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MECEP SNA: The Good and the Bad

Highlander51

I'll fly away O glory
If you are a prospective MECEP or currently on the program I'm writing this to help inform you of the process and of the decisions I made along the way that contributed greatly to getting my commission and my air contract.


The MECEP Application Process:
This process was a gut punch for me in a lot of ways. No one was ever willing to help me, especially officers, and it's built that way for a reason. As an officer you will be expected to figure out the answers to your questions will little to no assistance so don't be surprised if that process starts when you begin the MECEP application. You will be entirely responsible for your own success or failure on the program and it starts right at the beginning. One of the biggest early indicators of your success on the program will be the initial college classes that you do and your grades in those classes. I had no college at all before applying for the program but found it relatively easy to get through the initial round of classes as the Marine Corps had taught me more than enough discipline to get my work turned in on time. The MECEP board will place a TON of weight into the grades you get in those classes so do not gaff them off, if you apply yourself you can get A's easily, don't let one bad grade in a class that you could have easily tried harder in be the deciding factor as to whether you get selected or not. One of the final parts of the application process is the "interview", it would be more appropriately named a murder board. Mine was conducted with three officers, two prior enlisted, there's no requirement to have a prior enlisted officer but my command thought it valuable to have at least one on the board. I thought the interview went average at best, bad at worst, I was grilled for almost an hour about leadership situations and other hypotheticals about what I would do if I were an officer in said situation. I thought I answered well but each response was met critically and with additional hypotheticals. In short, there is no "winning" the interview, you do your best and that's all you can do. I ended getting ranked 1 of 6 in my command of the marines that put in MECEP packages. Only the top 4 were submitted up to HQMC for review. DO NOT lose your mind in the interview, it is the interviewer's job to get you to crack under pressure, don't give them the satisfaction. If you are selected by HQMC to attend the program you'll move onto the next stage; OCS.


OCS:
There is a ton of information on this site about OCS that I don't need to reiterate it all. I will provide a few quick pointers that helped me out immensely.

1. Play the game, its similar to boot camp but different, you'll figure out the game early. Once you've figured it out play it to the best of your ability. Just get through OCS, that sounds bad but at the end of the day OCS is something that you’re more than capable of getting through and it is the quickest way to get booted off the program if you fail something there.
2. Help out the college guys/gals, this is their first real Marine Corps experience and they will have little to no idea what's going on or why. Don't get frustrated, help them out as much as you can, your reputation as an officer starts at OCS and if you try to be a mini sergeant instructor your peers will remember it.
3. Stay healthy and don't get hurt, I knew several guys that were stellar marines that didn't make it through OCS because of injuries. This is not an excuse to not give it your all, however; if the difference between you staying healthy and going at 95% and potentially hurting yourself and going 100% then do the 95%.
4. Get as much sleep as you can, there were guys I knew that would spend hours every night prepping for the next day. Again, this is not an excuse to not prepare yourself, however; if you only marginally increase your preparedness and lose two hours of sleep for it it's not worth it. Get your rest and help your body recover, it will keep you sane and keep you from getting hurt.
5. After you've graduated keep up connections with the guys/gals you went through OCS with. They will be 1stLts and Captains by the time you commission and there's a good shot one of them will be your OIC or CO sometime in your career, this goes back to point #2.

College:
There are a lot of people who will disagree with me on this, for both good and bad reasons, get through college quickly. My reasoning for this has several different parts,

