The Corps officials wants to boost a 20-percent increase in the number of enlisted Marines who become commissioned officers in fiscal 2016, giving noncommissioned officers their which makes this the best shot chance in years for you to pin on butter bars.

Marine Corps Recruiting Command is on the hunt for enlisted troops to take their experience to the officer corps. While the available slots for mustangs were on the decline during the drawdown, enlisted-to-officer programs are ramping back up.

Roughly 120 An average of 111 enlisted Marines were selected for officer programs in each of the past three two years. Only 65 made the cut in 2013.

But tThis year, MCRC wants ’s goal is 150 mustangs split evenly between two programs: the Enlisted Commissioning Program and is for Marines who already had or have completed their college degree, while the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program pays you to finish your degree program. The ECP is for Marines with a college degree, while MECEP pays enlisted Marines to finish their degrees. 

While the opportunity to go mustang is on the rise, not enough Marines are applying to fill the spots — Here’s the kicker: Though the Corps has an increased the number of officer seats available to enlisted Marines, it is not receiving enough applications to fill the spots, especially for ECP, said Lt. Col. Matthew Kessler, the head of MCRC's officer programs.

"We really don't know why, but we believe it is somewhat a lack of awareness of the program," he said Lt. Col. Matthew Kessler, head of officer programs at Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

The drawdown was particularly hard on ECP, Kessler added said. Unlike MECEP, which allows Marines to be placed in different year groups based on the amount of college credits they bring to the table, Marines selected for ECP complete Officer Candidates School in the same year. When cutbacks occur, there is no way to shuffle the numbers. As a result, selections rates dropped. From from the mid 70s to only 22 percent from 2012 through 2014, when only 51 Marines were able to advance.

Officials now want at least 110 packages from which they will select 90 Marines for ECP, with the expectation that 75 will make the grade (OCS’ attrition rate traditionally runs in double digits). Enlisted-to-officer boards have accepted 37 of 39 ECP applicants to date, and 50 of 64 MECEP applicants ions. , held last month, saw 19 of 21 selected for ECP, and 31 selected for MECEP. The final board meets will be  on March 7.

Kessler’s advice is simple: Take a shot. Though selections are competitive, 70 percent of qualified ECP applicants made the cut last year. For MECEP, 88 of 118 applicants — or 75 percent — were selected last year. For Either way, a sergeant, that puts the odds of  has a far better chance of making second lieutenant above making than staff sergeant.

"We know there is an immense amount of talent in our enlisted ranks," Kessler he said. "...We would be remiss if we didn't look there for our future leaders. We know they are inclined to serve, they already know what it means to be a Marine, and they have seen what it takes. We’re open, and we want to see more applications."

The benefits 

With a commission comes many perks such as better pay, the chance to finish college — and fewer back-breaking working parties.

For example, a prior- eviously enlisted second lieutenant makes about $1,100 $1,111.50 more in monthly base pay than a sergeant with more than over four years of service. When adding in benefits like , and that does not include hundreds more for housing, incentives, and special pays. Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence, and the tax advantage of those tax-free allowances is added in, the second lieutenants can pull in about $15,000 more annually than a  pulls in $73,798 annually, which $15,079 more than the sergeant.

If you are looking to make the Corps a career, consider this: A lieutenant colonel who retires at 20 brings in $4,038 253 monthly — nearly 50 percent more than the sergeant major who gets $2,662 865 in monthly retirement after 20 years.

Marine officials want The Corps likes 10 percent of the Corps' its new officers to come from enlisted ranks. Often called "mustangs," tThese leaders often bring with them a host of unique perspective and experience from their years serving in the enlisted ranks.

A Marine supervises from the center of The Basic School permanent personnel battalion during a 10-mile hike aboard the westside of Marine Corps Base Quantico on June 28, 2013. The hike was the first hike The Basic School has done for regimental physical training in the last 3 years.
A Marine supervises from the center of The Basic School permanent personnel battalion during a 10-mile hike aboard the westside of Marine Corps Base Quantico on June 28, 2013. The hike was the first hike The Basic School has done for regimental physical training in the last 3 years.

A Marine supervises from the center of The Basic School permanent personnel battalion during a 10-mile hike aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Marine officials want 10 percent of its officer corps to come from the enlisted ranks.

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Cuong Le/Marine Corps

Those numbers dwindled amid a personnel drawdown over the past four years, but that has ended and recruiting officials are on the hunt.

"I loved being an enlisted Marine," said Maj. Armando Daviu, who is a foreign area officer and public affairs officer for Marine Corps Forces South. "I was an infantry staff sergeant and I was very happy."

However, Daviu knew that his career goals would require a college degree. In addition, he saw that strategic planning sometimes lacked the practical perspective of a front-line fighter. For him, MECEP was a way to help him and his Corps.

Daviu had 10 years in uniform and needed an age waiver to get in the program. He was commissioned in 2004 after earning a degree in international relations from University of California, Los Angeles UCLA.

"If you are an enlisted Marine and you are in love with your particular job, then don't go the officer route," he said. "You are probably not going to get to stay in the same job your whole career as an officer. But if you want to lead Marines, you want to be an officer. Your experience will greatly benefit your leaders as well as those you lead."

