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37 with no prior service and a non-STEM masters degree...Enlist? OCS?

JLew

New Member
Hello AW,

I would like to get a few opinions on enlisting at 37; basically a reality check on how the next 6 years could play out if I compete at a high level and pursue the best options available to me in the Navy.

I have solid education in business and very analytical work experience in FinTech (financial services technology), but I am looking to get way more technical (computer programming, electronics, etc). Crypto and AECF are very appealing to me. I was given AECF at MEPS, apparently being followed up with a DAR for CT pending my security clearance application.

I was also told (by basically everyone) to try the Officer route first, because of my Master's degree; so I am dual-enrolled...but only Intel is available due to my age. Intel seems like it would be a great option after I spent some time enlisted (many folks on AW seem to think it's something you work into?)...but I don't have a ton of time; I don't have fancy letters from politicians or high ranking military members. I'm planning to take the OAR exam early January and see how competitive that stacks up. Recruiters basically hear me out, show support and let me rationalize either direction. I really like the idea of starting back in the weeds and becoming a subject matter expert in a versatile rating that will provide long-term value (inside or outside the Navy).

I am pretty well-rounded socially, emotionally, intellectually, culturally, professionally, and I have good self-awareness. The thought of a "desk job" no longer appeals to me at the moment and I'm ready to serve. I'd like to live in Europe for a bit, spend some time on a ship (probably not a Sub). I'm also sick of working from home and staring at my computer screen all day, solving problems that I am far from passionate about. I like the idea of structure to help me focus; I like the idea of having no distractions so I can teach myself to code (and maybe combine that with ET skills to be a real-life Tony Stark?). My goal for PFT is to hit the Excellent level, so I'm prepared to hang with the ranks all-the-way.

If I enlist, are my chances of becoming a commissioned officer dead? Is Intel via OCS a fantasy land shot with my background? If I really love my rating and become extremely proficient as I advance, which rank should be my target in how many years? Would it be smart to drop a package soon after A school, so I can add military references and experience appropriate for the Intel community? What are some more good questions I should be asking to weigh the pros/cons of my situation?

Thanks!!
Future Sailor
 
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robav8r

D-FENS
None
Contributor
I am pretty well-rounded socially, emotionally, intellectually, culturally, professionally, and I have good self-awareness.

If I enlist, are my chances of becoming a commissioned officer dead?
The fact that you are well rounded . . . . . . gives you a 42% chance you’ll get selected.
 

ostliel

New Member
Have you talked to a recruiter for either? Not sure about the age waiver situation for non-prior, but you're past the limits on both.

OCS is the way to go if you're goal is commission. It's a much more competitive pool if you enlist first.
 

HAL Pilot

Well-Known Member
None
Contributor
If you want to be an officer, apply for OCS. Don't go enlisted first with the idea of going officer later, especially at your age. It won't happen.

Also, at 37 years old I don't think you'll be happy as a junior enlisted. There will be no one your age, no one with your life experiences, and no one with your education. You'll be the preverbal square peg in a round hole.
 

Meyerkord

A-Pool
Your chances at OCS are not out of the question. Out of the ~6 people from my class that ended up in Intel or IW/Crypto, I think only one of them had any sort of relevant IT or intelligence experience (a prior enlisted IT). 2 of them were your age or older. These are just data points, so take them with a grain of salt, but people in similar situations have made it through.
 

AULANI

Well-Known Member
Don't enlist, apply for OCS.

I don't know what your degrees are in but you better have a decent GPA if you want to be competitive since you don't have prior experience. Also, do well on the OAR.. I would aim for 60 if I were in your shoes. I'm an 1830 and I was 39 when I went through OCS but I enlisted back in 1997 as an IS so I've been in the Intel game for some time now.

Just go for it, you never know if you'll get picked up. You won't regret not getting picked up nearly as much as you will never applying in the first place. Good luck!
 

NavyOffRec

Well-Known Member
Have you talked to a recruiter for either? Not sure about the age waiver situation for non-prior, but you're past the limits on both.