1. My first point is a point of principle, I know others will vehemently disagree but this is just my perspective on the issue. If you are doing this program odds are pretty good that you enjoy the Marine Corps enough to do at least 20 years, I’ve yet to meet a MECEP that doesn’t plan on doing 20. With that initial assumption you shouldn’t want to spend a ton of time away from the fleet and if you do I question how much you really enjoy this lifestyle and you should reconsider whether or not you want to do this program and you should really question how much you want to be a Marine.
2. The sooner you commission the sooner your retirement clock starts ticking. You MUST serve 10 years as an officer to rate an officer’s retirement (this only applies to prior enlisted). So essentially you will have two deadlines, the standard 20 year service commitment to rate a retirement, and 10 years as an officer. For me, I commissioned at 9 years of service so I’ll have to do more than 10 years as an officer to get me to 20 years total, which is much better than the alternative. At 20 years I’ll be able to leave the Marine Corps should I so choose, many MECEPs will be forced to stay in well past 20 years to meet the 10 year as an officer requirement. If you’re at 8 years of service and you graduate in 2 years your clock starts ticking at 10 years of service whereas if you take 4 years to graduate your clock doesn’t start ticking till 12 years meaning you are locked in until 22 years of service if you want to retire as an officer. Personally, I would like to stay in past 20 but I want the option to be able to get out should I so choose.
3. The third point is also financial, the sooner you commission the sooner you start getting paid more. The pay bump from enlisted to officer is substantial, for me it was about an extra $1,000 a month, so $12k a year extra. YMMV depending on how much more but regardless you will make more as an officer than as an enlisted Marine. Many of my peers are taking their time through school and will lose out on that extra money. I’ve heard excuses such as “I want to concentrate on getting good grades” or “I don’t want to go back to the fleet too soon”, the list goes on and on for why most people want to stay in school for the full four years and I understand those arguments. Some people want to stay because they have family close by and that is perhaps the best argument, nowhere else in your career will you get to spend as much time with your family as you will on the MECEP program so take full advantage of it. However, the aforementioned arguments about grades and fleet time don’t make sense. I graduated summa cum laude in 1 year 11 months for a four year degree, if I can do it so can you because I’m no genius at all, all it takes is a little discipline. The fleet time argument, see point #1.
4. The final argument for getting through school quickly is that the transition back to the Marine Corps will be unnecessarily difficult the longer you are away. Too many guys/gals I’ve met have had a REALLY difficult time with transitioning back to the Marine Corps after being in college for four years. I can sympathize with this as I am going through that process as I write this. It is compounded by the fact that once you commission you don’t go to the fleet and get a “soft landing” reintroduction to the Marine Corps, you go straight to TBS that makes the landing as hard as humanely possible. For your own sanity, two years out of the fleet is better than 3 when it comes to this transition and 3 is better than 4.
The final point I will make on college is do your best. I did very well in school because I had a massive chip on my shoulder about not doing well in high school. I was denied a spot at the Naval Academy because of my high school grades and that hit me hard, it was my first real taste of failure in my career. Also, if you are applying for SNA/SNFO and you want to walk into TBS with an air contract like I did, you MUST MUST MUST have good grades. The board is going to hone in on your grades as the single biggest factor as to whether or not you get a flight contract. I did average on the ASTB, 48 5/7/6. I met the requirements for the Marine Corps but didn’t do that well and was actually somewhat disappointed with my score. I got notified through a back channel that the thing that got my package over the line was my grades, at the time I had a 4.0, I graduated with a 3.9. The aviation board cares about your ASTB scores, however; the board report showed that guys with higher ASTB scores than me didn’t get selected and the only area I beat those people out was on my grades. A 70 7/8/8 on the ASTB is great but if you’re transcript says 2.5 GPA, it’s more than likely you will get beat out by someone who has slightly lower scores on the ASTB if they have a significantly higher GPA. The board takes your GPA as your ability to learn and be a good student that means more to the board than your ability to do logarithms on the ASTB. I’m not saying you shouldn’t study those things because you should, however; make your GPA your biggest priority. Your ability to learn quickly and retain information is vital to success as the board will see that as a massive gauge of how successful or unsuccessful you will be in flight school.

