USMMA or USMC PLC?(Marine Pilot question)


5-Year Member
Feb 18, 2013
I know its been done before, but currently im in a tough decision point.

I'm a current 2nd year student at a community college. I was granted a Congressional Nomination to the USMMA and now i just recently sent in my Application for admission.

I'm also working with the Marines on the PLC program. The Platoon Leaders Class(PLC) program that I'm working on is a 12 week program split into double 6 week sessions of OCS between the summers of the Sophmore/Junior and Junior/Senior year. If I continue with this path, i will be leaving this summer for OCS on May 22nd. I have to make the decision by April 1st as that is the cutoff date for this upcoming class attending OCS. If a decision isn't made by then, they will send me to a PLC combined program, which is a 10 week program later on in the year. It is extremely difficult to get into and is a lot more difficult to get into than the PLC split.

Now what is my goal? My goal is to become a Marine Corps Pilot and even hit heights as becoming an Astronaut. I would like to attend USMMA as it is a really outstanding institution( one of the best kept secrets i've heard of) and they offer a win/win scenario. I know they're have been Astronauts who have graduated from USMMA such as famous Shuttle commander Mark Kelly. I understand it mostly concerns Maritime as well and even though i do want to fly airplanes, The Academy could help me throughout my career.

I do understand however that is extremely difficult to get a flight slot out of the USMMA, at least more difficult than at the PLC program, and that the chances are slimmer at USMMA than at PLC of being a Pilot in the Marine Corps.

My question is. Do i continue on this path of the PLC program, or do i continue going for the USMMA? It has been a desire to attend a service academy for the longest time in my life and it has also been the longest desire to become a Marine Pilot, This decision is a decision that will possibly affect the rest of my life, or at least my military career.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Thank you all and Happy New Year!
Personally PLC is what I would continue on. You have a few months, continue on paths right now. Continue on both until 1 or both doors close. A PLC contract will guarantee you USMC as long as you pass OCS and the other requirements. Do you have a flight contract? Have you been offered PLC or you still waiting on the board? USMMA is a great school, but you are leaving the opportunity to go Marine Air to complete chance there. You have control with PLC with contracts there.
I think you should talk to the Marine Corps liaison in Garden City, NY. Also talk to the Alumni Assoc who can give you impartial advice from recent and seasoned grads in those career paths. Sounds like you are making a lot of assumptions about what gives you better chances. These trends ebb and flow. Pilot slots used to be hardest to get but the last few years they were easier. Are you interested also in maritime? You'll have to live at sea for 100 and 200 (or more depending on your major) days. Does that experience appeal to you? Because you won't get the commission until you meet all the other requirements and graduate. And it will be tough to graduate if you hate being on a ship. It's good to have goals, but it's also possible you may change your mind or other opportunities may present themselves which you are not fully aware of. Many who come to KP dead set on Active Duty change their mind and many with no interest in the military initially are the ones who apply for Active Duty.
Currently I'm set for an aviation contract, assuming all goes well. I think that night be the best thing to do is just wait. The great thing is i have many plan b schools I'm applying to as well. It's funny you say, I actually love the water. I practically grew up in the ocean so the 100 to 200 days wouldn't be that bad for me. The major i applied for is marine engineering. Although its a major change from my current aerospace engineering, I do believe. I have many marines telling me PLC but I'll contact the alumni association and see what they'll say and keep y'all posted.

If anyone has more info please post it in here

Thank you
If you have an aviation contract then it's a matter of two things... Are you willing to risk not having the same guarantee to attend USMMA and is a SA experience more important than the Marine Air contract? That PLC contract gets you what you want as long as you complete all the requirements.

USMMA is a fine institution. The training and education are wonderful. First and foremost their mission is to produce sea going Mariners. I am assuming you have done your research and there are no guarantees that same Marine Air contract will be there two years from now. If you attend USMMA, as I tell anyone going that route, be prepared to fulfill that commitment as a Merchant Mariner because there are no active duty guarantees, none of us can predict the needs of each service 4 years from now. Is that risk worth it? Only you know the answer! Good luck.
Thanks for telling me that navy, it's definitely Something to think about. The great thing is that I'm at least giving usmma a try, but if all works out with PLC, then I don't see a problem with it. The only issue I have is that the academy's can help people in their military careers, especially those who want to go to the space program. Is the merchant marine academy looked at for those wanting to serve as career officers and is this academy a factor in promotions like the others.
Thanks for telling me that navy, it's definitely Something to think about. The great thing is that I'm at least giving usmma a try, but if all works out with PLC, then I don't see a problem with it. The only issue I have is that the academy's can help people in their military careers, especially those who want to go to the space program. Is the merchant marine academy looked at for those wanting to serve as career officers and is this academy a factor in promotions like the others.

While I agree the SAs provide a unique life-long bonding experience that can provide many advantages here and there, it is PERFORMANCE, PERFORMANCE, PERFORMANCE that gets you the stellar reports and forms the solid basis for special programs and career success, no matter how long you stay in. I seldom "shout" online, but I wanted to emphasize the largest factor in selection for space programs or anything else. If you want to be a Marine aviator, you have the boarding pass in your hand, butter bars in sight, Pensacola in sniffing distance.

