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Becoming an Air Force officer: soaring to new heights

Becoming an Air Force officer: soaring to new heights

Air Force ROTC provides a number of scholarships such as the Scholarship for Outstanding Airmen to Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program to help relieve the financial burden of college education. Graduates of SOAR are commissioned as second lieutenants with a minimum four year active duty contract. (Courtesy graphic)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Airmen seeking a career as an officer in the Air Force can take advantage of many different commissioning programs and opportunities.

While there are many different paths to pursue this goal, one some may not be familiar with is the Scholarship for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC program.

Air Force ROTC provides a number of scholarships to help relieve the financial burden of college education. SOAR is just one of the many they offer, intended for active duty enlisted members.

Through SOAR, Airmen must separate from the Air Force. Members can receive scholarships of up to $18,000 per year in tuition and fees plus a monthly stipend of $300 to $500 depending on the class year. There are 51 slots available per year and it is open to all college majors.

“This scholarship will be awarded for two to four years, depending on how many years you have remaining in your bachelor's degree program,” said Scott Hardin, education services specialist with the 21st Force Support Squadron. “Something to keep in mind is that you will no longer be collecting military pay and benefits and will be living on the civilian economy like any other college student. After completing all Air Force ROTC and academic degree requirements, contracted cadets accept a commission as second lieutenants in the Air Force.”

Before one can reach this stepping stone, each candidate must go through an application and selection process.

“There are two major steps in applying for SOAR,” Hardin said. “The first one is to apply for the scholarship via Air Force ROTC and the second is to apply to a college that has an Air Force ROTC program at either a host university or crosstown university.”

Several components make up a SOAR package, to include passing the Air Force Qualifying Test, providing Enlisted Performance Reports and having a minimum of 24 semester hours of graded college course work with at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average.

“There are a total of three allocations for Air Force Space Command, which makes it even more competitive,” said Master Sgt. Janelle Amador, career assistance advisor with the 50th Force Support Squadron. “For those who are preparing their packages or who would like to in the future, I would tell them the first step is to do your research. In my opinion, the most challenging parts for the applicants is ensuring all paperwork is filled out correctly, qualifying academically for some of these programs and maintaining the required grade point average.”

While the SOAR application process may be challenging, Hardin shared advice for those who would like to pursue this path.

“A big part of my role is to make sure members interested in commissioning programs are aware of what is available and know where to get accurate information to complete their packages,” he said. “All commissioning programs are very competitive in nature and applicants must dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to evolve into the individual that stands out from the crowd.

“Academic preparation is the key,” he continued. “Their application must also highlight leadership and job performance in primary duty, significant self-improvement, leadership qualities, Air Force awards and other accomplishments.”

Amador shared advice for Airmen looking to become officers through the SOAR program.

“Applicants need to ensure they complete all required prerequisites verbatim,” she said. “It is important to follow the format provided exactly and have a few different people review your package for errors and precision. If you want something badly enough, you must ensure you do everything required to get it. That means studying, researching and paying attention to detail. Others have done it, and you can too.”

For SOAR, one board takes place annually. Applications must be submitted no earlier than September 1 and no later than October 15.

For more information on the SOAR and other scholarship opportunities, click here.

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