Enlisted vs ROTC

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by Army2022Hopeful, May 9, 2018.

  1. Army2022Hopeful

    Army2022Hopeful Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2017
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    15
    Hello all,

    As of right now, I will be attending VMI on a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship. I know that this is a great route to become an army officer, and am excited to have this opportunity. However, recently, I had an idea that many would consider crazy and dangerous. I want to have the enlisted army experience. I want to understand what it is like to be enlisted and I want to be an enlisted soldier (almost more than being an officer).
    My parents strongly discourage this idea. They argue that I have full scholarship to a great military school, and it would be insane for me to turn that down and instead start at the lowest rank in the United States army. I understand that in the future, there will be opportunities to commission as an officer but as of right now, I really see myself as wanting to be an enlisted soldier (I also have never seen myself as much of a leader). Also, in case you are wondering, my stats are: 1390 SAT (700 math, 690 English), 3.68 UGPA and 4.38 WGPA.
    My questions are:
    How hard is it to go to Westpoint from being enlisted?
    Would it really be crazy to enlist if I already have a route to becoming an officer?
    Has anyone else had similar experiences or thoughts about this idea?
    Any responses would be greatly appreciated.
     
    Devil Doc likes this.
  2. Devil Doc

    Devil Doc Teufel Doc

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2018
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    125
    Yes, I have lots of thoughts and advice. As a father of a Marine officer and career enlisted myself, I say go to VMI and your route to commissioning. Your chance of going from enlisted to officer are less than the the opportunity you are in currently. My son thought for sure he was going to USNA, but that fell through and he was miserable at the first of five colleges he attended before graduating. He said he was about to join the military and I figured that was a good idea. My wife, his mother, said no. He could have joined anyway of course but she convinced him to stay in school and join as an officer if still interested. He is now the CO of a high speed unit in the 1st Marine Division and enjoying life in Southern California.
     
    1mom, Army2022Hopeful and AROTC-dad like this.
  3. mom3boys

    mom3boys 10-Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2007
    Messages:
    2,114
    Likes Received:
    478
    If you really want to go to West Point, why don't you reapply? Go to VMI, take hard classes, get squared away in ROTC...get the ROTC nom in addition to your congressional nom and see what happens. A year in college would prepare you better (IMO) for WP than enlistment. Contact your RC and see how to improve your file.
     
    Army2022Hopeful likes this.
  4. navyscpo

    navyscpo Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2018
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    12
    Having just retired after 26 years as a senior enlisted leader, my recommendation would be to keep trying for West Point as well as maximizing your opportunities to make your application that much stronger. My DD was also going to enlist before West Point contacted her (recruited athlete), she accepted her appointment and is entering class of 2022 this summer. I believe that the experience that you would be looking for can just as easily be found in the ROTC world as well as throughout the 4 years at West Point.
     
    Army2022Hopeful and AROTC-dad like this.
  5. jl123

    jl123 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    590
    Likes Received:
    386
    It depends on where you want to end up versus the experience getting there. Time spent as an enlisted soldier will count towards retirement and there may be substantial value to you in the experience, but that time will not count as time in grade for promotion purposes. You will still spend the same minimum required time in grade as a 2LT, 1LT, CPT as everyone else before promotion to the next rank.

    There is also a consideration of risk. If you go to USMA or ROTC and it doesn't work out as planned, you drop ROTC, transfer to another college etc. If you enlist and then change your mind or don't get on the commissioning path you wanted, your options are much more limited.
     
    Army2022Hopeful likes this.
  6. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator 5-Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    9,694
    Likes Received:
    3,262
    I have to agree with your parents. My DS who is a USMC 1st Lt sent me a reply to a question I asked on behalf of someone on the forum, who was struggling with the same question. He said that whether you enlist or not, if at all possible, one should do college first. The college grads who served under him were the peer leaders who he could trust with difficult assignments. They were terrific enlisted Marines. I would also add that you MAY have the opportunity to commission later. It is very far from a sure thing.

    It's not easy. You'll need an endorsement from your CO and on up the line. Many do it but its not an unlimited number. Many more move to the officer ranks via an ROTC program, so in a sense you're right back where you started. You would need to demonstrate leadership and aptitude as an enlisted service member in order to achieve it or getting into a ROTC program on the service's dime.

    Absolutely. Serving in the enlisted ranks does not (necessarily) make one a better officer. I know a couple ROOs on this forum who agree with this. You have a bird in the hand... and frankly do not know what the hell is in the bush.

    People this year and every year have these same thoughts. Use the search function to find them for additional input.

    You mention you don't see yourself as much of a leader. Most folks as a freshman in college do not, and truly are not yet real leaders. Those who think they are still have much to learn. Trust me. A ROTC program, especially at an institution such as VMI WILL mold you into a leader. Leadership is a skill you will take with you wherever you go after whatever time you serve in the military.

