Mustang (military officer)
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A mustang is slang term in the United States Armed Forces, referring to a commissioned officer who began his or her career as an enlisted service member. Mustangs are older and more experienced than their peers-in-grade who entered the military via commissioning from one of the service academies (such as the United States Merchant Marine Academy, United States Military Academy, United States Air Force Academy, United States Naval Academy, or United States Coast Guard Academy), Officer Candidate School, or the Reserve Officer Training Corps. During the Vietnam War, however, when some Army warrant officer pilots were offered a direct commission to 2nd or 1st Lieutenant, they were usually younger than 25 at the time of commission.
A United States Navy mustang can be a Chief Warrant Officer, a Limited Duty Officer, a Staff Officer, a Restricted Line Officer or an Unrestricted Line Officer, depending on their particular situation.
A United States Marine Corps mustang can be an enlisted Marine, who has gone on to earn a warrant (as a Chief Warrant Officer) or a commission from the Officer Candidate School.
The original definition of a mustang was a military officer who had earned a battlefield commission; they were especially prevalent during World War II and the Korean War. Notable examples include Audie Murphy (World War II) and David Hackworth (Korean War).
A mustang is characterized by continuity in military service from enlisted to commissioned rank (i.e., no break in military service). Being a slang term, there is no precise definition or set of criteria to determine which officers can properly be called a "mustang"; as the term varies in usage and criteria from service to service. By the end of World War II, it was understood across the armed forces that a "mustang" was an officer with service in the enlisted ranks before being commissioned.
It refers to the mustang horse, a wild animal and therefore not a thoroughbred. A mustang, after being captured, can be tamed and saddle broken but it always has a bit of wild streak, and can periodically revert to its old ways unexpectedly and therefore the owner needs to keep an eye on it at all times. However, since a mustang was formerly a wild and free animal, it may very well be smarter, more capable and have a better survival instinct than thoroughbreds.
- Winfield Scott (1786–1865) - Enlisted as a militia cavalry corporal in 1807. Commissioned as a captain in the Regular Army in 1808. Was promoted to Brigadier General in 1814, at the age of 27.
- Bennet C. Riley (1787–1853). Commissioned as an ensign (an obsolete army junior officer rank) in the Regiment of Riflemen (United States) in 1813 and was successively promoted through each officer rank, becoming a brevet major general in 1848.
- Mirabeau B. Lamar (1798–1859) - Enlisted as a private during the Texas Revolution and received a battlefield commission as a Colonel and command of the Texian cavalry immediately prior to the Battle of San Jacinto. Lamar would later serve as the Texas Secretary of War and be elected president.
- Samuel Chamberlain (1829–1908) - Dragoon sergeant of the Mexican War who re-enlisted in 1861 and eventually became a general.
- John Murphy (Saint Patrick's Battalion) (born c.1820, date of death unknown) - Irish sergeant who deserted the US army during the Mexican War and received a commission in the San Patricios.
- Johnny Clem (1851–1937) - Enlisted in the US Civil War as a drummer boy and retired as a US Army general in 1917.
- Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821–1877) - Began his career in the Confederate States Army as a private in the cavalry and was commissioned colonel in 1861.
- Patrick Cleburne (1828–1864) - British army corporal who later became a Confederate general.
- William McKinley (1843–1901) - Enlisted as a private in the Union Army in 1861; promoted to the rank of sergeant. Received a battlefield commission for valor under fire at the Battle of Antietam; mustered out of the Army as a major. Subsequently became the 25th President of the United States.
20th and 21st centuries
- Jeremy Boorda (1939–1996) – Rose from the USN enlisted ranks to become a four-star admiral and Chief of Naval Operations. Committed suicide in 1996 while serving as CNO.
- Dale Dye (born 1944) - Retired USMC captain. Awarded Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War.
- Wesley L. Fox (born 1931) - Retired USMC Colonel, who rose from the ranks of Pvt. to 1stSgt to Colonel. Awarded Medal of Honor, Bronze Star (with Combat V), and four Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War.
- Tommy Franks (born 1945) - Enlisted in 1965 as a cryptologic analyst; selected to attend the Artillery and Missile Officer Candidate School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1967, rising to four-star general. Franks was the U.S. general leading the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon in 2001.
- Alfred M. Gray, Jr. Retired United States Marine Corps general who served as the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1987-91. Served as an enlisted Marine sergeant before becoming a Mustang.
- David Hackworth (1930–2005) - Korean War and Vietnam War veteran. Retired in 1971 with the rank of colonel.
- Courtney Hodges (1887-1966) - Enlisted as a private in the US Army in 1906, was commissioned and served in both World War I and World War II during which he commanded First US Army, retired in 1949 as a General.
- Carwood Lipton (1920-2001) - World War II veteran who was a member of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division. He enlisted as a private and eventually received a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant. His story was featured in the novel Band of Brothers and was portrayed in the miniseries adaptation by Donnie Wahlberg.
- James Mattis (born 1950) - Retired USMC General. Enlisted in the USMC in 1969 and was commissioned a second lieutenant through Naval ROTC on January 1, 1972.
- Audie Murphy (1925–1971) - The most decorated US soldier of World War II, Staff Sergeant Murphy received a battlefield commission in France in 1944; subsequently became an actor. Received the Medal of Honor and later held a major's commission in the US National Guard.
- John Shalikashvili (1936–2011) – Enlisted in the Army in 1958; applied to and accepted in Officer Candidates School the following year. Went on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired as a four-star general in 1997.
- Larry O. Spencer (born 1954)– Enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1971, subsequently earned a commission as a Second Lieutenant in 1980 through the Officer Training School and later became the 37th Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. Retired as a four-star general in 2015.
- John William Vessey, Jr. (born 1922) – Enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in 1939 at the age of 16; received a battlefield commission at the WWII battle of Anzio, and fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars, rising to a four-star general in 1976 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1982.
- Larry D. Welch (born 1934) – Enlisted in the Kansas National Guard in 1951; later enlisted in the USAF and rose to become Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. Retired as a four-star general in 1990.
- Chuck Yeager (born 1923) – Enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941 and began as an aircraft mechanic. He soon entered pilot training and served as a Flight Officer upon receiving his wings. He later earned a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and was a noted combat pilot during World War II and as a test pilot during the postwar era, to include being the first to successfully exceed the speed of sound. Retired from the U.S. Air Force as a brigadier general in 1975.
- Senior Airman Andrea Posey (May 12, 2016). "Face of Defense: Airman Earns Selection for Unique Commissioning Program".
- Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony Koch (July 17, 2007). "Making Mustangs: Helping Enlisted Sailors Become Officers". Navy.mil.
- "James Mattis speech, "In the Midst of the Storm: A US Commander's View of the Changing Middle East"". 2013-09-25. 80:10 minutes in. Missing or empty
- Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond. p. 4. ISBN 9781591147176. Retrieved 20 February 2013.