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Enlisted to officer in no time flat

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The Air Force offers Airmen many chances to excel in different areas of life. One opportunity is the chance for enlisted personnel to commission into the officer corps after earning a bachelor's degree.

Though it is primarily the responsibility of Airmen to develop as part of the "whole-person" concept, the Air Force offers several programs to assist Airmen in reaching their goals and the Seymour Johnson Education Center is available to help.

"There are basically seven (commissioning programs) we work here," said Ray Ramsey, 4th Force Support Squadron education counselor. The education center specializes is assisting Airmen applying for Officer Training School, Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Airman Education and Commissioning Program, Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program, Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program, Scholarship for Outstanding Airmen, Professional Officer Corps-Early Release Program and the Physician's Assistant formal training program.

"While we don't work Air Force Academy applicants directly, we do promote the program," Ramsey said.

If an Airman has already earned his bachelor's degree, or is within a year of completing one, OTS would be the appropriate program to apply for, said Ramsey.

There are two separate training programs within OTS, according to the Air Force Virtual Education Center. Basic Officer Training is a 13-and-a-half week course that prepares candidates for the technical, physical and professional requirements of commissioned service. Commissioned Officer Training provides initial officership training for Air Force judge advocates, chaplains, medical service officers and medical scholars.

For Airmen who have not finished their degrees, there are several programs that allow them to go to school full time to complete their degree and commission.

The AECP offers active-duty enlisted personnel the opportunity to complete their bachelor's degree as an AFROTC cadet. In this program, the Airman remains on active duty and is administratively assigned to an AFROTC detachment. On top of earning full pay and benefits, the member receives up to $15,000 for tuition and $600 for books each year. All AECP applicants must already have 30 college semester hours completed, including courses specified by AFROTC, and apply for foreign language or area studies, technical or nursing programs, said Ramsey.

The NECP is similar to the AECP nursing program, but is managed by the U.S. Air Force Nursing Corps, according to Ramsey. Applicants must have 59 semester hours of credit already completed for program consideration.

Other programs such as ASCP, SOAR and POC-ERP release Airmen from active duty allowing them to complete their degrees.

The ASCP and SOAR programs are very similar, said Ramsey. The Airman attends school full-time, but is assigned to an AFROTC detachment. They receive up to $18,000 for tuition and $900 for books per year on top of a monthly stipend. Both programs require an ACT score of at least 24, an SAT composite score of at least 1,100, or 24 semester hours of graded college courses with a 2.5 grade point average or higher. The only difference between the two is the SOAR program requires a recommendation by the wing commander.

The POC-ERP offers Airmen the opportunity to separate from active duty and enter an AFROTC detachment with the expectation that they finish their degree and other commissioning requirements within two years, according AFVEC. The member can receive up to $900 a year for books in addition to a monthly stipend.

All active duty, enlisted Airmen in good standing are eligible to apply for these programs as long as they meet the basic entry-level requirements and can get their commander's recommendation.

Staff Sgt. Jamie Robinson, 4th Medical Support Squadron health service technician, is proof that these programs work as she will commission as a Medical Services Corps officer May 24 before leaving for COT at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Since she will soon complete her master's degree, she will commission as a first lieutenant.

"I always look for opportunities to excel," Robinson said. "I started going to school in 2005 and (commissioning) just seemed like a natural progression in my career."

Robinson joined the Air Force in 2003, but did not take her first college course until 2005. She earned her Community College of the Air Force health service degree in 2007, received a bachelor's degree in business management from Mount Olive College in 2008 and will finish a master's degree in healthcare management from Saint Leo University this May.

To begin the application process, Ramsey encourages interested Airmen to pick up a copy of the "Commission at a Glance" worksheet from the education center, do some research, select a program and ask the unit commander for support. Once these steps are completed, Airmen should request a commissioning appointment at the education center before putting together and submitting a package.

"Before a potential applicant comes (to the education center), he/she should have already done their research and know what they want to do," Ramsey said. "If it is an AFROTC program and an educational institution is involved, they need to know at the beginning what institution they plan to attend. They can't get started pursuing prerequisites for a program until they know which institution's program they are going to pursue."

Though there is not a set number of selectees each year, there are selections made during each board.

"Each individual competes on the 'whole-person' concept," Ramsey said. "But the Air Force Officer Qualification Test and GPA are major factors. People who stand out in the unit are usually good candidates for a commissioning program."

For more information on commissioning programs or other education information, contact the education center at 722-5800.
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