PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the British Army’s Late Entry (LE) commissioning process.
A number of Arms and Services (A&S) within the British Army offer opportunities for senior non-commissioned officers (SNCO’s) and warrant officers to further their Service careers by attaining a LE commission.
It is organised into four parts for easier reading:
- Part 01: Background.
- Part 02: Outline of the LE Commissioning Process.
- Part 03: LE Career Progression and Statistics.
- Part 04: Miscellaneous.
The aim of this article is to describe the process for personnel seeking to become a British Army late entry officer.
1.2 What is a LE Officer?
““Late Entry Commissioned Officers” shall mean officers commissioned directly from the ranks at or over the age of 30 years.” (The Promotions and Appointments Warrant 2009, p.11).
A LE officer is someone who has been awarded the Queen’s Commission after a number of years’ prior service in the Army as a soldier.
It is important to note that SNCO’s and warrant officers do not get promoted to Captain (OF-2), they can be commissioned as LE officers following a selection process.
1.3 Types of LE Commission
There are currently three types of LE commission:
- Short Service Commission (Late Entry) (SSC(LE)) which offers 6 years commissioned service.
- Intermediate Regular Commission (Late Entry) (IRC(LE)) which offers 10 years commissioned service.
- Regular Commission (Late Entry) (RegC(LE)), normally as a Major (OF-3), may be granted to an IRC (LE) officer.
Conversion to Direct Entry (DE) commission terms and conditions of service (TACOS) is possible from any of these LE commissions.
1.4 Brigade of Gurkhas LE Commissions
With effect from 01 October 2007 a SSC (LE) in The Brigade of Gurkhas can “be granted in the rank of Captain to a Gurkha other rank.” (The Promotions and Appointments Warrant 2009, p.11). Conversion to an IRC (LE) and RegC (LE) can be granted subject to the current Regular LE criteria
The Short Service Commission (Gurkha) (SSC(G)) and Queen’s Gurkha Officer (QGO) were replaced by Regular LE terms of service on 01 October 2007 under instructions issued by the Defence Council. All then currently serving SSC(G) and QGO officers opted to transfer to the LE Commission. From 01 October 2007, all Gurkha commissions would be to SSC(LE) in the rank of Captain.
PART TWO: OUTLINE OF THE LE COMMISSIONING PROCESS
This part of the article outlines the LE commissioning process.
In simple terms, the LE commissioning process can be divided into seven stages:
- Stage 1: Forward Planning.
- Stage 2: Application Process.
- Stage 3: Pre-Late Entry Commissioning Assessment Board (PRE-LE CAB).
- Stage 4: Late Entry Commissioning Assessment Board (LE CAB).
- Stage 5: Arm Selection Board (ASB).
- Stage 6: Late Entry Officers’ Course (LEOC).
- Stage 7: Branch Training Course (BTC) or equivalent course.
Generally all candidates will have to undertake stages 2, 4, 5 and 6 as these are compulsory. Stage 1 is generally up to the candidate to undertake, whilst stage 3 is offered by some A&S as an optional event. Stage 7 is dependent on the A&S the candidate is transferring into, for example from the Infantry to the Adjutant General’s Corps (Education & Training Services) (AGC (ETS)), because they require specific training to undertake the new role.
Each of the stages is described in further detail below.
2.1 Stage 1: Forward Planning
It is important to forward plan for the LE commissioning process as there are a number of things to consider (including but not limited to):
- Decide which A&S you would like to commission into.
- Gain any relevant qualifications.
- Decide when to apply, e.g. at what rank?
- Gain a recommendation for LE.
- Prepare your application.
- Prepare for the LE CAB.
2.2 Stage 2: Application Process
There are a number of things to consider during the application process (including but not limited to):
- Age Criteria:
a. There is no upper age limit for the initial LE commissioning other than the requirement to have enough time to complete a six (6) year SSC(LE) before the age of 60, or reaching thirty-four (34) years reckonable service, whichever is reached first.
- Rank Criteria:
a. Substantive SNCO’s (Sergeant and Staff/Colour Sergeant) and warrant officers (class 1 and 2).
b. However, it should be noted that certain A&S have their own criteria. For example, the Royal Engineers state: “All soldiers reaching the rank of WO1, can apply for a Late Entry (LE) Commission either in the Corps or with another Arms and Service (A&S). Exceptionally, WO2s with an appropriate technical degree as agreed by the Selection Board may also apply.” (RE Blue Book, 2010, p.11).
- Arm/Service Criteria:
a. Candidates may apply to more than one branch of the A&S they wish to commission into provided they meet the individual branch criteria.
b. Branches are applied for in priority order.
c. Certain branches, for example the Royal Military Police (RMP), only allow substantive SNCO’s and warrant officers who are already in the RMP to apply.
