FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Army’s Green to Gold Program provides an opportunity for eligible Soldiers to complete their first bachelor’s or master’s degree as an ROTC cadet and then commission as an active-duty Army officer.
According to Maj. Matt Burmeister, Professor of Military Science at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri, the program helps Soldiers put their career skills and experience to use while further developing their leadership skills for a new opportunity.
“They focus on earning their degree while learning to lead at a higher level and succeed as commissioned officers,” Burmeister said.
There are many misconceptions about the program, Burmeister added.
“Soldiers commonly believe they must have an associate’s degree in order to qualify for the Green to Gold program,” he said. “That’s absolutely not true. They can have anywhere from no college credit to already having a bachelor’s degree and everything in between. Green to Gold options are tailored to the Soldier depending on their qualifications and needs — all that is required to begin is the Soldier’s desire to pursue this opportunity.”
One of the biggest strengths of the program for Soldiers with families here, Burmeister said, is that while Green to Gold cadets are attending school full-time, their families are able to stabilize at Fort Leonard Wood for at least two years, rather than having to move to a new location.
Burmeister said a question he is often asked is, do Green to Gold cadets have to attend Missouri S&T to be part of the Missouri S&T Army ROTC program?
“No, most of our Green to Gold cadets remain at one of the on-post schools,” he said.
Colleges and universities with a physical presence at Fort Leonard Wood’s Truman Education Center include Columbia College, Park University, Drury University, Ozark Technical Community College, Webster University and Lincoln University, and Missouri S&T has a presence in the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence building. Burmeister said Soldiers can earn their degree from any of those schools, if they offer it, and complete their ROTC requirements in Rolla.
Eric Alcante is one of those students.
Enlisted for 11 years, Alcante was a drill sergeant with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, when he applied to the program. He now attends Columbia College, lives on post with his wife and three children — his three sons attend school on post — and he only commutes to Rolla for ROTC classes and physical training.
“I truly want to make some type of positive impact for Soldiers at a strategic level, and I am excited to pursue this personal goal once I commission,” he said.
The application process was “unbelievably easy,” Alcante said, even though he had to get a few waivers approved for his age, time in service, number of dependents and medical reasons.
“The only surprising thing that caught me off guard was the in-depth medical process,” he said. “I had old injuries I sustained during deployments that were on record … and I needed to schedule appointments with my providers on Fort Leonard Wood to clear me. It went well and I provided the necessary documents they asked for, and my waivers were granted. The only thing I wish I had known before was to gather my medical records from the beginning.”
Alcante said that after looking at other, larger ROTC programs at schools in other parts of the country, he feels lucky to be part of Missouri S&T’s program.
“I’ve grown to truly appreciate Missouri S&T’s ROTC program compared to others I hear about nationally,” he said. “I truly feel valued here and not lost in the mix amongst a hundred-or-so cadets, like some Army ROTC programs.”
Aaron Lucio was a U.S. Army Military Police School instructor here when he applied for the program. He now attends classes at Missouri S&T, and continues to live with his family on Fort Leonard Wood.
“Having spent 10 years enlisted, I wanted to be able to apply my knowledge and experience to the operational side of the Army at a higher level,” he said. “Missouri S&T had everything I was looking for: an ROTC program, a relatively short commute from Fort Leonard Wood and high recommendations from prior Green to Gold cadets.”
Lucio said not having to move his wife and two children made the decision to apply for the program much easier.
“I did not have to go through the stress of PCSing my entire family to a new home and location,” he said. “I didn’t have any considerations. I was lucky enough for my family to be excited and support my decision every step of the way. The transition was actually pretty smooth — instead of going to work, I am going to school. ROTC keeps the familiarity of the Army, so I still continue to wear the uniform on a weekly basis. The only thing that was a challenge was adjusting to being an actual full-time student, sitting in a classroom, having homework and assignments due every day.”
Soldiers have many options when it comes to finding accurate and up-to-date information on the program, including online at https://www.goarmy.com/rotc. Additionally, Burmeister said a briefing on the program is offered at noon on the third Tuesday of every month at the Truman Education Center, and Soldiers with specific questions are also welcome to call Missouri S&T’s recruiting operations officer, Chad Pense, at 573.341.6808.
“He can help you with the process,” Burmeister said.
Burmeister also offered a few pieces of advice to potential applicants.
“Work on your fitness,” he said. “Excellent physical fitness helps with selection. Keep your grades up or improve your GPA. One of the biggest things the board looks at is the GPA. Talk to your advisor at your school about the Green to Gold Program and what degree requirements you have remaining until graduation. Gather your medical documentation from any post you’ve been assigned to. You will complete a physical as part of the application process. Talk to your chain of command about your desire to pursue Green to Gold and gain their support. They will write a recommendation as part of your application.”
Get an early start on the process, Alcante advised — the 2022 application window opens June 12.
“Do not hesitate or procrastinate when it comes to this,” he said. “You’ll thank yourself in the long run when you go through with it. It is way easier than you think.”
“Absolutely do it,” Lucio added. “Having prior experience from the enlisted side will only enhance you as an officer.”