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80115 Views 28 Replies Latest reply: Sep 30, 2012 8:48 AM by MAOakley RSS 1 2 Previous Next
User 15 posts since
Sep 22, 2012
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Sep 22, 2012 9:00 PM

Army Officer vs Marine Corps Officer and associated family life and self-development opportunity

I am seeking advice from someone who has experience in the military, preferably as an officer. Currently I am attempting to become an officer in the military.  I am married and have children, so this is an uphill battle, although I have the support of my family.  It will be difficult but we are preparing ourselves for the rigors of military life.


My questions are related to my choice of branch and the quality of family life and professional development that comes with it.  Currently, based on my interests and the availability of job openings, I have narrowed my selection down to the MarineCorps and the Army.  I am looking into the following job selections:


  1. Aviation
  2. Corps of Engineers
  3. Intelligence
  4. Infantry - with option to transition into a career with special operations should I gothis route 
  5. Signal


Both the Marine Corps and the Army offer these career fields to me.  I want to know which of these two branches will offer the greatest opportunity to excel and gain vital leadership skills.  I want to work alongside professional and highly motivated individuals and I want my family to be affiliated with a branch that will help take care of them should something bad happen to me. 


I am seeking advice from people who have “been there.”  I am lacking the direct experience that would help me pin down a final course of action that will benefit my self-developmentand my family-development.  Someone who has served in both branches should have particularly good insights. 


Between the MarineCorps and Army, who

  1. Offers the greatest leadership development (at the officer level)
  2. Offers the most support for the family unit
  3. Offers the greatest opportunity for promotion based on merit and skill
  4. Has the shortest average deployment time (something I need to consider when raising a family; however when duty calls...)
  5. Generally has hard working individuals in the mos fields I provided
  6. Who offers the greatest opportunity for continued education?  I would like to pursue additional certificates and degrees.


I am not looking for someone to hold my hand here, but I am looking for the voice of experience to help me make the most informed decision for myself and my family.  Thank you to all who can offer assistance.   

  • MAOakley ArmySoldier 12,245 posts since
    Jun 9, 2009
    1. Both offer great leadership development. I have never been a Marine Officer, so I can't really compare. I will say that we have a lot more diversity in our careers than our Marine bretheren. This can be vital in developing a leader who can function across many levels. I also like that we have many opportunities to go into Functional Areas or pursue programs that will put us through some top level graduate education. I would assume that the USMC has a few similar programs, but I doubt that have as many or those that have the scope that ours do.
    2. I would say this is about even. A lot of this falls on the unit. I have a few Marine friends and they seem to enjoy a very similar lifestyle to Army Officers.
    3. I would go with the Army here. We have a larger force and our assignments can vary greatly over a career. We have many branches that have a need for more Captains, Majors, and Lieutenant Colonels than they need Lieutenants. This can open some huge doors.
    4. The Army is working to shorten deployments to 9 months, which will be the same as most Marine units. With the OPTEMPO slowing a bit, many units are not deployming as frequently. I will say, at the height of both wars.....the Marines seemed to deploy more frequently.
    5. It is about even here too. Both are going to have rockstars and both are going to have the bottom of the barrel.
    6. I have not looked at the USMC for this, but the Army has incredible opportunities for this. There are many programs that will help a Soldier pursue graduate education. Some are branch-specific. Some are in conjunction with a Functional Area. Some are meant for all Officers. There are even programs for Officers to pursue legal, nursing and PA education if they wish. We have a prorgram will send Officers to Harvard for a degree. I am working on a MBA right now and will pursue an Engineering degree at the Army's expense during CCC.


    Another consideration: In the Army, we have opportunities to attend schools that the Marines drool over. Some of these are: Sapper, Ranger, Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder, Dive, and many other courses that Marines rarely get the opportunity to attend.


    As far as the branches you are interested in:

    1. Aviation: The Marines can guarantee you this option, the Army can not. Primarily, we have rotary wing aviation
    2. Engineers: We have MUCH, MUCH more Engineering assets than the Corps. Over a career and Engineer Officer can see some incredible opportunities. If you have questions....ask! I am an Engineer Officer. I love this branch.
    3. Intel: We have a lot more Intel too.
    4. Infantry: We have more and this branch is serious. It is the cream of the crop and one of the most competitive branches to get into. Almost every Infantry Officer will go to Airborne and Ranger immediately after IBOLC. I will address Spec Ops below.
    5. Signal: Once again, we have a lot more of these officers....and two Functional Areas associated with the branch that any officer can apply for. There are huge opportunities for development as a Signal Officer.
    6. Special Ops: The Marines have MARSOC. We have Special Forces, Rangers, AWG, the 160th SOAR, CA/MISO, NWG, and a few others. If you want Spec Ops....the Army is definitely the place to be....we have a variety of opportunities that can provide a great opportunity for all types of Soldiers based on their talents and motivation. If Spec Ops is a goal, you can do it from any branch and we have the most opportunity for it.


    If you have any questions....feel free to ask.

  • jcleppe User 1,596 posts since
    Dec 10, 2007

    If you don't mind that I'm a prior service officer from a different branch, I'll chime in.