- Service Time Criteria:
a. Individuals must have an Engagement Expiry Date (EED) beyond the 01 April in the year the application is being made (e.g. 01 April 2019).
b. Must have served a minimum of nine (9) years reckonable service from age 21 or date of enlistment, whichever is the later on 01 April in the year of the application (e.g. 01 April 2018).
- Qualifications Criteria:
a. Functional skills required for LE commission:
i. Regular: literacy and numeracy at a minimum of Level 2 (since 01 April 2014).
ii. Reserve: literacy and numeracy, N/A.
b. Honours degree for Adjutant General’s Corps (Education & Training Service) (AGC (ETS)) roles.
- Medical Criteria:
a. In accordance with the Army Commissioning Regulations 2009 the minimum medical standard required for an LE commission is normally Medically Fully Deployable (MFD).
- Recommendation Criteria:
a. Candidates must have received an unqualified commissioning recommendation from their second line reporting officer (2 RO) in their annual report (e.g. 2016/17).
b. A Special Appraisal Report should not be raised in support of an application.
- Army Form B7221:
a. Candidates must complete Army Form (AF) B7221: Application for a SSC/IRC (LE) Commission by Serving Soldiers Over 30 Years of Age.
b. Must arrive at the Army Personnel Centre (APC), no later than 01 March in the year of the application (e.g. 01 March 2018).
- Eligibility Check:
a. Candidates will be checked to ensure they satisfy the criteria stated in Points 1-7 above.
b. The candidate’s unit will be notified of the outcome by letter.
- Army Form B225A:
a. Where candidates are successful at the eligibility check, interviews may proceed that enable RO’s to complete AF B225A: Report on a WO/SNCO Candidate for an LE Commission.
b. Part 1 is for the Commanding Officer (CO), usually a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4).
c. Part 2 is for the Formation Commander, usually a Brigadier (OF-6).
d. Part 3 is for the 3 RO (exact person varies between branches).
e. The complete form must arrive at the APC no later than 31 July in the year of the application (e.g. 31 July 2018).
- Filter Board:
a. In general, all candidates will be considered initially by a Filter Board.
b. The Filter Board will select those who will attend the LE CAB.
c. A letter is sent to the candidate’s commanding officer/officer commanding stating whether they have been successful or unsuccessful.
d. Example composition of a 2018 AGC Filter Board:
i. Colonel (OF-5) Late AGC (ETS).
ii. Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4) AGC (SPS).
iii. Lieutenant Colonel AGC (ETS).
iv. Major (OF-3) AGC (SPS).
v. Major AGC (RMP).
It is important to note that the exact criteria varies between the A&S, meaning it is important to read the relevant Defence Instructions and Notices (DIN).
Candidates who are successful at this stage may move on to a PRE-LE CAB or directly to a LE CAB.
2.3 Stage 3: Pre-Late Entry Commissioning Assessment Board
Some branches may offer candidates what is known as a Pre-Late Entry Commissioning Assessment Board (PRE-LE CAB) training event, for example 1 Military Police Brigade (2016).
The aim of the PRE-LE CAB is to provide AGC RMP and Military Provost Service (MPS) warrant officers, and in some cases attached Staff and Personnel Support (SPS) personnel the opportunity to practice and experience aspects of the AGC’s LE CAB, before undertaking it at Worthy Down in the September. The PRE-LE CAB is usually organised for the August.
Although not a mandated aspect of the LE Commissioning process the two (2) day event provides candidates with an opportunity to undertake aspects of the LE CAB such as the interview, discussion group, lecturette, planning exercise, command task, and physical events such as the Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA) and assault course.
The PRE-LE CAB attempts to closely replicate the conditions candidates will face during the LE CAB, during which constructive feedback and advice is provided to each candidate from other officers on their performance and areas for development.
2.4 Stage 4: Late Entry Commissioning Assessment Board
From a candidate perspective, there are two parts to the LE CAB:
- Part One: ‘Paper Board’; and
- Part Two: Assessment.
At the start of the LE CAB, part one, board members will conduct what is termed a ‘paper board’, meaning they will inspect a candidate’s:
- Personnel file (‘P File’), no longer used as I understand it.
- Serviceperson’s Joint Appraisal Reports (SJAR’s, or confidential reports (CR’s) in old money).
- Course reports.
- AFB 225A.
- AFB 7211.
Candidates are given an initial score from the paper board. Part two of the LE CAB is a two (2) day event composed of:
- Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA).
- Essay (may be useful to refer to JSP 101).
