By Bradley Hood
Contributor, In Military Education
One of the best opportunities open to qualified Active Duty Enlisted Marines with an interest in pursuing a college education and a subsequent commission as an officer is the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program (MECEP). Along with the Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP), these two programs form the prior-enlisted options open to Active Marines, although those with an interest exclusively in a commission may attend PLC or the regular 10 week OCC covered in a previous post. Because MECEP offers the greatest opportunity for a Marine in terms of educational benefits, it is this program that I will focus on.
In brief, MECEP gives a Marine the opportunity to go to college as a full time student while retaining Active Duty pay and allowances. You are still responsible for tuition, and TA is not authorized, but between reduced tuition rates available and the GI Bill, you will be far more comfortable and able to focus on your studies than most college students working a side job (and I won’t even get into the advantages of discipline and experience that you have).
Like everything else in the Corps, MECEP is an extremely competitive opportunity, and the meeting the requirements for the program will not be sufficient. MECEP is not exclusively an educational benefit, it is the Marine Corps’ way of taking exceptional Marines of officer caliber, and giving them the opportunity to be one. In short, you can not just be a good Marine, or even just a Marine of officer caliber, you have to stand out from the group of outstanding Marines you are already in – essentially, you have to prove why the Marine Corps should PAY you to be a student. Even if you do not get selected for MECEP, if you have the desire to pursue a career as an officer, there are other ways to do so.
To qualify to apply, you must be at least a Corporal under 30 years old with three years time in service, and already have attained 12 college credits (3 Math, 3 English, and 6 from electives). You must also have at least a 74 AFQT, the qualifying score from your ASVAB, and not have previously failed any officer program. If you are selected, you will first attend the 10 week Officer Candidate Course, the form of OCS through which you will demonstrate that you possess the characteristics the Corps desires in an officer beyond the excellence you already demonstrated on paper.
If you make it through the selection process and OCS, you then are detached from your active duty unit, and sent to a school that possesses an NROTC unit which will become your POC at the school. While maintaining good academic standing and full time status, you will be retained in the program, paid your full active duty pay and allowances, and have few obligations other than to succeed in your classes and report to the NROTC unit as may be required. After graduating, you will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and be assigned to The Basic School (TBS) to begin your new career.
There are few opportunities which will pay you as well to be a college student, so if you are an active duty Marine with an interest in college (even if you have already started – 12 credits are required!) and a commission, I highly encourage you to seek information through your chain of command, or through your local Officer Selection Officer (OSO).
Bio: Bradley Hood is a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant in IRR status with 5 years of prior enlisted experience. He is a recent graduate of American Military University, and currently is working towards a Master’s degree in Military History through Norwich. Bradley lives with his beautiful wife in historic NJ.