The Marine Corps is on target to select just 84 Marines this year for enlisted-to-officer programs. (Marine Corps)
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This year's first enlisted-to-officer program selection board tapped just 28 Marines to earn a college degree and a commission.
If the rate holds steady, that puts the Marine Corps on target to select just 84 Marines this year ó or about 31 fewer than officials predicted in July.
At the close of the third and final board last fiscal year, a total of 115 Marines wanting to go mustang were selected for the opportunity to earn a commission under the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program or other related enlisted-to-officer programs. Marine officials said they expected the selection rate to hold relatively steady over the next several years, despite an active-duty force drawdown. But the first fiscal 2013 board shows a selection rate lower than originally predicted.
Officials say, however, that year-to-year changes are to be expected.
"The number will fluctuate per year depending on the mission and needs of the Marine Corps," wrote Capt. Frederick Monday, the head of regular officer programs at Marine Corps Recruiting Command, in email responses to questions from Marine Corps Times.
It is not yet clear if selection rates will pick up at the next two boards to close the gap. But, to match last year, between 43 and 44 Marines would have to be selected at this year's two remaining boards.
Officials are expecting an uptick, they say.
"Due to the wide dissemination of the program's opportunity to obtain a degree and commission, we can anticipate an increase in application submissions," wrote Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Shelato, a MCRC public affairs officer.
MECEP, and other similar enlisted-to-officer programs, are highly competitive. Only a handful of enlisted Marines are selected each year to attend the 10-week Officer Candidates Course, where their physical and mental toughness is tested, as well as their ability to lead. If they pass the course, the Corps then pays them full wages while they attend school full time to earn a bachelor's degree.
Male Marines selected at the first board will attend OCC 212, slated to begin Feb. 12, according to Marine administrative message 662/12, which announced the results of the board on Nov. 20. Female Marines will attend OCC 213 on a date that has yet to be determined.
Of the 28 Marines selected at the first board, 24 will attend MECEP. Three will attend the Enlisted to Officer Commissioning Program, or ECP. That program is for those who already have some limited college credit under their belt, but not a full degree. Another Marine was chosen for the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program. While those programs target different populations, successful completion of any of them results in an officer's commission.