- Group discussion.
- Planning exercise:
- Useful to revise distance, speed and time (DST)).
- Replaced an ‘appreciation’ exercise.
- Command tasks.
Candidates are scored on each area, which is then combined with the paper board score. It is important to score well on both parts of the LE CAB due to the competitive nature of the process. Further, it is important to forward plan so that your paper board score can be as high as possible.
In September 2018, a whistle blower alleged candidates from Infantry and Armoured Regiments “had been exchanging answers and tips via the messaging service WhatsApp.” (Shields, 2018). Consequently, the candidates had their commissions blocked until an investigation had been conducted.
2.5 Stage 5: Arm Selection Board
Selection for commissioning is made at an Arm Selection Board (ASB).
Example composition of an AGC ASB:
- The board composition for all ASB’s is governed by Annex A to Chapter 3 of the CM Boarding Manual.
- The board composition for ASB18 for the AGC was four (4) Colonels (OF-5).
Following confirmation by the Army Commissions Board (ACB) the results are published.
Successful candidates are commissioned in the rank of Captain (OF-2):
- Warrant Officers:
- Warrant officers are normally awarded an IRC (LE) commission for 10 years from commissioning date, up to a maximum of thirty-four (34) years’ service or 60 years of age, whichever is the earlier.
- An ASB may withhold this for candidates and offer an initial SSC (LE) commission.
- SNCO’s are normally awarded a SSC (LE) commission with six (6) years guaranteed service or a total of 22 years’ service, whichever is longer.
2.6 Stage 6: Late Entry Officers’ Course
The Late Entry Officers Course (LEOC) is designed to develop the new LE Officer’s understanding of the “big picture”. Lasting four weeks for Regular Army officers and two weeks for Army Reserve officers, it covers:
- Modern military history;
- Defence and International Affairs (DIA);
- Jointery (tri-service co-ordination); and
- Battle planning.
Leadership is a key theme of LEOC and students are encouraged to develop new knowledge and skills while building on their previous experience in the Army. A highlight of both the Regular and TA courses is a day-long private visit to the Houses of Parliament and the Ministry of Defence in order to carry out research as part of a DIA project.
Between June 2009 and December 2013, the Open University (OU) did offer LEOC graduates 25 credits at OU Level 1 (OU, 2019). Students may also undertake a Pearson BTEC Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Management & Leadership (DSML) as noted in the Stratford Business School course information for 2018:
“I completed the (DSML) on the Late Entry Officers Course, the (EDSML) the following year and plan to begin the MBA this year.” (Stratford Business School, 2018, p.6).
For some ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humour on the LEOC look here.
2.7 Stage 7: Branch Training Course
Certain branches require candidates to undertake what is known as a Branch Training Course (BTC) or an equivalent course, for example:
- AGC (SPS) will attend the SPS Detachment Commanders’ Course.
- AGC (RMP) will complete the final phases of the RMP Officers’ Course.
- AGC (MPS) have no further courses.
- AGC (ETS) will attend an ETS BTC, starting their Post Graduate Certificate of Education (Post Compulsory Education and Training) (PGCE (PCET)) which must be completed during their first tour.
2.8 Example Timeline
Below is an example timeline of the LE commissioning process:
- EED must be beyond 01 April 2020.
- Must have served a minimum of 9 years reckonable service from age 21 or date of enlistment, whichever is later, on 01 April 2019.
- Must have unqualified commissioning recommendation from their 2 RO in their 2017/18 Annual Report.
- AF B7221 submitted no later than 01 March 2019.
- Eligibility Check and Filter Board results published on 20 March 2019.
- AF B225A not to be submitted to Formation Commanders before 01 June 2019.
- Must have relevant qualifications by 31 July 2019.
- AF B225A submitted to APC no later than 31 July 2019.
- Filter Board results published in August 2019.
- Candidates attend LE CAB on 13 September 2019.
- ASB results published on 05 November 2019.
- Successful candidates commissioned between 01 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.
PART THREE: LE CAREER PROGRESSION AND STATISTICS
This part of the article will outline the:
- Difference between the different types of Army commissions;
- Balance in numbers between DE and LE officers;
- Chances of being awarded an LE commission;
- Career progression;
- The Duncan Essay;
- Pension implications; and
- Leadership as a competency.
3.1 Soldier Commissions versus LE Commissions
- Direct Entry Commissions:
- A direct entry (DE) officer is commissioned directly from civilian status.
- Undertake a 44-week commissioning course.
- Soldier Commissions:
- The Army commissions’ soldiers from the ranks (under 30 years of age), selecting those judged to have sufficient leadership potential, to attend the standard commissioning course.