    I think you'll find that the overall responsibility of an officer will be similar between all the services, it's the mission that will be different.


    I assume that you are talking about OCS.


    In the Army OCS you will be on an OML (Order of Merit List) The higher you are on the list the better chance you have at getting the branch you want, but in the end it comes down to the needs of the Army in the selection process.


    I noticed you put Aviation first on your list. If this is your first choice you might consider Warrant Officer Flight Training for the Army. You can apply as a civilian for the program. In the Army Warrants will fly further into their career as apposed to commissioned officers who at a point will be in more staff positions.


    Infantry is another branch that is harder to get. Intel would be next, then engineers, Signal would be much easier to get.


    You will get great leadership skills from either branch. As far as taking care of your family,all the branches are equal in this regard in my opinion.


    Each service has great support for families.


    As far as promotion you touched on the key words....merit and skill, you'll need that in either service. If I had to choose I would say the Army may have the edge.


    Deployments depend on what is going on in the world, if you are a Marine Aviator you could find yourself at sea on a carrier. If your an Army aviator and there is no deployment in your future you will not be gone as much. Time away will depend on your branch within the service and the mission they have at the time. There is no way to predetermine how long you might be away.


    Both services have some of the hardest working individuals.


    I would probably say the Army has the edge when it comes to continuing education, though I came to learn that if you ask for it, they tend to do what they can to accomidate you no matter which service.


    I know a lot of the answers were a bit vague but realize that first and foremost your looking to be an officer in the US Military, you just need to decide which mission you want to pursue.

  • jcleppe User 1,596 posts since
    Dec 10, 2007



    You should laminate that last post.

  • MAOakley ArmySoldier 12,245 posts since
    Jun 9, 2009

    That was the short version! I could have started making some crazy lists and flowcharts to really show how great our careers can be!

  • jcleppe User 1,596 posts since
    Dec 10, 2007

    Don't forget Power Points....Your going to love those at BOLC, though I'm sure you've had your share.

  • MAOakley ArmySoldier 12,245 posts since
    Jun 9, 2009
    1. There are options to further your engineer education. This can range from certifications to graduate degrees. GIS is a very hot field right now for the Army. Most of the surveyors and AutoCAD users are enlisted, but this does not stop an Officer from furthering their education in these fields. I would not stress education in the Army at me when I say that there are more than ample opportunities. Often, the only limitation is you.
    2. Dive is an option. It's hard to get, but very much an option. The Army actually have an Engineer specific dive course. What makes it so hard to get is that there are very few dive units. Sapper or Ranger may be an option straight out of Engineer BOLC or from your unit. My unit expects me to go to's just a matter of time. Many are able to earn slots during BOLC by attending additional PT and getting solid grades in their courses. Airborne and Air Assault are also fairly common out of EBOLC. Engineer Officers may also see courses like Engineer Ordnance Clearing Agent, Route Recon and Clearance Course, other advanced Engineering schools(numerous), and a number of other course like Unit Movement, etc. As an Officer, I would expect a shot at Sapper if you want it. Sometimes it takes a little patience.
    3. For Engineers...this is varied to say the least. We have Sapper units, Clearance units, MAC's, Vertical Construction, Horizontal Construction, Survey, Geospatial, Facilities we can be assigned to many different staff-type positions. This means that our daily life, field time and deployments can vary from really exciting missions involving a lot of demo to vital staff jobs which keep the Army moving and working. The Engineer branch is so diverse and an Engineer Officer can be assigned to lead any type of Engineer unit. That is a major advantage for us. It is hard to get bored, when you have such a diverse career.
    4. Any Officer can attend SFAS, regardless of branch, provided that they meet the basic eligibility requirements. Frankly, I think that being an Engineer sets an Officer up for a successful career in SF. Most would say that Infantry or Armor/Cav is best. I disagree. We are trained on most of the same tasks that Infantry Officers are. We also are taught how to plan and lead complex missions that may involve many different elements and a lot of interunit work. We also are the branch that catches the most diverse mission set. Due to this, Engineer Officers often are used to working through highly complex mission sets that require a strong command of maneuver warfare and Engineering doctrine. This ability to think and work in a combat role should prove to be greatly helpful in pursuing Special Forces. I am confident that IF I decide to pursue SF(I want to, but I am getting a bit old), my training and experience as an Engineer will be a great asset...even when compared to my Infantry and other branch peers. Engineers can also work in SF Support roles as 2LT's!
    5. I am going to answer the BOLC question you posed to jcleppe.....There are two types of BOLCs: BOLC A and BOLC B. BOLC A is your commissioning your case it is more likely that this will be OCS. BOLC B is branch specific. This is where you will learn the basic aspects of your assigned branch. Your training would go like this if you went through OCS:
    • BCT: this is where the Army differs greatly from the USMC. We send all OCS candidates that are NOT prior service through BCT. This permits our OCS to be a leadership development and assessment school and not have to focus on training candidates on the basic Soldiering skills expected of every Soldier in the Army.
    • OCS
    • Branch BOLC: This will be where you will learn the basics of your selected branch. For Engineers, we will spend time learning everything from demo, to bridging, to vertical construction, to geospatial, to horizontal construction, to mission planning, etc. The Marines will send many of their Officers through Army BOLC for certain branches: Armor and Field Artillery come to mind.
    • Any follow-on training: This may be an earned slot or a required slot based on branch and/or assignment. Infantry will go to Airborne and Ranger(more than likely). An Engineer heading to a Clearance Company, may go to R2C2. Orndance Officers may go to EOD school if they volunteer. An Engineer Officer may go to Sapper School for being near the top of their class. A Chemical Officer heading to a Recon unit may attend Stryker Recon school.
    • Assignment to a unit
    • Any training required by the unit: Air Assault if assigned to the 101st Airborne, Sapper if assigned to mine(and the BN finds us freakin slots), Bradley Leaders course for Officers assigned to a Brad unit

