This post comes at the request of Mary, who wanted to know my reasoning behind leaning away from the Deserving Airman Program. I've been hesitating to post anything about it, since it's such a personal decision that hinges on so many factors - I don't want to influence anyone one way or the other. I also haven't researched the program thoroughly, so I don't want to misinform anyone. Take everything I've got here for what it's worth, and look into the program for yourself and consult with your career advisor.
The Deserving Airman Commissioning Program is an Air Force Reserve specific program. If you're a Guardsman or an active duty Airman, this is not for you, although you may have something similar - see your career advisor.
It's hard to find information on DACP online, even in the Air Force Instruction (AFI) manuals. I found a few AFIs, but they were specific to particular wings, versus the AF Reserve overall. The program provides enlisted Airmen who have their degree the opportunity to put in a packet and go before a board to be considered for commissioning. I'm a little unclear as to the next step, whether you have to go to full-blown Officer Training School (OTS) or if you go to a two week abbreviated school at the same location to learn officer/leadership skills. Regardless, after that you'll have to go to officer tech school to learn your job from the officer's standpoint. You must commission by age 35, that I'm pretty certain about.
My thought process goes like this:
- I did the BMT/tech school thing all summer. If I was accepted into this program, I'd have to repeat this process all over again, from the other (officer) side. Do I want to do that again? Granted, they'd be "nicer" to me, but still.
- It was recommended that I wait a year before applying. I'd have to put in for the board and hope for the best at that point, then carve out time (hopefully during summer) to do all of this training if accepted. This is taking a while, can you tell?
- Let's say I actually did get accepted. By the time I finished everything, I'd be 32 or 33. Do I want to be a 33 year old Second Lieutenant, starting over from the very bottom on the officer side? Or do I want to keep plugging away on the enlisted side, where I've seen a number of individuals advance fairly quickly in my unit and easily make SNCO?
- It's either MTI or officer - I really can't do both at this point in my life, as an older Airman. If I pursue the MTI route, I'd be too old to commission by the time I was done. If I commission, I wouldn't be able to be an MTI, as I'd be an officer.
- I'm not dependent on the military for my retirement plan. If I wasn't established in my career, I might push myself down that route, but that's not the case. If I retire from the military, the money will be an added bonus to my pension and other retirement plans that I have from teaching.
Ultimately for me, the desire to pursue a career as an MTI changes everything. When I first enlisted, I thought the officer side was the end-all, be-all, but my opinion has since changed. I have so much respect for the chiefs in my unit, especially when I see female chiefs around the wing. These individuals are no less of a leader than their officer counterparts. I can see myself mentoring and leading other Airmen in this sort of a position, versus leading as an officer. I associate SNCOs with advanced experience and hard work, characteristics that I hope to embody for others.
I haven't talked much about this decision on my blog because I haven't completely closed the door on this option. You never know what's going to happen down the road that might make me reconsider, namely a surprise pregnancy. I would hesitate to pursue MTI school if I had a very young child. We'll see what happens, but at this point, I'm gunning for a lengthy enlisted career!
Mary, hope that answers your question and sheds some light on my decision! The DACP is a great option for enlisted reservists who have their degree already, or who are close to finishing their degree. If I were younger, I think I would definitely be researching it more seriously.