Parting thoughts:
I hope this synopsis can help someone, I did this program with little to no information going into it and if this helps you then pay it forward. If you are thinking about doing the program I will say that it is not for everyone. Some Marines make excellent enlisted Marines but are simply not good candidates to become officers. Also, it is an incredibly humbling experience to go from a decently well-respected position (for me an 0311 SSgt) to being a candidate at OCS, a student in college where I was treated essentially as a LCpl all over again, and a 2nd Lt. where everyone thinks you’re retarded (sometimes for good reason). You have to honest with yourself and know whether you can take the humbling or not, if you can you’ll be a better person and Marine for it. If you can’t, there’s absolutely no shame in that at all, but I would highly encourage you to not do this program. I would have liked for this to be more expansive to include TBS, flight school, etc. but I’m waiting to start TBS and I had the time to make this post. Plus I figured it’s better to get this information out there while its still fresh in my mind. If you have any questions about MECEP, the SNA application process, or simply just want to disagree because you feel that you have better info then please put it in the comments and I’d be more than happy to talk about it. There is a ton of information I'm sure that I've missed and if you've been through the process, especially recently, then please help me fill in the gaps where you see fit.
 

Highlander51

I'll fly away O glory
Where did you go that supported that tempo. Most big schools just have a smattering of summer classes to take.
The way I did it was that I scheduled summer classes that I knew the university would offer in the summer, mainly gen eds. Also, I knew most of the professors for my major and got with them on the side to find out when they were offering the major classes I needed to graduate. I went to ODU in Norfolk, also great spot to go if you want SNA because they can do ASTB/Flight Physical all locally because of the proximity to the naval base.
 

Swanee

Self aware since 2014
pilot
None
Contributor
College:
There are a lot of people who will disagree with me on this, for both good and bad reasons, get through college quickly. My reasoning for this has several different parts,

1. My first point is a point of principle, I know others will vehemently disagree but this is just my perspective on the issue. If you are doing this program odds are pretty good that you enjoy the Marine Corps enough to do at least 20 years, I’ve yet to meet a MECEP that doesn’t plan on doing 20. With that initial assumption you shouldn’t want to spend a ton of time away from the fleet and if you do I question how much you really enjoy this lifestyle and you should reconsider whether or not you want to do this program and you should really question how much you want to be a Marine.
2. The sooner you commission the sooner your retirement clock starts ticking. You MUST serve 10 years as an officer to rate an officer’s retirement (this only applies to prior enlisted). So essentially you will have two deadlines, the standard 20 year service commitment to rate a retirement, and 10 years as an officer. For me, I commissioned at 9 years of service so I’ll have to do more than 10 years as an officer to get me to 20 years total, which is much better than the alternative. At 20 years I’ll be able to leave the Marine Corps should I so choose, many MECEPs will be forced to stay in well past 20 years to meet the 10 year as an officer requirement. If you’re at 8 years of service and you graduate in 2 years your clock starts ticking at 10 years of service whereas if you take 4 years to graduate your clock doesn’t start ticking till 12 years meaning you are locked in until 22 years of service if you want to retire as an officer. Personally, I would like to stay in past 20 but I want the option to be able to get out should I so choose.
3. The third point is also financial, the sooner you commission the sooner you start getting paid more. The pay bump from enlisted to officer is substantial, for me it was about an extra $1,000 a month, so $12k a year extra. YMMV depending on how much more but regardless you will make more as an officer than as an enlisted Marine. Many of my peers are taking their time through school and will lose out on that extra money. I’ve heard excuses such as “I want to concentrate on getting good grades” or “I don’t want to go back to the fleet too soon”, the list goes on and on for why most people want to stay in school for the full four years and I understand those arguments. Some people want to stay because they have family close by and that is perhaps the best argument, nowhere else in your career will you get to spend as much time with your family as you will on the MECEP program so take full advantage of it. However, the aforementioned arguments about grades and fleet time don’t make sense. I graduated summa cum laude in 1 year 11 months for a four year degree, if I can do it so can you because I’m no genius at all, all it takes is a little discipline. The fleet time argument, see point #1.
4. The final argument for getting through school quickly is that the transition back to the Marine Corps will be unnecessarily difficult the longer you are away. Too many guys/gals I’ve met have had a REALLY difficult time with transitioning back to the Marine Corps after being in college for four years. I can sympathize with this as I am going through that process as I write this. It is compounded by the fact that once you commission you don’t go to the fleet and get a “soft landing” reintroduction to the Marine Corps, you go straight to TBS that makes the landing as hard as humanely possible. For your own sanity, two years out of the fleet is better than 3 when it comes to this transition and 3 is better than 4.
The final point I will make on college is do your best. I did very well in school because I had a massive chip on my shoulder about not doing well in high school. I was denied a spot at the Naval Academy because of my high school grades and that hit me hard, it was my first real taste of failure in my career. Also, if you are applying for SNA/SNFO and you want to walk into TBS with an air contract like I did, you MUST MUST MUST have good grades. The board is going to hone in on your grades as the single biggest factor as to whether or not you get a flight contract. I did average on the ASTB, 48 5/7/6. I met the requirements for the Marine Corps but didn’t do that well and was actually somewhat disappointed with my score. I got notified through a back channel that the thing that got my package over the line was my grades, at the time I had a 4.0, I graduated with a 3.9. The aviation board cares about your ASTB scores, however; the board report showed that guys with higher ASTB scores than me didn’t get selected and the only area I beat those people out was on my grades. A 70 7/8/8 on the ASTB is great but if you’re transcript says 2.5 GPA, it’s more than likely you will get beat out by someone who has slightly lower scores on the ASTB if they have a significantly higher GPA. The board takes your GPA as your ability to learn and be a good student that means more to the board than your ability to do logarithms on the ASTB. I’m not saying you shouldn’t study those things because you should, however; make your GPA your biggest priority. Your ability to learn quickly and retain information is vital to success as the board will see that as a massive gauge of how successful or unsuccessful you will be in flight school.

