NROTC - Quit to Enlist & then come back to Officer


Apr 21, 2020
Good evening everyone.
This is a strange question but I'm curious what the community has to say.

I'm an incoming 4/C Marine-Option in NROTC with a 35 ACT, 3.9 High School GPA, and both a 300 PFT & CFT. I THINK I love the idea of going straight into the officer corps, and I'm excited for my major in engineering, but I've been pondering this idea for awhile:

Some of the finest officers - and more importantly, LEADERS - I've met while growing up around the Marine Corps because of my family are Prior Enlisted. They command so much respect with their humble outlooks on life & experiences in ways many of the other officers just can't comprehend. They just have so many perspectives from their time in the Marine Corps as enlisted to bring to their service as officers, so here's my question:

Let's say I did one year of NROTC and performed well, but decided to enlist, and later come back to one of the officer training programs?
Is it possible for a MIDN to quit NROTC, enlist USMC, serve a few years as an enlisted man, and eventually try again to become an Officer after gaining that enlisted experience?

Is it possible?
Is it REALISTICALLY possible?
Has anyone done this before AND SUCCEEDED?
What are the odds?
What would the obstacles be?
How does the USMC feel about things like this?

I know there's PLC, OCC, ECP, & MECEP, but even so, will the Marine Corps like the idea of me quitting officer training to enlist and then try to come back to officer training?
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Yes you an do that provided you exit prior to sophomore year.

Humbleness and empathy is not something you acquire by enlisting, but are characteristics you bring with you through your total life experiences. I know of Mustangs who weren't humble at all, and were, in fact, terrible officers and leaders. I know plenty of guys who did NROTC MO who are as humble and empathetic as the day is long. Enlisting isn't (necessarily) going to make you a better officer.
I don’t know why you would want to delay your commissioning date.
Lots of money lost.
There’s no guarantee you’d get “to come back to officer training.”
I’ve never believed Mustangs made better officers. Some are. Some are not.
One more point; if you enlist and can't get back to NROTC via MECEP program, you will first be doing college on your dime, and probably a lot of your "spare" time. Even to get in the MECEP Program you'll need to complete a fair amount of college courses first. Just something to think about.
What do the prior enlisted family members tell you?

I can’t imagine they would suggest you take the path your are suggesting for the reason you give.

Why not get your degree and become the best officer candidate you can be? If you wash out, you can try to enlist and bring the skills you learned with you to be the best enlisted Marine you can be.

Good luck!
I don't think they give points for difficulty. And this strikes me as over-complicated. My DS anecdotal evidence of fellow MO pursuing engineering is that difficult. There are lots of folks who fall out of engineering and lots of folks who fall out of the marines. You might consider the combination of the two paths humbling enough that you need not resort to a more complicated combination of routes.
I agree with the others on this one. Sure there are things you could learn. Will it make you a better officer? Maybe, maybe not. My TBS company only had 3 who did not graduate... All MECEP grads. The company 2 in front of ours that had a massive cheating scandal. It was led by prior enlisted. It didn't formulate my opinion on priors, as overwhelming majority were great. I didn't want everyone formulating opinion on "ring knockers" due to 1 or 2 morons. I really enjoyed our MECEP and prior enlisted in my TBS company, in the fleet and the WO and LDO officers (I was in a rare MOS that was heavy in this space) I shared the wardroom with as a company officer. I learned a ton from them.

Bottom line, if you have a direct path to a commission (and that is what you want) then take it. Learn as much as you can. Ears and eyes open, ask thoughtful questions. Take advantage of the summers. The other things I wish I could tell myself... learn from others in leadership besides military leaders. The business world has some amazing leaders too. Read a variety of books. Talk to everyone you can.

What you are asking is realistic. Yes, it can be done. But there are so many variables in all that. It could easily be deterred and you could be a 24 year old former Sgt using your GI Bill to finish school and look to commission at 28 or so. None of that is bad. What happens if you get married, kids? It wouldn't be a straight line more than likely. Majority of those selected for MECEP have a solid amount of college courses and have excelled there. Fitting that into your time in the fleet it hard. Going to TBS or OIC as a 22-23 year old versus 28-30 is very different. Its a young man's game. Just some food for thought as your explore your options. Good luck.
Did you receive a NROTC-MO Scholarship? Sure, could do a year and then enlist. It is a harder and longer path to commissioning, but possible.

Yes, I did. All of the scholarship MIDN were going to the new NSI program, but it was cancelled for COVID-19
Yes you an do that provided you exit prior to sophomore year.

