I am applying to USMMA as well as two state Maritime academies for the fall of 2013. I've done a fair amount of research on the Strategic Sealift Officer Program (SSOP), formerly the Merchant Marine Reserve. I have read enough to get a basic understanding of the program, however there are a few questions that I have not been able to find answers to. 1.) How competitive is the SSOP and SIP to get into? I understand the program ranks candidates based on their interview, test scores, and fitness tests and then makes acceptance decisions based on number of billets. I have not been able to find how many billet availabilities there are per school, or for the program in general. Furthermore, If a candidate satisfactorily completes all SSOP requirements do they make it into the program, or is more like NROTC where only the competitively ranked candidates have a shot? 2.) Once you accept your commission as an Ensign in the USNR IRR, can you fulfill your IRR obligation by requesting a conditional release (DD368) from the USNR to accept an active duty commission in a different service such as the USCG? Any further information from those currently in the SSO program would be greatly appreciated.