SocalPizza wrote: As I understand it, you first have to survive 10 weeks of OCS to commission, there is no loan repayment for your initial commitment, you have 6 months after passing the bar at The Basic School (TBS) which has nothing to do with the law, then you have 3 months at Naval Justice School (NJS) where you actually do study military law alongside Navy and Coast Guard JAGs, and then when you're done with all that, you aren't even guaranteed to be doing legal work, and are an unrestricted line officer (meaning you can be sent to the front lines if they so chose).
Is that all correct?
About half of my Justice School class was USMC (25 or so). As far as I know, every single one went straight to a legal job. While it is true that they don't have the line/staff distinction like the Navy does, most Marine JAs are doing legal work in legal billets.
Many have commented that they are reluctant to apply to the USMC because in the Corps even JAGs can be assigned to the "front lines." I think brownshoe is right that every new officer in the USMC JAGC is assigned to a legal position, and if a Marine JAG were assigned to a non-legal position, I can't imagine that it would be anything other than an administrative or teaching position. Anyway, I'm only a "candidate." I don't really know what happens after commissioning, but I can remark on how the application process for the USMC is different than the application process for the other services.
The actual process of applying to the other services is quick at easy, but it feels like a bit of a crapshoot. The process of applying to the Marine Corps JAG Corps is long and involved, but you have a lot more control over the process. Specifically, you can get into really good physical shape and show a lot of enthusiasm for the Marine Corps.
I'm not sure if anybody else on here has described how involved the application process for the USMC JAGC is. The application process for the JAGC is basically the same as the application process for other officer candidates (excluding those who go through ROTC).
The first step is to get in touch with your local Officer Selection Officer. In my case, I first met with a master sergeant. He spent a while sizing me up before deciding whether he wanted to introduce me to the captain in charge of the office. After two long conversations -- and after assuring them that I could run three miles in a certain time and do a certain number of pull ups -- they gave me an application packet. They added, however, that I'd have to prove my physical condition at an upcoming physical fitness test (PFT) before they would go any further with me in the process.
A few weeks went by before the PFT, and not much happened. But after I did fairly well on the first PFT, things changed a lot. I was quickly added to the local candidate platoon and assigned to a squad and fire team. This process really ramped up my involvement and put at lot of pressure on me to get prepared for Officer Candidate School, even before I submitted my application.
For example, every week there are two one-hour physical training sessions. Before every PT event, we're supposed to memorize different things, like Marine Corps Leadership Traits, and after every PT event, there is a meeting of the local Semper Fi Society to go over stuff that you have to know to be a Marine... These events are optional, but there is pressure on candidates to attend. Last weekend we went on a conditioning hike -- 40 people attended, all wearing boots, utes, and a pack.
Not everybody in the candidate platoon is starting fresh. A good number of these guys either have completed OCS (and are waiting to graduate undergrad and be commissioned) or have been to one of the six-week programs. Theses guys are a great resource, but they're very serious about doing everything the Marine Corps way. So, even if you're at your first PFT and just testing the waters, expect to learn some simple drill procedures so that you can fall in, stand at attention, stand at parade rest, etc. You can't get tested on pull ups until you stand at attention and shout something like, "Good morning gunnery sergeant, Candidate <last name> requests permission to mount the bar," and if you don't request permission to dismount the bar, then your last pull up is not counted.
So, I think that makes it clear that physical training and enthusiasm are a huge part of the application process. I'm not sure what the average PFT score will be this year, but I know that I'm one of the slowest guys out there at 278 (19 pull ups, 100 crunches in 2 minutes, and 3 miles in 20:43). My OSO says I should be able to get by with a 278 because I'm a law applicant, but he's repeatedly expressed that he really wishes I could do a few more pull ups.
The paper application is fairly straightforward but still requires a little more organization than the applications for other services. You have to write it all by hand; typing isn't allowed. Oh, and you have to use black ink -- no blue ink!
You also have to pass your eye, hearing, and medical examinations before they'll submit your application. This makes sense because the next step is to go to OCS. So, all of this is just to get a crack at going to OCS, which is where they really test your ability to lead Marines. You can read more about OCS at this blog
So far I've really enjoyed all of this stuff, but one thing that keeps me considering the other services is money... The USMC has the least generous loan repayment programs. They have regular loan repayment programs that offer a few thousand dollars a year to students, and my OSO says that from time to time he'll receive notices that there are other funding programs to which Marines can apply. But it's nothing like the $65k that the other services will give you, and the Marines also won't give you the same bonuses to stay in beyond your initial service obligation. It's all about the pride of being a Marine.
And I think I just wrote all of this because I don't want to finish my law review comment...