There are quite a few commissioning options for those who are looking to join the ranks of Marine Officers. I would like to provide a 100% completely biased opinion about the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program. My disclaimer is that I commissioned through the 4 year NROTC program as a Marine Option Midshipman; therefore, I do not have the experiences of a Naval Academy, PLC, or OCC graduate (contact me if you have other experiences to share).
Might as well start with the good stuff, right? If you don’t already know, NROTC affords you the opportunity to have your tuition completely paid for. Not every Marine Option midshipman has the NROTC Scholarship, but the vast majority do. Those who join as a “College Program” (no scholarship) midshipman will be given the chance to compete nationwide for available scholarships. In addition, you will receive a monthly tax-free stipend that may be used as you please. Don’t forget you also get some extra cash to pay for books, and if you don’t end up using it all it can get pocketed! Believe me when I say that the monthly/book stipends are a huge help when it comes to getting through college financially. I will admit that sometimes the stipend money ends up getting used for NROTC related expenses (transportation, lost uniform items, etc.), but usually it’s going to end up helping you pay rent.
The Friendships Built Through NROTC
When I got married who do you think was on my “must invite” list? For one, my entire commissioning class. Secondly, there were several people from other graduating classes that I really wanted to be there. I made a conscious decision to invite friends from NROTC in lieu of parts of my (and my wifes) family. The relationships you make are unbelievable. There is a deep level of trust that you will develop with your classmates and I believe it is the first step to understanding the cohesiveness of the military itself. Naval Academy midshipman will likely experience this as well, but with NROTC there is a lot more freedom to do things unrelated to the military with your classmates. I went snowboarding with them, camping, blackjack at the casino, drinks every Thursday night, and so much more. It really is significant to be a part of such an exciting new community.
The True College Life
PLC and OCC Marines will actually get this a little bit more than midshipman. Simply because they do not have the same responsibilities while in college. With Platoon Leaders Class and Officer Candidates Courses you will essentially do college like a regular student. Midshipman are going to have to wear uniforms on occasion, attend specific classes, show up in the morning for physical training, etc. This part is mainly directed towards the Naval Academy. With NROTC, you are able to develop yourself as an officer while being afforded the chance to engage in college like everyone else. If you want to join the anime club you can do it. If you want to skip a class once in a while there won’t be anyone stopping you. The Naval Academy is it’s own community and going there will inevitably teach you in ways that NROTC never could. I just prefer to be able to live college life normally for the majority of my time.
The Experiences Unique to NROTC Midshipman
I will simply say that there are more than a few great experiences NROTC gave me. I am from California. I went to school in California. I never did much traveling. In my 4 years of NROTC here are some of my highlighted experiences:
- Weekend trip to the University of Notre Dame for a leadership conference
- Trips to Memphis, Tennessee for a drill competition
- A SECOND trip to Memphis, Tennessee for another drill competition
I’m sure the Naval Academy does a bunch of cool stuff also, but I think I’ve had my fair share of good times.
6 Week OCS!
If you have read or heard anything about Marine OCS you know that it is not a place you want to be at for very long. Those who do PLC go through two 6-week sessions of Officer Candidates School. Could you imagine finishing such an endeavor as OCS and then having to go back a year later? I would prefer not to have to think about it. With NROTC, the idea is that the material that PLC Juniors learn is taught to you throughout your first 3 years in NROTC which is why Marine Options only do a single 6-week session. OCC does a single 10-week session which if you think about it is the exact same as PLC minus the additional first week of in-processing and last week of out-procession. The Naval Academy does not attend OCS. I won’t comment on that, but I would enjoy hearing how some of you Naval Academy graduates out there feel about this.
If you made it through my list reasons why I would recommend NROTC over other programs, you probably can see that I am biased. However, I will reiterate my desire to have those with different experiences write for this site!