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ARLINGTON, Va. — Facing an urgent requirement to field an additional 300 second lieutenants in 2006, Army officials have decided to make it easier for nontraditional officer candidates to enter that career track.

Two-star generals now can sign waivers that would allow Officer Candidate School admission for NCOs who are older than 30 or who may have minor criminal or military offenses on their records, according to a memo sent to Army leaders on May 25.

Previously, all OCS waivers had to come from the Department of the Army itself, according to Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army personnel spokesman. Army leaders decided to delegate OCS waiver authority to lower levels in order “to speed the process” of admissions to OCS, Hilferty told Stripes.

But the May 25 memo did not change the waiver standards themselves, Hilferty noted.

The Army is allowed to grant age waivers to OCS candidates who are as old as 42, and to applicants who have “minor infractions” on their records, such as “a conviction for underage drinking that occurred prior to enlistment several years ago,” Hilferty said.

However, “felonies cannot be waived,” Hilferty said, and “drug offenses and sex offenses are not waived.”

“We look at the overall quality of the candidate, time elapsed since the incident, and demonstrated maturity of the candidate,” Hilferty said.

Speed is of the essence, Hilferty said. Instead of the 4,300 new officers Army officials originally thought they would need to produce in fiscal 2006, the real requirement is 4,600.

The additional 300 officers are necessary to support the Army’s ongoing addition of 30,000 troops to its ranks, which Congress mandated last spring in order to staff missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Only OCS, which lasts 96 days, is short enough to bring the additional leaders in a one-year window, Hilferty said.

To meet its immediate requirement for officers, the Army also is shifting the student load from ROTC programs and West Point to the officer school: Instead of the Army’s original goal of graduating 1,000 new officers from OCS next year, the new goal is 1,400.

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan making recruiting a challenge, Army officials hope streamlining the OCS waiver process will convince their battle-hardened NCO cadre to consider the officer ranks.

“The leadership and combat experience soldiers are receiving today in Iraq and Afghanistan are huge assets that we need to leverage as much as possible,” Hilferty said. “We think our great young NCOs would make great young officers.”

NCOs who are interested in taking advantage of the Army’s waiver streamlining program should act fast, because the program officially ends October 2006, according to the May 25 message.

For more details on the OCS waiver, go to MILPER message 05-129 at https://perscomnd04.army.mil/milpermsgs.nsf.


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