Counter points-
1. Time away from the fleet means family time. It means normal time. It means real human being time. It means time that your wife gets her husband back. The fleet can wait, do yourself a favor a catch your breath before you jump into a world that will do nothing but grind you for the rest of your career.

2. If everyone does 20, who cares when your officer clock starts- you'll promote on the same timeline, but you won't hate yourself for not enjoying (and for shortening) that mid career college break. Oh, and that 22 year mark means more 5% more money than the 20 year mark (under the old system... I think it's 4% more under the new).

3. Who cares, you're in college. Quality of life matters. Also- see 4% increase over your entire lifetime vs 12k now. And also see your comment about needing good grades.

4. Now you're just institutionalizing yourself. If you can't function outside of the Marine Corps, expect to do 40 years, or be that guy. For most people, the more time out of the fleet you can get, the better- a 3 or 4 year break from the grind mid career sounds amazing. You could plan life shit then.


MECEP is like BDCP but half way through your career. Don't be the guy who squanders a good deal because they can't stop eating the green crayons.

Better yet, skip it all and come to the Guard where rule #1 is "Fuck you, pay me" and rule #2 is, "No seriously, you're paying me a full day of orders for that 1 hour online training class, and I don't fly nights or weekends anymore... unless it's a TDY to somewhere cool..."
 

Highlander51

I'll fly away O glory
I'll respectfully counter a few of the counter points:

1. I said in the original post that if you have a family to take full advantage of the time in college. That implies that if you want to take the full four years to spend extra time with your family then go for it because you're right in that you will spend a lot of time away from family while in the fleet.

2. This point said nothing about promotions and yes I am fully aware that your promotion timeline is the same regardless of when you commission. My point was that if you desire to be able to retire at 20 years of service, or as close to 20 as possible, you need to commission sooner rather than later because if not you'll be forced to stay in past 20. The extra 5% is great and all but personally I wanted the option to retire at 20 years if I or my family are ready to be done. Many Marines won't have that choice as they'll be forced to stick around for extra years, I'd rather have the freedom to retire than the extra 5% every 2 years but that's just me.

