Commanders in the U.S. Army are known as officers. These leaders start at the college level or earlier, preparing to lead soldiers often possessing years more experience than they. Officers literally have the lives of their soldiers in their hands, as well as the success of the mission and campaign. The training they undergo is as stringent in the classroom as it is in the field.
Most commissioned officers participate in the Reserve Officer's Training Corps in college or attend a military academy such as West Point. In the army, officer training is part of the Basic Officer's Leadership Course. This schooling prepares young leaders in the basics of military strategy and how it dovetails with the political environment, and it begins their physical training. Students also learn rudimentary field maneuvers and leadership skills. When they graduate, newly minted second lieutenants begin BOLC Phase II before assuming control of a platoon or working as a company-level staff or executive officer.
BOLC B is the second phase of the Basic Officer Leadership Course. Officers learn basic soldiering skills in a more advanced yet similar way that enlisted personnel learn their roles in basic training. Officers learn things such as marksmanship, navigation, setting forward operating bases, leading convoys and other essential skills. BOLC B is representative of the routine, everyday challenges young officers face in the field, and lasts three weeks.
Paralleling the enlisted soldier's advanced individual training (AIT), BOLC C is where officers learn the military occupational specialty (MOS). For example, logistics officers learn about the military supply chain, how to keep soldiers in the field equipped and maintenance of motor vehicles. This is the phase in which officers also learn traditional customs of Army leadership, property accountability and more.
Direct Commission and OCS
Outside of going through the traditional commissioning process, officers with specialized and highly-skilled civilian job experience may apply for direct commission. Attorneys, doctors and chaplains may all apply; direct commission involves its own specialized four-week training program. This course teaches how to transition into Army life while maintaining a focus on their specializations. Candidates also learn the basics of Army leadership, involving combat training and land navigation. Enlisted soldiers wishing to advance their careers as officers may apply for Officer Candidate School (OCS), although college student applicants are welcome as well. Candidates must possess a four-year college degree and attend a 12-week, two-phase training program, learning the basics of Army leadership and soldiering as an officer. OCS candidates may be reservists as well.