Early Commissioning Program
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In the United States, the Early Commissioning Program allows graduates of one of the country's five military junior colleges to become commissioned officers in the armed forces reserve in two years, instead of the usual four. The students must still go on to complete a bachelor's degree before serving as regular officers on active duty. The program is a major financial incentive for students to receive their commissions early and serve as officers while still attending college and gaining service time for promotions and retirement.
Early Commissioning Program Requirements
Program benefits (subject to change)
- Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in two years.
- Begin earning service time toward promotions and retirement following sophomore year in college.
- Paid $450 per month during first year, $500 per month during the second year while enrolled
- Paid as a Cadet/E-5 in the Reserves or National Guard if enrolled in SMP ($241.88 per month)
- Uniform allowance of $2,724
- Book allowance of $1200 (payable $600 per semester)
- Complete undergraduate degree within 36 months of graduation
- Serve a total of eight years in Reserves or National Guard or a combination of active duty and reserves equal to eight years, beginning on the day you are commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
- While contracted in the ROTC ECP program and pursuing a bachelor's Degree students will not be in a deployable status with their units
History of the ECP program
Before 1966, a prospective officer in the United States Army could only gain an ROTC commission after being awarded a baccalaureate degree. To meet the manpower requirements of the Vietnam War, Congress approved a measure that allowed cadets at Military junior colleges who had completed all requirements of the ROTC Advanced Course to be commissioned as second lieutenants and called to active duty at the conclusion of their sophomore year.
In the mid-1970s, the elimination of the draft and the anti-military backlash caused by Vietnam led to officer recruiting problems, especially in the reserves. To address these concerns, the ECP was revised in 1978. Cadets from four-year schools who had successfully completed Advanced Camp and Military Science IV, but who had not yet earned their four-year degree could also be commissioned, provided they were slotted against a valid lieutenant vacancy.
Throughout the 1980s, the Early Commissioning Program played a major role in officer production. In some years, ECP officers constituted over 60 percent of all ROTC second lieutenants. The program is a major financial incentive for students who could receive their commissions early and serve as officers while still attending college. In 1984, the California Guard received 95 percent (74 of 78) of its ROTC lieutenants from the ECP program. The Army Reserve had a similar experience.
In 1991, the downsizing of the Army reduced officer production requirements, leading to the reduction of the Early Commission Program to the Military junior colleges affiliated with the Army ROTC program. However, with the United States’ involvement in continuing military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of ECP slots is again being increased.
The five military junior colleges
There are five military junior colleges participating in the Early Commissioning Program in the United States:
- Wentworth Military Academy, Lexington, Missouri. Wentworth Military Academy and College, founded in 1880, is a Military Junior College and private four-year college preparatory high school in Lexington, Missouri. Wentworth is the oldest military school west of the Mississippi River, and the campus is on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Valley Forge Military Academy and College, Wayne, Pennsylvania. Valley Forge Military Academy was founded in 1928 by Lieutenant General Milton G. Baker, who modeled many of the Academy's drills, customs, and ceremonies after a British motif. Valley Forge offers a co-ed 2 year junior college program, as well as a military boarding school for young men grades seven through twelve.
- New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell, New Mexico. Founded in 1891 by Col. Robert S. Goss as the Goss Military Institute, and inspired by Virginia Military Institute, NMMI includes a four-year high school and a two-year junior college.
- Marion Military Institute, Marion, Alabama. Marion Military Institute is the state military college of Alabama. Founded in 1842 as Howard English & Classical School by the Alabama Baptist Convention, the school reorganized as Marion Military Institute in 1887.