force does not include Academy Graduates as they get lateral transfer to another career field if they wash out of flight or flunk Nukes? They still owe the five?
 

Capt MJ

10-Year Member
Mustangs are few and far between. It is a hard way to go but it can be done. Good Luck. It is my understanding that reduction in force does not include Academy Graduates as they get lateral transfer to another career field if they wash out of flight or flunk Nukes? They still owe the five?
RIFs can be brutal and can happen to USNA grads. We had a USNA ‘02 sponsor alum who went pilot, realized he was not cut out for that, and DOR’ed, though he was doing fine and had a superb USNA record. He was ready to serve in any other warfare specialty and complete his service obligation. They cut him loose, a year after graduation, all service obligation excused, no repayment, no Resetve time required. At various times “get out now no payback offers” occur, open to all commissioning sources, usually in the first year or two of service. Very rare, though.

The USNA ‘02 alum went on to good jobs taking advantage of his USNA education and is very successful now. He also used his veteran status to get his MBA courtesy of his home state veterans’ benefits, though he wasn’t eligible for some of the Federal DVA benefit.

It’s a draconian (don’t get to air that word out too often) measure, but if the numbers of officers exceed the legally mandated end strength in a pay grade, they open the valves and bleed the system. That happens when predicted accession and retention manpower models get out of sync.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
It is my understanding that reduction in force does not include Academy Graduates as they get lateral transfer to another career field if they wash out of flight or flunk Nukes
Not necessarily .... I am aware of at least one situation where are USNA grad voluntary dropped out of flight training, and requested transfer to another community, was denied and not reassigned. I saw mention of other situations on this Forum in the past.

* Before someone gets the idea that this is a good way to attend USNA and avoid your service commitment, keep in mind that it is solely within the Navy's discretion. This was a really sharp kid, but the Navy just didn't have a job for him at the time . I suspect that if someone was trying to game the system and fail out of flight school or NPS on purpose, the Navy would find a nice billet like BOQ officer in Iceland or Afghanistan for him/her.
 

KP2020Dad

DS - USMMA '20
I'm a highschooler planning on doing NROTC, but considering other paths to a commission. Can anyone tell me about what it's like enlisting out of high school, and getting a degree from USNA or another school while in the Navy? If I were to enlist, it would be with the intention of becoming an officer down the road. What is the likelihood that I could make this happen - that is being able to go to a university or academy while in the Navy. Also, if I did so, would the four years at the academy count towards the 20 needed for retirement benefits?
I spent 20 years in the Navy as an enlisted Sailor. In that time, I had 5 enlisted transition to officer. (1-USNA, 2- Seaman-to-Admiral, 1- CWO, 1- reserves & OCS -- out of over 200 sailors that worked directly for me) So, it's not impossible, but I would suggest a different route if you want to be an officer. I'm sure an enlisted recruiter is going to tell you it's possible. (It is, but extremely unlikely) If you've got the grades, go to college. If you don't have the grades to attend college, enlisting is an option. I wasn't prepared for college after high school, so I enlisted, and I ended up with 2 Master's Degrees thanks to DODs college assistance programs. Think long and hard about your life and career goals. Good luck.
 

usna1985

10-Year Member
I have also heard that if you flunk out of a school (nuke, flight, TBS, etc.), they will likely show you the door vs. send you to SWO (which is what they used to do). It may seem like a good deal but . . . suddenly you're out on the street with no income having to find a job right away. And you may find yourself explaining to people (including employers, most of whom know how SAs work) exactly why you didn't complete your service obligation. Telling the truth isn't going to make employers excited to hire you. I suppose some folks just say, "it didn't work out," but as noted, that may set off alarm bells with certain employers -- especially those that cater to military vets.
 
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