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The United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard each operate their own officer candidate schools. An applicant for officer candidate school must have at least a four-year degree with strong academic performance. Additionally, an officer candidate must be of good moral character. As such, officer candidates must submit letters of character with their application packets. A letter of character reference should accurately reflect the writer's knowledge of the applicant. You want to address character traits necessary for a military officer when you write your reference letter to the officer candidate school.
A well-written reference letter can help make the difference when the board is looking at two candidates with roughly equal packages. But keep in mind, you should be comfortable with writing such a letter. Writing a letter for someone you don’t know may come off as too vague or general to help the candidate. So don’t be afraid to decline writing the letter if it doesn’t feel like a natural fit.
Keep it Brief
When composing your letter, keep it brief and stick to the point. Address the letter to the proper military officer in charge of reviewing the officer candidate’s application. Avoid using generic forms of address such as “to whom it may concern” whenever possible. The military application officer assisting the officer candidate can provide this information. If you are able to draft your letter of recommendation on official letterhead bearing the name of your organization or military unit that is also helpful.
Write an opening paragraph that describes your relationship with the officer candidate. Include information about how you met the person and the length of your acquaintance. Include information about yourself to boost your credibility with the recipient of the letter. If you have served in one of the armed forces, make sure to note that in your letter. Be sure to state if the applicant was your employee, co-worker, student or subordinate.
Introduce the Officer Candidate
Write a paragraph or two about the candidate. Give information about the person’s character traits with which you are familiar. Mention the person’s academic and athletic accomplishments and note any community service involvement. Keep in mind that you want to concentrate on characteristics necessary in a military officer, such as leadership, integrity, honesty and responsibility. Share real-life examples to illustrate these attributes of the candidate.
Summarize the Applicant’s Qualifications
End the letter with a summary of why you believe the candidate will make an ideal military officer. Confidently explain the extent to which you believe the applicant is qualified for the position, a description of the applicant's enthusiasm regarding the position and any illustrative examples.Use a positive, upbeat tone. Include your phone number and email address and ask the recruiter to contact you if he or she has any further questions regarding the applicant. Close with a strong statement connecting the candidate’s character and leadership to the recommended program. After signing, dating and mailing the letter to the appropriate contact, be sure to inform the applicant that you’ve submitted the letter.
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Katie Mills Giorgio is a freelance writer and editor living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She's created content for a variety of publications, websites and organizations for the past 15 years.