Maj Bill Hennessy, staff judge advocate for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, already had his bachelors and law degrees when he enlisted. His recruiter, career planner, and executive officer were quick to point him toward OCS, but Hennessy "needed to scratch the itch to experience life as an enlisted Marine first." It was something he yearned to do, inspired by books recounting the tales of World War II and Vietnam Marines.

Hennessy put in for ECP during his first enlistment, and found that having been an enlisted Marine "made OCS infinitely more easy" and an enjoyable experience.

"There was no shock, for instance, when the sergeant instructors started with the yelling — been there, done that," he said. "The only real shock was when the yelling actually tapered off after the first day, unlike boot camp. Actually getting [liberty] every Saturday and Sunday was mind blowingly nice compared to boot camp. And knowing I was going to be commissioned in just a few short months, jumping from corporal to second lieutenant, was extremely motivating the entire time."

He also noted that "Quantico is much more scenic than Parris Island."

For Marines physically and mentally ready for the increased responsibility and broader horizons, his recommendation was simple: "Submit your ECP package immediately."

"The talent that they bring and their relevancy is invaluable," Kessler said. "They've had the opportunity to serve in the operating forces or different billets throughout the Marine Corps. They've had the opportunity to go to complete boot camp, and have performed well in the fleet. Having that in the officer corps, and exposing other commissioning sources to that experience, is very valuable for us." MOVED DOWN // LMB

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Lance, we need to build out this section a bit. Let's also talk to a guy or two who has made the switch and see why they decided to go officer. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX QUERIES ARE OUT

Earning a commission 

The two programs that allow enlisted Marines to pin on an officer rank have different requirements.

The Enlisted Commissioning Program is for devil dogs who have a four-year degree from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university. Selectees are assigned to Officer Candidates School an OCS class, and are commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation.

Marines applying for the ECP An applicant must be a U.S. citizen with the rank of lance corporal or higher with at least one year of active service, and at least one year remaining on the current enlistment or an extension from the date of the selection board. Candidates must be at least 20 years old, but less than 30, but some Marines under 35 are eligible to receive a waiver. which is waiverable up to 35).

Active Reserve Marines must be approved for augmentation into the regular Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program is for sergeants and above who are looking to finish a bachelor's degree and earn a commission.

Selectees must first complete the 10-week OCS course, which is a recent change. This prevents the Corps from investing in a Marine's degree only to see them wash out of for years to see a Marine get a degree, only to flunk out at OCS).

A Marine officer candidate maneuvers across a horizontal rope at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Enlisted-to-officer programs take into account the washout rate at Officer Candidates School.

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos/Marine Corps

Upon completion of OCS, the Marine attends a university or college with a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps NROTC program. The Marine Corps does not pay for books or tuition, but the GI Bill will cover most costs.

The Marines will, however, maintain active-duty status and pay throughout their his or her time at school, and are then be commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduating. It is a worthy investment, in Kessler’s view.

"The talent that they bring and their relevancy is invaluable," Kessler said. "They've had the opportunity to serve in the operating forces or different billets throughout the Marine Corps. They've had the opportunity to go to complete boot camp, and have performed well in the fleet. Having that in the officer corps, and exposing other commissioning sources to that experience, is very valuable for us." PASTED FROM ABOVE // LMB

XXXXXXXXXXXX Lance, I moved his quote up about what prior-enlisted officers bring to the table. Did he say anything else about this programs that we can plug in here? XXXXXXXXX

Capt. Patrick McCormick, an infantry officer with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, gives Alpha Company a safety brief before they conduct a company sized combined-arms attack on range SR9 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 24, 2015. The training was a culminating event for Alpha Company to prepare them for an upcoming integrated training exercise in Twentynine Palms, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James/Released)
Capt. Patrick McCormick, an infantry officer with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, gives Alpha Company a safety brief before they conduct a company sized combined-arms attack on range SR9 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 24, 2015. The training was a culminating event for Alpha Company to prepare them for an upcoming integrated training exercise in Twentynine Palms, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James/Released)

Capt. Patrick McCormick, an infantry officer with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, gives safety brief to members of his unit. Marine officials say prior-enlisted officers bring unique experiences and skills to the officer corps.

Photo Credit: Cpl. Krista James/Marine Corps

Marines must be U.S. or naturalized citizens at the rank of sergeant or above with at least three years of active service. Candidates must be at least 20 years old, but less than 30. Like the ECP, there are waivers for some Marines between 30 and 35 years old. which is waiverable up to 35).

They must also He must have a minimum 225 physical fitness test score and 270 combat fitness test score. Active Reserve Marines must be approved for augmentation into the regular Marine Corps.

Academic requirements for both programs include the following minimum scores: 74 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test; 1,000 (math and critical reading only) on the SAT; and a composite score of 22 on the ACT. In addition. MECEP applicants must have at least 12 college credits, to include three in math or science, three in English, and six in any elective. College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript (SMART) credits and credits earned in high school do not count toward this requirement.

The Marine will have a four-year service commitment upon commission in either program.

For more information and details on how to apply, check out recruiting command's website at www.mcrc.marines.mil.