OCS is the way to go if you're goal is commission. It's a much more competitive pool if you enlist first.
It isn't more competitive, there are just a few more hoops to jump through.
 

egiv

Well-Known Member
I was also told (by basically everyone) to try the Officer route first
To elaborate on what @HAL Pilot posted... here are a few reasons they're telling you this:

- You'll be treated as free labor and spend a large amount of time doing menial tasks that have nothing to do with your rate. If you go to a ship, you'll have to spend several months as a Food Service Assistant, which are helpers for the cooks in the galley. If Supply department needs people to carry bags of trash off the ship, they'll make all the E-4 and below on the ship do it.
- Nobody will care what your age, education, or experience are. You'll be treated the same as the rest of the 18-year olds who are the same rank as you. It will be hard not to resent the respect and quality of life given to officers, which you are qualified to be.
- You'll essentially work for the LPO, who is under the Chief, who is under the DIVO, who (in most cases) will have less experience, education, and age than you. You'll be tasked with things you consider idiotic (which, to be fair, is just a fact of life in the military) but will have very little ability to do anything about it.
- You'll be in a completely different place maturity-wise than the other sailors of your same rank. Regulations (and norms) prohibit close friendship with the more senior people you would most likely get along best with.

To be fair, I'm not bashing enlisting or enlisted guys - I just don't recommend it in your situation.
 

JLew

New Member
AW,

Thanks for all the good feedback!

I have a lot to consider. Some of it makes the point of why I think it's important to work through the ranks in order to lead with the full respect of the crew, really become a specialist in the field. My enlisted recruiter has mentioned how getting certain pins requires detailed knowledge about how to do someone else's job (he gave the old drop of water through the ship analogy). Is it still true that Warrant Officers basically run the show? Despite all the privileges of each rate, which type of Officers are the most helpful/useful for the day-to-day life in the Navy? How bad is life as an E-5 six months after A school? E6 after another year in?

Yes, there's nothing more annoying to me than someone who bosses me around, is paid more, but cannot do my task or even advise on how to do my task more easily/efficiently...so I can go learn something more interesting. I definitely don't care for making some idiot look good at my expense. I've heard this could happen and then the same idiot could block timely advancement since he now has a stud under his command. Still a true story?

However, it seems like the enlisted route could follow a logical progression of advancement due to accumulated skillsets to earn rank. Is that accurate? If so, I wouldn't mind someone younger, less experience/educated as a boss, because I'd expect them to actually help me get better at my rate quickly. Is that a fair assessment? That sort of structure would be ideal for me going into a heavy learning environment. Is that the same type of environment for COs? I need to read up on life as a CO, because that still is a black box for me... Could it be a more glorified version of the enlisted experience with better pay, sleeping arrangements, meals and liberties? How much of a specialist would I really become at anything new? Are the perks enough to offset the additional stress/boredom of potential admin work or arbitrary managerial decisions being dictated by a superior?

I understand that your rate is what you make of it. I could be successful regardless of the route chosen. I obviously don't know much about military life, so forgive my over-generalizations. I would like to get past the stereotypes and really understand the pros/cons and what a rewarding career looks like for my personal circumstances.

My dad (and his dad) both left as E-5s...and I bet the Navy is where my dad picked up his classic "life isn't fair" mantra; his enlisted experience being the reason why he didn't want his son to join (and squash all that potential). He was even offered NESEP at the time, but did not re-enlist. It's funny how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Thanks again,
Future Sailor
 

BigRed389

Registered User
None
AW,

Thanks for all the good feedback!

I have a lot to consider. Some of it makes the point of why I think it's important to work through the ranks in order to lead with the full respect of the crew, really become a specialist in the field. My enlisted recruiter has mentioned how getting certain pins requires detailed knowledge about how to do someone else's job (he gave the old drop of water through the ship analogy). Is it still true that Warrant Officers basically run the show? Despite all the privileges of each rate, which type of Officers are the most helpful/useful for the day-to-day life in the Navy? How bad is life as an E-5 six months after A school? E6 after another year in?

Yes, there's nothing more annoying to me than someone who bosses me around, is paid more, but cannot do my task or even advise on how to do my task more easily/efficiently...so I can go learn something more interesting. I definitely don't care for making some idiot look good at my expense. I've heard this could happen and then the same idiot could block timely advancement since he now has a stud under his command. Still a true story?

However, it seems like the enlisted route could follow a logical progression of advancement due to accumulated skillsets to earn rank. Is that accurate? If so, I wouldn't mind someone younger, less experience/educated as a boss, because I'd expect them to actually help me get better at my rate quickly. Is that a fair assessment? That sort of structure would be ideal for me going into a heavy learning environment. Is that the same type of environment for COs? I need to read up on life as a CO, because that still is a black box for me... Could it be a more glorified version of the enlisted experience with better pay, sleeping arrangements, meals and liberties? How much of a specialist would I really become at anything new? Are the perks enough to offset the additional stress/boredom of potential admin work or arbitrary managerial decisions being dictated by a superior?

