Military Question: Commissioned vs. Enlisted

Monty, digging through the Army TOE (Table of Organization and Equipment) pages, I find that, for instance, the assigned strength of a AH64 (attack helo) batallion is 25 Com, 45 WO, 106 NCO, 162 EM; of a CH46 (heavy cargo) is 47 com, 88WO, 290NCO, 387 EM; and so on and so forth. Since the Commissioneds are the actual unit commanders and are likely to be also in non-flight administrative positions, it’s reasonable to assume the operational flying billets are heavy with WOs

This page is the specific TOE for a AH64 Apache Company:
And for a Blackhawk Company:
You can see that the overwhelming majority of the assigned billets for pilots/safety officers/ops officers call for W2/W3. I believe we may safely extrapolate that a majority of actual day-in-day-out fliers are WOs.

This of course only applies to RWAs. I’ve found nothing for the Army’s FWAs, but they’re but a relative handful anyway.

OK, found something on the PERSCOM site: FWAs are also a mix with CWOs, the “heaviest” things they fly are the C20 (Gulfstream exec jets) and RC7 (DHC Dash-7 commuter airliner), and they’re mostly staffed from reserve.

Thanks for all the responses, everyone. I think I’ve got a handle on what the essence of a commission is, now.

But I’m still not quite clear on the alternate ways of getting commissioned that don’t involve having a bachelor’s degree.

Someone above said that such people may have been grandfathered in from different requirements. But I don’t know if that can explain all 6% of Active Duty officers (almost 13,000 as of late 1998). That seems like an awful lot of people.

If they were grandfathered, than there used to be different requirements. If that’s the case, what were those requirements?

If that doesn’t explain all 6%, and I wager that it doesn’t, what is the alternate route to a commission? In this thread and the ones just posted above, it’s been mentioned a few times that a degree is a mandatory requirement. But I’m not seeing any explanation for the apparent exceptions.

Perhaps it’s reasonable to assume that, JRDelerious; however, that’s an assumption. I’m curious as to the fact (which was asserted as a fact above, not an assumption).

Well, in addition to a direct field commission, according to this military careers site, it says, “Enlisted soldiers and warrant officers must have 60 hours of college before applying for OCS. Civilian applicants must have a bachelor’s degree.” That’s for Army OCS.

It doesn’t say that the enlisted and the warrant officers need to comlpete their schooling, so maybe the 6% is comprised of individuals who never finished (in addition to the grandfathered and direct’s).

That’s right. In at least one other field that I know of, they are the head of each Army Band unit (Bandmasters).

RE the OP: In the U.S. Army, unless something has changed since I was a reluctant part of it, the ranks of Officers and Enlisted are separate, like separate tracks. You may rise from the lowest Private to the highest Sergeant, but you still rank below, and must salute, the lowest, newest, greenest, 2nd Lieutenant. But the 2nd Looey can be promoted to any of the Officer ranks: Captain, Major, Colonel, up to the highest General.

And the only way to cross the Enlisted/Officer “barrier” is to accept a commission, which normally is done by attending and passing OCS - Officer’s Candidate School. Normally, a college degree is required, but this has been relaxed when more applicants are needed, like during wartime.

Just having a college degree doesn’t confer anything automatically in rank or pay; you must apply to OCS to take advantage of it.

Army Warrant Officers are a hybrid – four levels, classed as officers for all practical purposes.

I seem to recall, no cite handy, that the U.S. Miltary has offered commissions and an instant high officer rank to certain persons who they strongly desire to recruit, that is, a person who has distinguished himself in a particular field. This makes military service more attractive to an expert who might not want to put up with 6 months of OCS just to reach the lowest officer pay and rank.

Somewhat in the way colleges confer honorary degrees on celebrities, or even allow teaching by experts who wouldn’t otherwise qualify to teach, but are too valuable by virtue of particular experience to be ignored.

Someone with a law degree entering the JAG Corps starts as a 1st Lt and quickly becomes a Captain. Those with medical degrees get to start off at the rank of Captain.


That’s not exactly true. You technically can not call aa warrant officer with a commission a Commissioned Officer.

Musicat: There are five paygrades for Warrant Officer.

X-ray vision: No, it is exactly true. The Navy’s Chief Warrants accept commissions; however, their paygrades (distinct from their rank) are warrant paygrades. Feel free to peruse the Navy’s instructions available from for verification.

CW5 (Master Warrant) was added within the last 10 years.

Monty, I didn’t say that CWOs don’t have commissions; I said that it is incorrect to call a warrant officer a commissioned officer. A commissioned warrant officer yes, but not a commissioned officer. I spent quite a bit of time in Fort Rucker Alabama around a lot of CWOs, and they are never to be referred to as commissioned officers. Commissioned officers are 01 through O10. I don’t see where your link says otherwise.

Monty: the Army’s Aviation Personnel Proponency, a page maintained by the Army Av Center at Ft. Rucker, includes within it (can’t link from outside) the Aviation WO Career Handbook where in section I-D it states that “AWOs command approcimately 80 percent of aircraft cockpits”.

Seems official, now.

That 6% figure may refer to the fact that during war times, the requirements for being a college graduate may be relaxed. I know a HS dropout who managed to get a commission and become a naval pilot during the Korean war. He eventually ended up getting a PhD in mathematics without having a HS diploma or having ever taken undergraduate courses.

Maybe during the Viet Nam war they were a lot less demanding than nowadays.

I believe Vandal had it right. A Bachelor’s degree is not required for OCS. A OCS graduate once told be that he had four years after his OCS graduation to get his Bachelor’s. I’m not sure what the penalty was, but it certainly included not being promoted to Captain.

Even right now, if you’re moving upward from the enlisted ranks, you’re not always required a Bachelor’s degree prior to commissioning (sometimes depends on the specialty in which you’ll go) – IIRC this is more frequent in the Navy/Marines (specially with what they call LDOs - Limited duty Officers – and Monty may be able to tell us more about this) and rarest (or nonexistent) in USAF.