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Commissioned officers in the United States Air Force are the leaders of that branch of the military. One of the fundamental requirements for an Air Force officer is that he must hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. According to its official recruitment website, all officers in the Air Force must be U.S. citizens, as well, and commit to a term of service that can last four years or more, depending on the officer's military specialty. These requirements open up four main ways that a would-be officer can earn his commission and serve.
Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy trains prospective officers for military duty even as they earn their bachelor's degree. Anyone wishing to attend the Air Force Academy must be between the ages of 17 and 23, and single with no dependents. They then must be nominated by a recognized authority, normally the student's congressman. In addition, Academy applicants must pass a fitness test and medical evaluation, as well as go through interviews and provide appropriate paperwork such as transcripts. Those who measure up will be admitted for a four-year academic program resulting in their commission upon graduation. The Academy education is offered at no cost to cadets, but results in a commitment to Air Force service.
Air Force ROTC
Those who want to train for the military while attending college but either do not wish to attend the Academy, or do not receive a nomination, may be able to join the Air Force's Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Candidates must be at least 17 years old and graduate before age 31. They also must pass a variety of tests, including physical fitness and standardized exams. This program incorporates military coursework and physical training into the standard academic curriculum at a participating college or university. In exchange for her future service, the student receives money for college -- potentially a full scholarship.
Officer Training School
Those who want to enlist in the Air Force after already earning their college degree may be eligible for Officer Training School. They must be between the ages of 18 and 34 and a U.S. citizen to even be considered. They then must pass a similar physical screening and standardized exam as ROTC candidates. If approved, they then go on to the nine-week Officer Training School, which provides the leadership training necessary for earning a commission.
The final way a prospective officer can earn a commission is through the Air Force's direct commission program. This is aimed at professionals with advanced degrees such as doctors, lawyers or chaplains. These candidates must be between the ages of 18 and 48 and be licensed to practice in the particular field in which they intend to serve. They, too, must pass a physical and mental screening to make sure they have "the right stuff," then they go through the five-week Commissioned Officer Training program in order to receive their direct commission.
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Eric Strauss spent 12 years as a newspaper copy editor, eventually serving as a deputy business editor at "The Star-Ledger" in New Jersey before transitioning into academic communications. His byline has appeared in several newspapers and websites. Strauss holds a B.A. in creative writing/professional writing and recently earned an M.A. in English literature.
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