I understand that your rate is what you make of it. I could be successful regardless of the route chosen. I obviously don't know much about military life, so forgive my over-generalizations. I would like to get past the stereotypes and really understand the pros/cons and what a rewarding career looks like for my personal circumstances.

My dad (and his dad) both left as E-5s...and I bet the Navy is where my dad picked up his classic "life isn't fair" mantra; his enlisted experience being the reason why he didn't want his son to join (and squash all that potential). He was even offered NESEP at the time, but did not re-enlist. It's funny how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Thanks again,
Future Sailor
To add to what Brett said:

You're kind of asking the wrong questions.

Understand that if you do enlist, you are under a different judicial system (eg someone roughly your age or younger can, entirely on their own judgment, decide you're enough of a fuck up that you don't get to leave the base for 60 days).

Even if you join in a technical rating, there is lots more of the less technical work to do. You're not just going to work on your specialty.
You're going to sweep and mop.
You're going to paint shit. You're going to clean shit, literally, because it's your turn to clean the heads (communal showers/bathrooms).
You could be a waiter for the Officer's/Chiefs for a few months.
You're going to pick heavy things up and put them down somewhere else just because somebody wants them moved.
You're going to take out the trash.
You're going to wait in line for 30 minutes just to get food.
You're going to stand outside in formation waiting for 20 minutes because your "boss" is running late.
You could spend 2 days a week living on board the ship, in port. If you're not married, you get to spend every day living onboard the ship.
If you ARE married, I'm going to guess your spouse would divorce you if you go through with this, as your pay will absolutely suck for someone at 37 years old.

It's very important that you understand that it doesn't end with boot camp or A school. Your life is going to consist of being lumped in with people recently out of high school for quite a few years of your life. As a 37 year old with work experience and a Master's.

And if you don't like how things are, you don't get to walk away from your enlistment.

The system is designed to pay off for kids joining out of High School who have no special skills, don't come from money, and could maybe use some structure. It simply is NOT designed for you...if you aren't going to be OK with that, you should stop.
If you're looking to simply change career fields to something more technical, I get that, but at this point in your life working in Finance, you should have enough money to simply go to school and pick up the needed skills much more quickly and efficiently.
 
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RedFive

Well-Known Member
pilot
Contributor
I'm a little late to this, but I don't think we can emphasize to you enough that enlisting is a terrible idea in your situation. Do NOT believe ANYTHING the enlisted recruiter tells you. Do NOT make the mistake of romanticizing the idea of "working your way up the ranks." Do NOT allow your father and grandfather's enlistments have ANY bearing on what you do.

DO listen to the advice of the wise officers who posted before me. DO take a step back and look objectively at the situation. We're not a bunch of idiots on reddit, we know what we're talking about. And don't forget to smoke the OAR.
 

subreservist

Active Member
I'll play on the other side of the fence on this: OCS is a competitive process. Everyone can't "smoke" the OAR. Definitely try the officer route first, but if you don't get selected and you still have a desire to serve, I don't think it's a horrid idea to enlist. It also could lead to a better package later to apply for OCS again. However, you should only enlist if you feel you will be content to remain in your contract should you not select at all.
 

Hair Warrior

JO 1835
Contributor
Since no one has suggested it, I will pile on. I think you should strongly consider the Navy Reserve instead of Active Duty. There are DCO programs that can use your skills, even if a DCO recruiter initially tells you your skills aren’t a great match. You have ~4 years until age 42 to target the DCO program you want, then apply until you get selected (while continuously improving your package each time). If you want to do crypto - cool, go find a civilian job that does SIGINT/crypto/cyber. If that means moving your family or being a geobachelor 4-5 days a week in order to take a better aligned civilian job, I guarantee it will be easier to manage for your family than enlisting (are you married? kids?). [Also, you may find that you hate that kind of work - just sayin.] Trust me, if you want to make the Navy a full time job, you can pretty much do so in the Navy Reserve. Heck, the initial training pipeline for 1815 and 1825 is now 20 weeks (not including DCOIC). If you choose to accelerate your training, you can basically be Active Duty Lite while you are earning your PQS. Once you’ve qualified, you can take back to back ADSW and mobs to your heart’s content. In fact, as a reserve officer, you have much more say in where you take E-AT or ADSW orders (e.g. Naples, Stuttgart, Molesworth, etc.) than if you are on active duty. When you (and/or your family) have had your fill of Navy life, you can go back to the civilian world + SELRES... or even drop papers to IRR. Don’t go to Great Lakes and also I would recommend against OCS, too, for someone in your shoes with an established career, family (?), and relatively advanced age compared to other Great Lakes and OCS accessions.
 
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