3. As far as making more money, yes quality of life matters but so too do finances.

4. I personally don't like the institution of the Marine Corps I think it has a ton of issues, what I do love is being around Marines, if that means I'm "institutionalized" then so be it. And yes, I have seen friends struggle to readapt back to Marine Corps life after getting used to basically being a civilian on the MECEP program, I've seen it in myself as well. It's not that I need the Marine Corps to survive, on the contrary I've gotten used to life without it. The two year mid-career break was fantastic for me and my family, I could have made it last longer but I chose not to. I'm going on 27 and don't want to be 30+ going through TBS and flight school, could I do it sure but I don't want to because it's just going to be that much harder.

You made some good points, and like I said in the original post, I know some people would ardently disagree. This was just the way I chose to do things.
 

nikolast7

New Member
Greetings, currently working on a MECEP package for this CY. One of the things that was stressing me out a little was the interview, how long was yours give or take? Anymore insight?
 

Highlander51

I'll fly away O glory
Greetings, currently working on a MECEP package for this CY. One of the things that was stressing me out a little was the interview, how long was yours give or take? Anymore insight?
Mine took roughly an hour, but don’t be surprised if it runs shorter than that, most officers have a lot of stuff to do and don’t have time to sit there and grill you all day. My only additional advice not already said in the original post would be to display confidence, but don’t be arrogant, there’s a fine line there between the two. They’ll more than likely want to see that you could actually lead marines one day as an officer, that requires a confident person. Be honest as well, I got grilled hard over my religious beliefs (one of the interviewers was lesbian and she really went after me). I could have lied or just said nothing but I respectfully stood my ground and I think they appreciated that even if they probably didn’t agree with it. Hope that helps.
 

RoarkJr.

Well-Known Member
Good to see MECEPS offering their experience. I'll bite on the "...vehemently disagree", I recommend keeping judgement about how others choose to conduct their career to yourself. It's odd to question the commitment of a service member while they're doing 3-4 years in school just so they can be eligible for what amounts to a 10 year contract. If the Marine Corps needed a MECEP asap they wouldn't let them do 4 years in school (it used to be waiverable to 5 for certain STEM degrees). I stay in school as long as possible to get the degree you want.

After reading your post I laugh a bit imagining you finally getting to Pensacola, seeing how wing life is, knowing you'll essentially be in Navy commands for the next 2-4 years. Relax man, "swing with the wing." If you think that's a bad thing, you're going to have to adjust your mindset a bit. See, culture is informed, among other things, by the job. Read Gladwell's case study on Korean Air and how that ties into crew resource management for an example.

As a former ODU MECEP I sympathize, somewhat, with wanting to get back to the fleet after (what will be) an ~8 year hiatus. You should have the opportunity to go to MCT or help out at MATSG with the junior Marines if you want to scratch the itch in the meantime. You'll have a pretty long wait in Pensacola. GL.
 

Highlander51

I'll fly away O glory
As a former ODU MECEP I sympathize, somewhat, with wanting to get back to the fleet after (what will be) an ~8 year hiatus. You should have the opportunity to go to MCT or help out at MATSG with the junior Marines if you want to scratch the itch in the meantime. You'll have a pretty long wait in Pensacola. GL.
You’re the second ODU grad in this thread, what is it about that place and MECEP SNAs lol? I’ve heard the “swing the wing” phrase before from several different people. I think for me it will certainly be an adjustment but one that I’m looking forward to especially after TBS. One of my biggest issues that I didn’t cite in the original post but did hit in one of the responses was age. I’m about to turn 27 and didn’t want to be in my 30s at TBS/Flight school, some guys can do it and more power to them. For my personal situation it made more sense to get through school quicker and do the more physically demanding stuff while I’m still somewhat young. As always I appreciate the feedback and I think some of your posts on here have been excellent, crushing contacts is probably the best thread I’ve seen on here!
 
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