From green to gold
The longevity of a service member's career is a complicated equation. Perhaps even more so for the enlisted track, which boasts more active-duty soldiers than the Officer Corps. Joining the leadership ranks without foregoing pay or benefits is the secret weapon of candidates who pursue the Green to Gold Active Duty Program — a two-year program providing eligible, active-duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree or a two-year graduate degree and earn a commission as an Army officer.
The question of what's next can often stem from frustration with career plateau or restrictions within a particular MOS, leading many to answer the unknown by leaving the military. What is known is that experienced, confident soldiers make influential leaders — an important characteristic of any officer. The Army also needs people at the helm who can take charge in any scenario, regardless of the circumstances.
Army officers are often put under extreme stress with enormous responsibilities and expectations. Non-commissioned officers are naturally adept to meeting these challenges head on. Skillsets acquired through combat, field maneuvers or operations, plus professional development add unparalleled insight to the success of mission planning that officers are responsible for.
Sgt. First Class Adam Cain with his family.
"I joined the Army straight out of high school. I'm not the same soldier that I was back then, and I wanted my career to reflect that maturation," Sgt. First Class Adam Cain, current Green to Gold cadet, said about his reasons for joining the program.
Advanced training, schools and two combat deployments kept Cain searching for the next level of success within his service.
"This is me staying competitive and making a tangible impact, while taking into consideration the quality of life for my family," Cain said.
Completing a degree means potential candidates need to begin earning credits well before application.
"The Army wants the best, and becoming the best requires a dedication to this choice, the selection process, and the development of yourself," Army Staff Sgt. Elijah Redmond, current applicant hopeful, said.
Utilizing programs like tuition assistance — a free option to earn college credits without utilizing the G.I. Bill benefits, is just one possibility to become a more attractive candidate before completing an application packet.
The Army offers four different options within the program. The active duty option, which is discussed here, is a highly–competitive process, with the biggest perk being soldiers remain on active–duty pay and with full benefits throughout the duration of their college studies.
Both the university and the Army will pass its own independent decisions on accepting applicants.
"Staying hopeful, hungry, and positive is important," Redmond, who was at the second of two phases of the process at the time of this interview, said. The two-phase process takes an in–depth look into GPA, GT scores, PT score, medical history and more.
Do prior enlisted officers hold the potential to advance companies faster, and with better operational knowledge than their peers?
"Coming into this new role, I will be highly aware of the role my words, actions, and decisions will play in the goal of creating soldiers," Cain, who experienced firsthand how toxic and unaware leadership affects morale, explained.
"What we (prior enlisted) bring to this side of leading, is a comprehensive look at all working components of a unit," Redmond said. He hopes to gain commission within his current MOS field: military police.
The Army invests millions in training a soldier into the precise and highly–capable person he or she is destined to become. Soldiers like Cain and Redmond understand that value and are looking for the best ways to utilize their skillsets with maximum impact. The beneficiaries of trained leaders are no doubt the company, soldiers, and missions which fall under their command. Not having to teach the nuances of Army life means skipping ahead to the more important details, diving deeper into development, and achieving a higher success rate overall.
While the selection process may appear overwhelming, both applicants and the Army information page recommend checking out the Green to Gold Facebook page, which is regularly updated with helpful tips and information at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Government-Organization/US-Army-Cadet-Command-Green-to-Gold-Program-300473013696291/.