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ARLINGTON, Va. — For the first time, active-duty Marines can compete for a commission in the Select Marine Corps Reserve, officials said.

Also, the Select Reserve has reduced the required time in service for Marines who are eligible to apply for a commission from 36 months to 12 months as a draw for Marines whose contracts call for two years’ active-duty service, officials said.

The moves are intended to combat a shortage of junior company-grade officers in the Select Reserve, said Col. John Nicholson, a branch head at Reserve Affairs Division.

Nicholson explained that the Select Reserve’s primary source of officers are Marines leaving the active-duty force, but by that time, they are already senior second lieutenants or captains.

As a result, field-grade officers and staff noncommissioned officers often have to fill billets meant for company-grade officers, said Lt. Col. Hank Malanowski, a mobilized reservist now serving at the Pentagon.

Given the increased operations tempo for Reserve units, the Select Reserve needs more junior officers to serve as platoon commanders in Reserve units going into the fight, Nicholson said.

A soon-to-be-released MARADMIN (Marine Administrative Message) details which Marines are eligible and how they can apply for a commission in the Select Reserve.

Eligible Marines with bachelor’s degrees must be endorsed by their chain of command, while “highly qualified” Marines with an associate’s degree or 75 credits toward a bachelor’s degree must be nominated by their commanders, said Lt. Col. Francis Piccoli, a spokesman for Reserve Affairs.

Marines who are accepted into one of the programs listed in the MARADMIN must undergo a year of training at Officer Candidate School, Basic School and Military Occupational Specialties School, officials said.

The Select Reserve hopes to increase the number of Marines who become junior officers through those programs from between 10 and 15 per year to between 75 and 100 per year, Nicholson said.

But Piccoli stressed the Select Reserve is looking for quality, not quantity.

Retired Col. Bob Donaghue, who spent 16 years on active duty with the Marines and 12 years as a reservist, said the lack of junior officers in the Select Reserve requires a long-term fix.

“Small units, in my opinion, function best when they are led by an energetic, capable young lieutenant, male or female,” Donaghue said.

The Boston-area man said that traditional Marine Corps leadership design calls for infantry platoons to be headed up by junior officers.

“It goes back a long, long ways. It’s been tested in many wars, and we like it,” he said.

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