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Duty, Honor, Country: Broadening Opportunities at the U.S. Military Academy

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the FTGN Army Broadening Series that we are running from March 15-30, 2021. Each day, we will publish new insights into the Army’s various broadening assignments, starting March 15th, 2021 with an overview of AIM 2.0 and a discussion on how to educate others on assignment selection criteria. 

By Raymond A. Kimball

If you’re an officer who wants to earn a graduate degree, shape future officers, and expose yourself to a side of the Army many never see, a broadening assignment at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (USMA) may interest you.  USMA’s unique mission, “to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army,” requires a diverse faculty committed to developing young leaders. We are teachers, role models, mentors, institutional leaders, scholars, and engaged members of the community. Over half of that faculty comes from military officers on broadening assignments who then return to the Army as our “second graduating class.” We call them our “second graduating class” due to the development they receive during graduate school and at West Point that provides them the additional skills, knowledge, and experience they need to be the next generation of senior leaders for the Army and nation.

West Point offers opportunities that, contrary to popular mythology, are open to all eligible officers regardless of commissioning source. Teaching involves small class instructions in a variety of disciplines from computer science to history to sociology to physics. Other positions, such as Tactical Officer, are more akin to a second company command. Whichever catches your eye, there are few jobs in the Army which offer more personally and professionally rewarding experiences of shaping the lives of our nation’s future leaders.  Below are some common questions and answers about service on the USMA faculty.

What would I do as a junior faculty member?

Faculty assignments provide junior officers (called “junior rotators”) with exposure to different environments to gain new perspectives and to grapple with complex problems. These junior rotators arrive at West Point, having completed advanced degrees (typically a master’s degree from an accredited institution) in their respective fields and move back out to the operational Army following their three-year tour. Because they are usually fresh out of graduate school, the junior rotators are imbued with the latest pedagogical practices and cutting-edge research. Given their recent field experiences in the operational Army, our junior rotators are particularly important role models and mentors for cadets. The cadet influence isn’t solely limited to the classroom: faculty assist with cadet interest clubs, athletic teams, and other extra-curricular activities. During their time here, junior rotators develop additional skills, knowledge, and experience that empowers their continued service in the Army and in the academic community. Aided by continual mentorship from senior faculty, our goal is for the junior faculty to use their graduate education and experiences teaching at USMA to grow into the next generation of senior leaders for the Army, for higher education, and for the nation.

What are the qualifications required for a USMA faculty tour?

Most USMA assignments provide officers an opportunity to earn an advanced degree attained by attending an approved Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program. Officers assigned in the Dean’s Directorate must possess an advanced degree or attend a two-year graduate program to obtain one. Officers can also opt to apply for programs that require a one-year ACS program, including the Eisenhower Leadership Development Program (ELDP), Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic (SCPME), Department of Physical Education (DPE), Defense and Strategic Studies Program (DSS), and the Department of Military Instruction(DMI). USMA takes a talent management approach to find officers with unique skills and attributes and match them to a department or organization that needs those skills to carry out their mission. However, there are some baseline requirements that all military faculty applicants must meet:

  1. Demonstrated potential for future, long term military service as determined by HRC and IAW AR 621-1 Para 3-3c.  Meet all Army standards for professional military bearing, not pending adverse action and appearance IAW AR 600-9.  Possess exceptional leadership qualities, excellent character, professional military bearing, and appearance evaluated through chain of command recommendations.
  2. Minimum of four years of commissioned service and not more than 17 years Active Federal Service (AFS) upon entry into the ACS program. Candidates who need a waiver should reach out to a department to discuss further.
  3. Agree to serve an Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) of three days for every one day of schooling upon degree completion (roughly six years for a two year degree program).  
  4. Completion of officer education and branch qualification at current grade (i.e. “KD complete”) as outlined by DA PAM 600-3 before reporting to the faculty.
  5. Undergraduate degree GPA of 2.5 or better with a special aptitude for a specific subject to be taught.  All masters level applicants must have GRE scores within the last 5-years in their ACS nomination packet, regardless of whether the university requires a GRE for admission.  GRE scores must be a minimum of 146 quantitative, 153 verbal and 4.0 analytical.  

Please note that graduation from USMA is not a pre-requisite for faculty service. We are committed to recruiting a faculty that draws from all Army commissioning sources.

What if I already have an advanced degree but it’s in a different discipline or from an online graduate program?

Each department/organization will have a different answer to this question. If the Army Continuing Education program did not pay for your advanced degree, you may be eligible to attend graduate school for a relevant degree. A good rule of thumb is that your degree should be from a program that is accredited by an outside authority for traditional (not online) instruction.

What role does diversity play in USMA faculty selection?

USMA has for most of its history been engaged in the project of educating, training, and inspiring a homogeneous Corps of Cadets. For many years, the work of the institution was likewise performed by a fairly homogeneous staff and faculty. West Point has taken significant strides to make the top tier education available to all Americans, regardless of their background to ensure we are pulling in the best students to help solve our nation’s most pressing problems. Today, however, our nation is facing unprecedented challenges at home and abroad and we need talented officers from all walks of life to help solve these and build the next generation of leaders who live up to our national motto E Pluribus Unum.  

I’m worried that taking so much time away from the operational Army will hurt my career.

West Point faculty members in all career fields are selected for advanced professional military education, promotion, and Centralized Selection List positions at rates greater than their peers. Prior faculty members have commanded at every level of the Department of Defense, including Chief of Staff of the Army and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When asked to reflect on their tours, USMA faculty members note the opportunity to reflect and personally grow under the support of senior civilian and military faculty as being an opportunity unmatched anywhere else in the Army.

What are some things that might limit my ability to serve as a USMA faculty member?

As noted above, USMA takes a talent management approach to hiring faculty and is committed to working with promising potential faculty who have unique considerations. The following elements may complicate a faculty member’s application process:

  1. Timeline. Prospective USMA faculty members are expected to have room in their timeline for a one to two year ACS tour followed by a three year utilization tour at West Point. Requests to shorten the utilization tour are unlikely to be approved. Officers not selected for Resident Intermediate Level Education (ILE) also have the opportunity to complete their ILE requirements prior to departing West Point. West Point sends faculty to Satellite ILE each summer and hosts the only Blended Advanced Operations Course (AOC) in the Army each year in partnership with the Command and General Staff College.  This, along with the ability to defer consideration for promotion, may give prospective faculty members more flexibility in their timeline.
  2. Dual Military. West Point staff and tenant organizations assigned to the military installation are extremely limited in their ability to absorb additional personnel. We strongly encourage officers enrolled in the Married Army Couples Program to submit faculty applications for both service members and to think broadly about where each member of the couple could serve. Departments work with dual military faculty candidates on an individual basis to identify all possible opportunities to keep military couples together.
  3. Aviators. Aviation officers who accept a faculty tour may not meet their total operational flight duty credits (TOFDC) for either the 12 or 18-year audit which may result in no longer receiving aviation incentive pay (AVIP). Aviation officers should carefully review TOFDC status when considering a faculty assignment. There are some limited opportunities at USMA to potentially continue logging flight time with 2nd Aviation Detachment or by serving in one of the four positions in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering that are coded as having flight requirements.

How do I get started?

You can start your application at https://teach.westpoint.edu/. We strongly recommend that you look through the organizational links listed above to get a sense of which departments might best use your skills and talents.


Colonel Raymond A. Kimball, EdD, is Chief of Faculty Development at the U.S. Military Academy. He would like to thank the following USMA  faculty contributors who improved this article: COL Chris Mayer, LTC Jordon Swain, MAJ Jess Dawson, and MAJ James Pleuss.