Air Force offers several paths from stripes to bars

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Delaney Gonzales
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force offers expansive opportunities for Airmen to progress in their career.

For those who are in pursuit of higher education, commissioning programs are one of the ways future Airmen can begin their career as a company-grade officer within the military ranks.

There are three main paths for enlisted members to earn a commission, to include, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs, Officer Training School and the Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program.

“Airmen who are within 365 days of completing a bachelor’s degree will have to apply to Officer Training School in order to receive a commission,” said Susan Sorrell, 325th Force Support Squadron education services specialist. “ROTC programs are for Airmen who are in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, but are not within 365 days of earning their undergraduate degree.”


According to, the following are ROTC programs that Airmen can apply to: Scholarships for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC, Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program, Professional Officer Course-Early Release Program and the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning program.

With ROTC commissioning programs, Airmen are released from active-duty, becoming full-time students and Air Force Reservists. Upon graduation, program participants earn the rank of second lieutenant and will then return to active-duty status.”

Each ROTC program has varying requirements, but general guidelines for entry. To include age restrictions, completion of a specified amount of college credits, and a satisfactory cumulative GPA. For more information on each programs eligibility requirements, visit


“To have a competitive OTS submission, applicants should demonstrate the whole Airmen concept in their package,” Sorrell said. “Airmen must meet a grade point average of at least 2.5, undergo an interview process, receive their commander’s recommendation and take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test.”

To apply for OTS search for Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS) and select “apply for commission (Active Duty Enlisted Airmen).” The direct link is at Full eligibility requirements are listed in AFI 36-2013.


The LEAD program gives enlisted members the opportunity to earn a college degree at the Air Force Academy.

In reference to, 170 slots are available annually for Airmen to be nominated by commanders to attend the Air Force Academy and the Academy Prep School.

The following are the eligibility requirements for acceptance into the program:

· For direct entry into the Air Force Academy, the applicant cannot reach their 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year of entry
· For entry into the Prep School, the applicant cannot reach their 22nd birthday by July 1 of the year of entry
· Must be unmarried and not pregnant
· Must complete AF Form 1786 and submit an online application (the form is due to Office of Admissions by Dec. 31)

For additional guidance about the LEAD program or the Air Force Academy visit the following website:

For more information on any commissioning programs contact your local Force Support Squadron education services or military personnel flight.