FORT KNOX, Ky. (Oct. 16, 2012) -- Cadet Command has hit its stride.
The organization responsible for producing most of the Army's officer corps commissioned 5,880 second lieutenants in fiscal year 2012, the second straight year for mission success, according to final totals released this week. The Army-mandated goal was 5,350.
In surpassing the mark in 2011 and 2012, Cadet Command has reversed a several-years' drought in which it missed the target.
"We're at the peak of the best quality cadets we've seen," said Maj. Lucas Wilder, senior analyst for Cadet Command's operations analysis division. Those commissioning represent "the upper crust of the officers we look for."
From a raw numbers standpoint, the fiscal year 2012 total was the most commissionees since 1990. Among this year's 5,880 students from across the country who took the oath of office between October 2011 and Sept. 30 were 226 nurses -- a field considered critical and one that has historically teetered on shortages.
The overall mission accomplishment also was a boon to the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which benefited from the over-production as hundreds of cadets were designated for service in those forces.
Cadet Command has emphasized science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, majors in its recent recruitment efforts to meet the needs of an Army that becomes more high-tech. The class of 2012 included 1,163 graduates with those types of degrees, accounting for 19.8 percent of the commissionees. With a continued push, that number could be higher next year, said Lt. Col. Tim Borgerding, chief of Cadet Command's operations analysis division.
Cadet Command hit the 2012 commissioning mark in early August, almost a full month ahead of its pace in 2011, with a host of end-of-course commissionees this summer at the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Wilder said.
The Citadel, a senior military college in Charleston, S.C., led all schools in total commissions with 88. In fact, the top five producers of second lieutenants were senior military colleges.
Campbell University in North Carolina commissioned 58 cadets to pace non-military campuses and was sixth overall.
Cadet Command produces more officers for the Army than any other commissioning source. In fact, it commissions more officers annually than the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Officer Candidate School and direct commissionings combined.
Even as the Army restructures and looks to downsize in the coming years -- moves triggered by the end of combat operations in Iraq and the pending withdraw in Afghanistan -- Maj. Gen. Jefforey A. Smith, Cadet Command's commanding general, has said he doesn't anticipate a change in the total number of second lieutenants the organization is required to produce.
"Based on what I'm seeing and the direction of the downsizing and potential restructuring of some of our combat formations, there is still going to be a high demand for junior officers, even if there is some reduction in brigade combat teams," he said. "There will be additional units form inside those brigade structures, which will require lieutenants."
Among fiscal year 2012 commissionees, 69 percent received some form of Army ROTC scholarship assistance -- a four-, three- or two-year financial award. It's uncertain specifically how downsizing might impact future scholarships awarded by the command.
There are cadets who will pursue a commission without an ROTC scholarship -- about 1,500 did so this year -- but there is a direct correlation between financial awards and program membership, statistics show. As scholarships increase, so do the number of students committing to serve in the Army.
"Fewer scholarships make recruiters' jobs more difficult," Wilder said. "Scholarships are the biggest incentive."