Humbleness and empathy is not something you acquire by enlisting, but are characteristics you bring with you through your total life experiences. I know of Mustangs who weren't humble at all, and were, in fact, terrible officers and leaders. I know plenty of guys who did NROTC MO who are as humble and empathetic as the day is long. Enlisting isn't (necessarily) going to make you a better officer.

Thanks alot Sir.
The path to my commissioning in the Marine Corps was unusual but not unique, as I’ve known other very successful officers who have done it successfully. I fell short of USNA in high school but earned an NROTC-MO scholarship. After 18 months, I dropped my scholarship (back then you became obligated at the beginning of your junior year- like the academies) and of my own volition enlisted in the USMCR- going to MCRD San Diego (they had a ten-week program) between my sophomore and junior year at college. While drilling at my USMCR unit, I applied and attended PLC combined (10 weeks at Quantico). Somewhere along the way, I was released from my USMCR obligation. I commissioned at graduation and stayed in the Marines for the next 30 years. I believe the enlisted training in my formative years empowered me to become a better leader of Marines. I was able to graduate college and commission when I was 22.

I believe that my short enlisted experience helped me appreciate the experiences of enlisted Marines and that it was both recognized and appreciated by the Marines I led. That enlisted experience helped me tremendously at both OCS and TBS where I graduated at the very top of each school.

That said, there are a lot of potential off-ramps that could lead to unhappiness. You could get injured at boot camp and get recycled, thus missing the resumption of college. Your MOS may demand follow-on schools that prevent a smooth return to college. Your physical for enlisting is a lot less rigorous than a pre-commissioning physical. You could get physically disqualified. A significant number of officer candidates get injured/ DQ’ed at OCS. You'll need to assess the risks/rewards for your road less traveled.
Yes, you can. My DD initially went to college on a D1 athletic scholarship and a 4 year ROTC scholarship. She came home at Christmas and told us she had dropped out and enlisted in the Army. She had a VERY successful athletic season as a freshman and she had a nomination to USMA from our senator, but she was burned out on sports and school. She needed a break. DW and I were... "irritated".
After some time enlisted she decided to apply USMA and was accepted directly from the ranks. She has done well. She is more mature and will probably be a better officer for the time she took off.
Is this the path for everyone? No. Was it the right path for our DD? Yes. Did she put off commissioning for a few years? Yup. Will it matter in the long run in her life that she delayed commissioning? Not in any negative way.
Why do it? Some people need time off from school, maybe time to mature, maybe time to find themselves.
“Choose your own path, not the one others may want you to.”
I can't add much more value to this thread, as what others have nicely posted from their experiences/ wisdom. I'll just share that in the last year I've watched a lot of NROTC MO/ NO national scholarship winners not make it through year 1. I just recommend you take the time you have between now and showing up to be physically/ mentally ready, and focus in on the present - on surviving year one of NROTC. Some on an engineering path drop from the program due to finding it too challenging to keep standards for both NROTC and grades. My DS noted a few folks on Day 1 of NSI acting like they were a general/ mentor to those around them and saying some things like "Don't worry - I will help you" to people who weren't asking for help, but after a few days they were the ones overwhelmed/ drowning (figuratively)/ struggling and leaving. So just be present, survive, learn/ participate, and then reflect on options after at-least a semester. I think you'll be in a better position to do so, and will have received a free semester at school, maybe 2, and maybe you'll find NROTC an ample challenge to be a part of to stay in as a path to commission- that would be my recommendation for you. Good luck/ congrats and thanks for your willingness to serve.
The other thing to note. If you find you like the military aspects and want a immersive experience, consider a SA or SMC also. You might lose a year with a transfer or applying. There are so many training opportunities, especially at a SA. There are Marines, Officer and enlisted, all over the yard that love to help train Mids. There is the Semper Fi club that does all kinds of Marine specific training on top of your normal training. The one thing, in my mind at a SA, that is hard to too anywhere anywhere else... the sheer number of leaders, and big names at that, you get exposed to. You learn something from all of them if you open your mind and take advantage of it.
What school are you planning on attending. It seems like you have very good stats, so I'll go ahead and assume you're going to a great school. Let say, you're planning on attending an ivy league (or ivy caliber school) this upcoming semester. Would it really be in your interest to give up a world-class education. Maybe not; although, this opinion depends largely on how long you intend to serve.
@DAB42 and @UHBlackhawk ,

The experiences your recount are applicable in so many situations in which posters, like @Queens2020 , struggle with the question of "What do I do now?" or "What are the consequences of my decision?" Your experiences highlight the difference between a mid course correction and a dead end.