    Stay with the bird in the hand. You won't regret it.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  7. OldRetSWO

    OldRetSWO USNA 78/parent 11/BGO for >25yrs 5-Year Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Messages:
    132
    Likes Received:
    111
    Navyscpo and DevilDoc are career senior enlisted and they both said to stay with your program and not enlist. I'll add my father who at the time of my entry to USNA was a 33 yr senior enlisted who told me the same thing. You'll hear lots of junior enlisted and some recruiters who will tell you that the "best" officers serve as enlisted people first but you're hearing from three very senior enlisted people that you push on with your current route. Three people who will gain nothing from this unlike recruiters and have the benefit of seeing decades worth of junior officers coming out to the fleet/force.
    I will add my experience as a career officer that commanded units with officers from all commissioning sources including the enlisted ranks.
     
  8. jl123

    jl123 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    590
    Likes Received:
    386
    Agree completely. The value of enlisted experience as an officer is primarily at the O-1/O-2 ranks. There is an expected difference at that level considering the junior officer with enlisted experience has two or more years of total experience than those coming straight out of college.

    The difference narrows as the officers commissioned directly from college gain experience, especially as duties at the O-3 and higher ranks become more planning and administrative oriented.
     
  9. Humey

    Humey Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2016
    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    478
    "I also have never seen myself as much of a leader"

    Personally I think the best leaders are those who dont see themselves as one. It doesnt mean you will be a great leader and it doesnt mean you wont. Honestly I am alway suspicous of people who think they were born to be leaders. I also dont trust people who are always smiling, but that is a whole different issue. If the plan is to be an officer in the long run, I dont see how enlisting is going to help. If you goal is to never be an officer, than I guess enlisting would be the way to go. The shortest route is always a straight line and while life generally doesnt always play along, purposely giving yourself detours doesnt really make sense to me.
     
  10. Devil Doc

    Devil Doc Teufel Doc

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2018
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    125
    I've seen it go both ways but being prior enlisted in no way makes for a better officer. I've seen a couple Mustangs go off the deep end because they thought they already knew everything and tried pulling rank on the Chief. One couldn't handle the menial collateral duties (SLJO) in the ward room.

    Advice I gave my son when he took his first platoon a few years ago was: your men come first, they eat first, they are first, be technically and tactically proficient, get your hands dirty, don't get lost or lose anyone, never lag in a run or hike, treat every person with respect but don't take any nonsense from them, and a few other things I can't remember.
     
  11. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe 5-Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2010
    Messages:
    6,203
    Likes Received:
    1,671
    To be honest, this is highly overrated. I was enlisted before I commissioned and frankly the two jobs are so completely different I found very little value from my prior enlisted time.

    Remember a couple things, even if you were enlisted prior to commissioning you will still be viewed as a junior officer by both enlisted and senior officers. You will have the same experiences as those that commissioned straight from ROTC or WP. You will have the same duties, some of the crappy as all junior officers, when you interact with other officers, both junior and senior, your prior enlistment won't give you any special status.

    Enlisted and Officers are unique in their own jobs enough so that being enlisted first won't be that much on a benefit, for sure not enough to pass up the 4 years scholarship at VMI and postpone a commission for what could be several years.

    Just my two cents from my experience.
     
    Army2022Hopeful and USMCGrunt like this.
  12. Army2022Hopeful

    Army2022Hopeful Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2017
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    15
    Thanks for all the responses! It truly helps me make my decision. All the insight has certainly convinced me to continue along the VMI path and commissioning as an officer. RahVaMil!
     
  13. Devil Doc

    Devil Doc Teufel Doc

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2018
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    125
    You won't regret it. One of my high school students is on her way down there. AROTC as well. She's so motivated it's scary. Best of luck.
     
    Army2022Hopeful and AROTC-dad like this.
  14. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator 5-Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    9,694
    Likes Received:
    3,262
    @Army2022Hopeful - I felt the need to add some math to this decision you want to make. There are roughly 375,000 enlisted soldiers in the US Army. Around 85 slots are reserved for prior enlisted at West Point each class year. That puts the odds of getting to West Point as a prior enlisted at something like 0.02% each year (assuming my math is correct). I can't determine what percentage of the enlisted ranks become officers via NROTC or I would include that as well. I also don't know how many enlisted apply to either program each year which might yield a more realistic number, In any case, your chances of becoming an officer if you successfully apply yourself at VMI is, at this point, 100%. Check my math, but I'm still pretty sure you're better off going to VMI if you want to become an officer.

    EDIT: Cross posted with OP's most recent post. Glad to hear he or she will be pursuing ROTC at VMI.
     
