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6 Reasons for Becoming a Military Officer

Posted September. 09, 2010 11:35,   


On an Internet posting, a netizen who claims to have served in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, or ROTC, listed six reasons why he chose to become an officer: salary, personal connections, style, career, experience and honor. Just like any other young person today, he expressed a very practical view of being an officer.

Maj. Kang Jae-ku and Maj. Lee In-ho are symbols of the sacrifices made by lower-ranking officers. Kang, who graduated from the Korea Military Academy, was named commander of a Marine company that went to serve in the Vietnam War in 1965. In hand grenade training, he sacrificed his life by throwing his body over a grenade that one of his men mistakenly threw, saving some 100 troops. On a cave reconnaissance mission in the Vietnam War in 1966, Lee, a Naval Academy graduate, saved the lives of his men by throwing his body over a grenade thrown by a North Vietnamese soldier. The two heroes died as captains but will forever exemplify the essence of young officers.

The popularity of joining the military through ROTC or officer candidate school, or OCS, is falling rapidly. Last year, the application rate for the OCS program was 0.7 to 1, meaning that the number of applicants was below normal for the first time. The application rate for ROTC also fell to 2:1 last year. The reason is simple. OCS officers must serve 41 months and ROTC officers 28 months, more than the 21-22 months of mandatory service for rank-and-file soldiers. This results from the excessive shortening of the service period for enlisted men. With an insufficient number of officers, certain military units have given officers’ posts to non-commissioned officers. The shortage of young officers poses another crisis for the Korean military.

Young officers play a crucial role in the military. They help train, counsel and serve as a big brother or parent figure to rank-and-file soldiers. Officers are also strictly held responsible for accidents. More than anything else, commanding non-commissioned officers and enlisted men requires leadership, a sense of responsibility and a spirit of sacrifice. One should not think that serving several more months or one more year is not in his or her interests. A sense of honor and leadership developed in the military can serve as valuable assets when pursuing other careers as a civilian.

Editorial Writer Yuk Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)