As the Army expands its recruiting efforts, the U.S. Army Signal Corps is among its branches looking “outside the radar” to grow its commissioned ranks through the Direct Commission Program.
A directive for the program was published in September 2019, at which time the Signal Corps was primarily seeking qualified individuals to fill a need for radio operators-maintainers (25 series) and information technology engineers (26 series). As the needs of the Army changed, so did the needs of the Signal Corps, and the program is no longer open to those interested in being commissioned into the 25 series. Now its greatest need is IT professionals who can bring knowledge and experience to the ranks.
“As of a few months ago … our focus changed to looking for people with Cloud and data backgrounds,” said Maj. Kendra Romain, engineer information technology (26B) career program manager with the U.S. Army Signal School. “Seeing that the intent of the Direct Commission Program is to fill in a gap, we’ve identified Cloud and data as the gap that the Signal Corps is trying to fill.”
To be considered, candidates may be civilian or an NCO currently serving and must have a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering, math or similar field. Candidates must also be a U.S. citizen, able to obtain and maintain a Top Secret clearance, meet basic physical standards military service, and have a strong background in cloud and information network-related skills.
Interested candidates should go to www.goarmy.com to request information. From there, the candidate will be contacted either by Romain or someone else who can assist the candidate with the next steps, which will include an application. The candidate may then be contacted for a telephone interview followed by another conducted by a panel of Signal Corps personnel.
“Once selected, their package is sent to the (Director of Military Personnel Management), it’s processed with them, then we get the G1 general officer’s signature on the memorandum that they are approved, and then once I get the approval, I let my command know,” Romain explained.
From there, U.S. Army Recruiting Command receives the candidate’s information and creates an account so that a recruiter in the candidate’s area can reach out to assist with completing the process. If selected, candidates must compete a six-week Direct Commission Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Candidates will enter the Army in the rank of captain through colonel, depending on their work experience, education and background. Their first duty station and assignment will be thoughtfully determined by Human Resources Command, Office Chief of Signal, and the receiving unit.
“We send them somewhere they have time to learn what it means to be a Soldier and leader as well as being able to bring their technical expertise to the table,” explained Robert Collins III, chief, Officer Division, U.S. Army Signal School.
In other words, it is highly unlikely that these newly commissioned officers will immediately be assigned to a tactical unit or deploy overseas. This is especially helpful for candidates who don’t have prior military experience.
“Whether that be here where they can help us build our curriculum or help us build a strategy towards whichever path we’re trying to go down or even teach ... we want them to succeed,” Collins said.
To date, only two iterations of signal officers have graduated from the program since its inception, leaving many to wonder, “Why?”
According to Romain, a lot of it has to do with the program still being new plus the need to highly selective when looking over candidates.
“It’s hard to find people with data background, but I think in two, maybe three years, the pool might expand because now that they know the Army is moving to Cloud and data, they might focus their degrees to those fields,” she explained.
Another reason could be the time it takes for a prospective candidate to go through the process before they are selected.
“Our challenge right now is that the process is so long because from the moment that we start doing screening all the way up to the point they get selected to go to the commissioning course, it’s almost a year,” Collins said.
Both are hopeful that as word about the program spreads, more people will consider it.
“Even though civilian industry is leaning in towards data and cloud, I’m seeing a lot of job opportunity announcements for data … so I’m thinking it will expand and then we will see more qualified people apply,” Romain said.
“I think it’s beneficial for those looking to do something bigger than what they’re doing now – who feel like they want to serve their country, may be take a pay cut, but want to have an opportunity to do something bigger, something more important … I think we can appeal maybe more to those types of individuals,” Collins added.
To learn more information about direct commission opportunities in the information network engineering career field, visit https://talent.army.mil/job/fa26.
For information about direct commission opportunities in other career fields, visit https://talent.army.mil/direct-commissioning.