  15. UHBlackhawk

    UHBlackhawk Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2015
    Messages:
    446
    Likes Received:
    502
    Yes, and no. Your statistics assume every enlisted soldier applies to the Service Academies and every enlisted is 3Q. As you allude to this is NOT the case. A more relevant statistic would be to compare the number of enlisted APPLYING to Service Academies and those accepted.

    I think the OP chose well, but there really seems to be a push that a person should go to school right out of high school, no "if ands or buts". I really don't agree with this. Some people can really use a few years maturing and doing something with their lives first. Being enlisted can be a challenge in ways that are different from being an officer. My DD was both blessed and... "not so blessed" in her enlisted career. We shall see what effect it has on her as an offiicer.
     
  16. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator 5-Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    9,694
    Likes Received:
    3,262
    Gee, I thought I said just that.

    I don't disagree with that, and I certainly can't make the OP's decision, nor make them become an officer. I simply point out the thoughts I have, and others have had, on the topic. All I know about the OP is what they mention here. The OP is free to do whatever they want. If he feels he's not mature enough for college then enlisting would be a good idea, but the OP didn't say that. What the OP did say was that he or she wanted to both enlist and later become on officer. I think my remarks addressed that notion.
     
    AROTC-dad and Devil Doc like this.
  17. Devil Doc

    Devil Doc Teufel Doc

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2018
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    125
    I'm for sure not in that camp. I teach high school career and technical education and many of my students should not now and maybe never go to college. The OP though has college lined up and it would be foolish to pass that up to enlist and then try for a commission. The pay and lifestyle alone is worth getting commissioned sooner rather than later. My USMC captain son with seven years not only makes more money than a seven year sergeant, but he gets BAH and the sergeant must live in the barracks.
     
    kinnem likes this.
  18. UHBlackhawk

    UHBlackhawk Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2015
    Messages:
    446
    Likes Received:
    502
    And that right there is the problem. You base your advice on what your son who is a captain currently makes compared to an NCO making that the sole basis for your advice. No mention of a person’s goals, no mention of where they are in life. Heck, no mention of perhaps going enlisted then applying. Maybe a person will find their place in life as an NCO.
    That is what I find most appalling of advice given on this website even by moderators. They try to pigeon everyone, there is a cookie cutter way of going through life and the advice is to always stay within the lines. If you don’t get into a service academy but get an ROTC scholarship take it and run. Don’t even think about a service academy if you want to be a doctor.
    The thing is, over the years I’ve met many cadets and officers from many backgrounds. Some prior enlisted, some straight from high school, MAPS, ROTC (one entered West Point after his junior year of college a year away from commissioning), civilian prep. All found a successful path in their life and thank goodness no one from this website was there to tell them not to take that path.
    I’m glad the OP figured it out, but I wish people posting on this website would try to find out a little more about a person before giving them life altering advice. I’ve said it before and I’ll end by saying it again. Thank goodness Nadja West never came to this website as a high schooler or she probably would have been discouraged from attending West Point and mightn’t not be a General today.
     
  19. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator 5-Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    9,694
    Likes Received:
    3,262
    @UHBlackhawk There are plenty of NCOs who commented in the same way on this very thread. I would also have given the same advice regardless of my son's comments. I simply pass them along as coming from someone on active duty. Again, the poster can do what they will. All anyone wants here is for applicants to be true to themselves, but when we're asked for advice we will give it, and it's often a matter of opinion with no right or wrong answer. It is always just one man's opinion.

    That being said, I have no problem with folks disagreeing here. I would want the people with questions to hear from several different points of view. I'm sure they do too. Thanks for contributing yours. I encourage you to continue to do so.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
    GoCubbies and AROTC-dad like this.
  20. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2014
    Messages:
    3,492
    Likes Received:
    3,079
    The advice received here is all anonymous and based on opinion, personal experiences and most of all rules of thumb. Anyone asking for guidance should consider what they are paying for the advice.

    UHB, you are correct. There will always be an outlier who breaks the rules and makes it in spite of the odds, like Nadja West. On the other hand, I agree that some members here (including me) might not really look hard enough between the lines before spouting off rules of thumb. Nonetheless, I think you are coming across pretty arrogantly to imply that everyone here is wrong except you. Like Kinnem said, I absolutely encourage you to share your opinion but and to disagree with the other posters. On the other hand, please stop acting like yours is the only stuff that doesn't stink. The bottom line is not what you are saying but how you are saying it.

    The OP can pick and choose from the advice posted, including yours. We all come from varying degrees of experience and background. No one here is getting paid, and no one is paying for the advice. This Forum has helped me and my DS a tremendous amount, and if I'm acting defensive, its because I am very protective and loyal to this forum.

    Thank you for your service and the future service of your DD/DS.
     
    GoCubbies likes this.