This was originally published March 22nd, 2017 in The Belle Banner in Belle, Missouri. It was written to the local audience, but the program is nationwide. This is how an intelligent young person with zero resources can get a great jump start on life.
Last week I talked about Army Scholarships, this week the same theme but maybe even better.
If you graduate from high school and want to go to college, but don’t have the money, don’t think you can come up with enough scholarships, and don’t want to go way, way in debt to pay for it, here’s how, if you don’t mind joining the US Army Reserves or the Missouri Army National Guard. When you graduate from college, you are commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army, and you spend six years as an officer in the guard or three years active regular army then five years guard/reserve.
It is called the Simultaneous Membership Program, or SMP. You are in the US Army Reserves or the Missouri National Guard and in Army ROTC at college. You can do it in the Army Reserves, but the Missouri Guard doubles the tuition assistance. First you talk an Army recruiter or to an Army or a Missouri Army National Guard (MOANG) recruiter. You tell him or her that you want to get into the simultaneous membership program. The recruiter will probably send you to a unit commander, because in the guard and the reserve you enlist for a specific job in a unit, plus the commander has to accept you in the SMP program. You should also talk to the ROTC department at the college you want to attend. At MS&T you should talk to Mr. Chad Pense, who is also Lieutenant Colonel Pense in the US Army Reserves. He is the Assistant Professor of Military Science and the point of contact for SMP and scholarship candidates. He is at 573-341-6808, firstname.lastname@example.org. There is still a “split option” program where you can go to basic training between your junior and senior years of high school, then attend AIT (Advanced Individual Training), i.e., MOS (Military Occupational Specialty, i.e.,job) training after graduating. I do not recommend that. Many say they get out of shape and forget things between basic and AIT. I recommend graduating from high school then attending basic and AIT. That is no different than enlisting in the regular army. ASVAB tests, physicals, physical assessment, background checks and MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station). Except in this case, after AIT you get to come home take off the uniform and start school, which would probably be the spring semester instead of the fall semester. You will attend MOANG/Reserve drill one weekend per month. Drill pay for a Private E1 is $208.00 per month. The Federal tuition assistance and the MOANG tuition assistance will pay your full tuition and fees. Plus, having completed basic and AIT qualifies you for the Montgomery GI bill (MGIB), which pays $356.00 per month to a full time student.
The actual SMP program starts when you are an academic sophomore and have only three years left to graduate. At that time you sign an ROTC contract. Up until that time your guard/reserve duties took priority, at that point ROTC takes priority over your unit, and when you drill with your unit, you will drill as an officer trainee, and you will be paid at the rate of a Sergeant E5 at $297.00 per month, and you are non-deployable. Plus ROTC pays you $350.00 per month your sophomore year, $450.00 to juniors, and $500.00 to seniors. Plus if you were able to enlist for a critical MOS (job) and scored high enough on the ASVAB, which qualified you for a “GI Bill kicker” (ask the MOANG/Army recruiter and unit commander), you get another $350.00 per month. If you’ve been counting that’s $1,353.00 per month you are collecting, plus your tuition and fees are paid.
If you score high enough on the ASVAB, and are able to contract for a specialty that qualifies for the “GI Bill kicker”, it is worth $350 per month. However, what skill you learn is only of value to your unit that first year, because when you contract with ROTC, as an SMP student you become an officer trainee, which usually means you will be paired with a lieutenant during drills. Basic training would probably be at Fort Leonard Wood, which would be 10 weeks. AIT length varies with the job skill. Combat Engineers, MOS 12B, and Bridge Crewmembers, MOS 12C are 15 weeks in one company at Fort Leonard Wood. Those are OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies. Military Police, MOS 31B is 21 weeks in an OSUT company at Fort Leonard Wood. Other AIT’s at Fort Leonard Wood are; Horizontal Construction Engineer, MOS 12N, 9 weeks, Interior Electrician, MOS 12R 6 weeks, Technical Engineering Specialist, MOS 12T 15 weeks, Geospatial Engineering, MOS 12Y 18 weeks, Corrections Specialist, MOS 31E 8 weeks, Chemical Operations Specialist, MOS 74D 10 weeks, Motor Transport Operator (truck driver), MOS 88M 7 weeks, and Construction Equipment Repairer, MOS 91L 8 weeks. Other AIT’s are at different posts around the country. Basic and AIT would keep you in training around four to six months, and you would be taking home around $1,200 per month, while in training.
Fort Leonard Wood is the Army’s Maneuver Support Center. It is the center and school for Corps of Engineers, Chemical Corps, and Military Police. If you are in any of those three branches, enlisted or officer, your initial schooling and subsequent advanced schooling is at Fort Leonard Wood. If you get any of those three fields, your basic and AIT will be at Fort Leonard Wood, plus when you are commissioned upon graduating from college and ROTC your Basic Officer Leadership Course will be at Fort Leonard Wood. Officers are promoted to Captain at about four years time in service. New Captains are reassigned to their school for a six months Captains Career Course. For the above branches, that is Fort Leonard Wood.
MOANG/Reserve units are all over the state, there are some units in Jefferson City, a couple small detachments in Rolla, and some at Fort Leonard Wood. If you were lucky enough to get a position in one of those locations, travel to monthly weekend drill would be fairly short. Plus you would probably attend two week summer training before you contract with ROTC. Many MOANG/Reserve units are as professional regular army units. MOANG/Reserve units have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and performed alongside regular army units. The former weatherman at KRCG Channel 13, Mike Roberts, spent a year as a combat engineer platoon leader, with the Missouri Army National Guard, clearing IED’s in Iraq. He is now Major Mike Roberts, an administrative officer with the guard.
However, you are not married to the National Guard, when you graduate from college. When you are commissioned a Second Lieutenant, you may request that you stay with the guard or you may go on active duty with the regular army, or go to the US Army Reserves. You are a commissioned officer available to the United States Army.