Amongst senior officers, SA grads included, we often said "the service academy effect wears off after about two years." I agree SA grads are the most prepared, professionally, for immediate active duty. But there are plenty of smart, driven, capable people - like you - who take a different path for different reasons. They catch up! Non-SA grads may be ahead of SA grads in basic life skills, such as living on their own and other experiences. Marine Corps has your program for a reason; they get good officers out of it.

Kick butt as an aviator and in your ground leadership duties, be the #1 pilot and top JO, and you have a shot at Test Pilot School and space program, no matter the source of your commission. By then, it is all about your documented performance in and out of the cockpit, not where you spent 4 years getting a degree and commission.

Just my two cents. I had dozens of JOs work for me over the years, and never thought twice about their path. It was all about how they were doing their job and their potential for further success.

Oh - ditto Navy Hoops, and consider the risk of having something physically go awry, say, eyesight, while at USMMA, and you no longer meet USMC pre-comm criteria. It does happen.
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Thank you very much captain, that really changed the way I look on things, especially now at this crucial time of decisions
It is your decision, your path. You have showed drive and initiative to take the path you have. You have little control over what may happen at USMMA, but you know what it is you want to be. Weight the various tangible and intangible factors, do the decision matrix according to your risk profile, make the decision, and step out smartly on whichever path you choose, no regrets, and just focus on excellence.
Capt is spot on! Listen to their advice. Honestly a solid engineering degree, great performance in the cockpit, TPS is what is needed to get to the space program. I have a buddy who went that path and they crushed their evals, got a Masters in engineering and did amazing at TPS. A SA isn't going to get you to a space program, your preformance will. To get to TPS you need an engineering background. Only you can decide what you want, you have the ticket to Marine Air and USMMA is a great school, but realize there are no guarantees.

If you go PLC, really focus on running and pull ups. You need to be crushing the PFT and knock it out of the park. Being in amazing shape will make life so much easier there!
Yes definitely true about the PFT, I've been training for years to ace it. Honestly this has really given me a new outlook on this decision. I'm going to keep the application in place and if I don't get appointed, it's not the end of the world, I just have to keep going. The way I see it, everything happens for a reason.
I just googled "Marine astronaut bios" for the heck of it. USNA, Villanova, Syracuse, Western Kentucky, Tulane, Muskingum College (John Glenn), a nice assortment over the years, past and current. Worth reviewing to get a sense of the paths, if you haven't already. Common theme is strong STEM core and stellar performance at every step, based on career progression out of the commissioning gate.
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I do know many of them came out of the USNA including Alan Sheppard , the First American in space (though he was in the navy). Currently I'm looking to gain an aerospace engineering major, if I was to go to usmma I'd have to do marine engineering. That's the beauty of the space program, they all come from a variety of backgrounds, even the marine astronauts
@DC1220 Great goals you have, but realize that becoming an astronaut is like threading a needle. Many factors have to come together to get you to that point (as mentioned by a few above), but where you went to school will likely be the last thing on the astronaut selection board's checklist for applicants. As a retired Marine officer and USNA grad with a daughter about to go to USMMA, I'd say your near-term goal should be obtaining a commission with a flight guarantee. Sounds like you have that with PLC air. Since you don't have the SA option right now and are waiting on admissions, I suggest a couple of courses of action:
1. Accept PLC knowing you're "in" and then do all the work (academic and physical) to make sure you graduate on time and get commissioned. PLC produces some of the finest Marine officers the Corps has ever had.
2. Let your admissions officer at USMMA know of your situation and the timeline dilemma you're facing. Perhaps there's a way for the admissions officer to get your package before the board sooner rather than later, though I have to say that you're fairly late in the process for the Class of 2020. If you get an LOA, then that could give you more options knowing that there may be one or two outstanding things you'd need for admission to USMMA. If all of your documentation is in, you have a nom, and your medical is done (should be if you have been offered PLC), then there isn't much left for the board to do but to give you and up or down vote.
3. Decide that USMMA is where you want to go and pursue that. Why not other SA's? USNA has one of the best aero programs in the nation. You'd have to wait on USNA to apply next year, but that would give you another year in the pipeline. Same with USMMA if you don't get in this year. While you're waiting on the SA route, go through PLC and continue on that path. If you get into an SA next year, then drop from PLC and go to an SA.
You are in a very fortunate situation compared to many. PLC is extremely competitive to get into right now, so consider yourself among the few selected. Also consider this regarding USMMA and going Marine Corps upon graduation - my understanding is that USMC will require that you go through OCS after you graduate from USMMA. You won't have time while you're at USMMA to attend Bull Dog (or whatever they're calling it these days). I've tried to confirm this requirement and haven't been able to get a straight answer. I recall way back when I went through The Basic School that we had several KP grads in my class. I started TBS in the fall with several other USNA grads because we stayed back to assist USNA with the Plebe Summer Detail. As I recall, the KP grads graduated, went straight to OCS, then reported to TBS. Worth looking into for clarification and may help you make your decision.
Thank you swrakow, this decision is definitely a tough one, currently PLC is still the option, but I recently just submitted everything to the academy for admissions. If I do get appointed to the academy, I will accept that appointment, however since nothing is guaranteed at the moment with USMMA, it currently looks like it's between the PLC split (2-6 week splits) or the PLC combined (10 weeks). The beauty is that there is alot of flexibility in here that no matter Which direction I decide upon, it will lead to main goal.
Another thing, I definitely agree about the short term goal, astronaut is definitely nowhere near happening, so yes my main focus is on obtaining a commission.