  and education should NOT be a concern if you are coming Army...nor should Special Operations. These are all very distinctly possible if you want them. There are more than ample opportunities. I have zero worries. It's not something that very few get. It is something very openly promoted amongst Officers. I have permission from my Chain of Command to find as many courses as I can and network to find better opportunities to attend these courses(outside of waiting on the TEC to approve the request). I also am having no issue furthering my education. I have spoken with a recruiter from a Spec Ops unit THIS WEEK and have worked a plan to apply next year once I have met a specific requirement. None of this took me much effort. I am not begging for opportunities. I am asking what is possible and being given multiple options.

  • MAOakley ArmySoldier 12,245 posts since
    Jun 9, 2009 That has a lot of the Special Operations opportunities on it....BUT NO WHERE NEAR ALL


    On YouTube search the following terms:

    • Army OCS
    • EBOLC (for Engineer BOLC)
    • Engineer BOLC
    • BOLC (will bring up a lot of other branches so you can see)
    • IBOLC (for Infantry)
    • SFAS
    • Sapper School
    • Ranger School


    Unfortunately, the Army does not have a great comprehensive website like the USMC that is targetted at Officer Recruitment. There are portions of the website that do show the basics. Frankly, I think you can get a more candid view by reviewing YouTube. Most classes will post their videos on YouTube so that they can brag.

  • MAOakley ArmySoldier 12,245 posts since
    Jun 9, 2009

    Here is the one thing that seems to work for getting courses: Don't ask "Can I".....ask "What can I do to XXX" and if they say it's not possible, ask " what if I..." Often the knee-**** reaction is to say "no" but there are ways. Often you have to do a favor for them or you have to help them sell the idea to higher commands. My Commander likes to may get stuck going to Unit Movement Officer or something that is boring to negotiate for something fun. For our high-speed courses.....we basically show them that we deserve it more than other units by having high PT scores, and we do train-ups to show that we are ready and more likely to succeed when compared to Soldiers from other units. They are likely to send a Soldier that is a lower risk for failure to the tough courses. We show that we are the best selection because we have trained harder than the actual course standards. The Army hates to waste money and so far this approach is working well. In BOLC, you will get a briefing on what schools slots are possible and what it will take to go. Sometimes, you can work something out through your branch to attend some training. Trust me....there are always options. One caveat...don't expect to go to underwater basket-weaving if your unit can not substantiate the need to send may get lucky.....but if it is not related to your unit's mission or can not be sold as professional development; it is hard to get them to approve it. However, it never hurts to may get lucky. I may be able to head to underwater basket weaving despite the fact that my unit has no divers. It's going to take a bit of luck on my side...but I actually know whose door to knock on. Sometimes, you just get lucky.


    For your packet, I recommend:

    • Find people to write letters of recommendation that can quantify your leadership abilities. It's one thing for someone to say that you are a great leader. It's a whole other thing for them to say that you are a great leader that raised productivity by 23% and increased output by 12%. Numbers or examples of exceeding a standard will always set a stronger tone than pleasantries.
    • A good PT score really matters. Nothing under 250. 270+ should be your goal. You will find that there are Officers who score lower, but Candidates are going to be put through their paces. A higher PT score shows that you are ready for the task.
    • A good GPA....may be too late for this, but if your GPA is a bit ready to discuss this and convence them that despite this you are better than the guy who has the 4.0.
    • Wear a suit to your interview. No wild colors. Look for a conservative power tie. I like two color, diaganol striped ties that have very conservative but bold colors. I usually wear a dark grey suit, crisp white shirt and a power tie. It shows a certain traditional and conservative appearance that seems to really appeal to most corporate and government work


    For OCS success(for getting as high on the OML as possible)....note: I did not go to OCS....I was an in-service Direct Commissionee:

    • PT score can be HUGE
    • Study and get good grades
    • Lead by example and from the front
    • Admit when you make a mistake
    • delegate and follow up when you are in leadership
    • when in a leadership position, remember that your mission and your troops come before you
    • take care of your classmates
    • don't make excuses....even when you have a valid one
    • learn, learn, learn.
    • ask for help when you need it, but help others when they do
    • when getting evaluated during lanes, ask for further improvement points when they give you your grade
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