- Both DE and soldier commission candidates are assessed and then selected at the Army Officer Selection Board, thereby assuring a level method of selection and quality.
- Attend the Potential Officers’ Development Programme (PODP), followed by,
- The 44-week commissioning course (alongside DE officers).
- LE Commissions:
- For those who are not selected for a DE commission from the ranks, then after nine years’ service (from age 21), and having attained the rank of sergeant, all soldiers are eligible to apply for a late entry (LE) commission up to 44 years of age (waivers can be applied for older applicants).
- Undertake a 4-week commissioning course.
- Professional Qualified Commissions:
- The Professionally Qualified Officer (PQO) course is for those who hold professional qualifications, such as doctors, vets, lawyers, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists and chaplains.
- Undertake an 8-week commissioning course.
3.2 Direct Entry/Late Entry Balance
Prior to 2009, the Army had a balance of 25% LE officers to 75% DE officers. Since 2009, the Army has readjusted this to 33% DE officers to 67% DE officers, as greater demand for LE officers had emerged (Hansard, 2009).
LE officers have differing terms of service from DE officers, principally to accelerate their promotion given their average commissioning age of 40 (Hansard, 2009).
LE officers are widely employed and compete up to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4) with DE officers for appointments.
3.3 What are the Chances of Being Awarded an LE Commission?
The chance of being awarded an LE commission varies between the A&S of the Army.
“The rate of Warrant Officers commissioned over a 5 year period (2010 to 2015) is 4%.” (FOI 2015/06053).
The commissioning rate was calculated using the average number of warrant officers who become LE officers divided by the average strength of warrant officers over the same period.
According to the Army Secretariat (FOI2016/05615), in 2011 a Private who joined the Infantry had a 1.3% chance of receiving an LE commission in their career, compared to a 2% chance in the total Regular Army.
The below tables provide select examples of promotion chance by select Corps.
Table 1: Chance of LE Commission in the Royal Artillery
|Year||Candidates Boarded||Candidates Commissioned||% Chance of Commission|
Table 2: Chance of LE Commission in the Army Air Corps
|Year||Candidates Boarded||Candidates Commissioned||% Chance of Commission|
Table 3: Chance of LE Commission in the AGC (SPS)
|Year||Candidates Applied||Candidates Boarded||Candidates Commissioned||% Chance of Commission|
In Table 3, the figures have been rounded as per MOD statistics policy. For Tables 1 and 2, the figures are as presented in the FOI.
3.4 LE Career Progression
For those awarded a LE Commission in the rank of Captain (OF-2) it can be the first of three ranks they will hold during their career as an LE officer.
Between 01 April 1999 and 31 March 2006, the average (mean) time to promote across all Arms/Services was:
- Major (OF-3):
- Average time to promote to this rank was 3 years and 3 months.
- Longest time: 4 years and 6 months (Royal Artillery).
- Shortest time: 2 years and 7 months (REME).
- 64.9% chance of promotion.
- Average time to promote to this rank was 3 years and 3 months.
- Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4):
- Average time to promote to this rank was 6 years and 10 months.
- Longest time: 8 years and 11 months (Army Air Corps).
- Shortest time: 5 years and 8 months (Royal Engineers).
- 20.0% chance of promotion from Major to Lieutenant Colonel.
- 13.0% chance of promotion from Captain to Major to Lieutenant Colonel.
- Average time to promote to this rank was 6 years and 10 months.
- Colonel (OF-5):
- “In exceptional circumstances, a late entry Lieutenant Colonel may be considered for promotion to Colonel.” (The Promotions and Appointments Warrant 2009, p.34).
The average length of reckonable service on outflow (e.g. retirement or resignation) was 11 years and 6 months.
3.5 The Duncan Essay
“The Duncan Essay is an annual essay writing competition which is open to all serving members of the Royal Artillery (Regular and Reserve) and is sponsored by the Royal Artillery Institution.” (The Gunner, 2013, p.7).
Although the competition is open to all ranks, warrant officers who are due to attend an LECB are strongly encouraged to submit an entry, which must be between 2,000 and 3,500 words in length (and, of course, must be unclassified). Writers usually have 4-5 contemporary and future-focused topics to choose from.
3.6 Pension Implications: From LE to DE Commission
LE officers should note there are a number of implications on their pay and pension when converting from a LE to DE commission. There are a range of factors to consider including:
- Length of time served;
- Current pay level and the comparable DE pay scale;
- Point of eligibility for and achieving the next promotion; and
- The length of time policy allows the individual to remain on mark-time or stand-still rates of pay.
Individuals should discuss these issues, and any potential impact, with Defence Business Services (DBS) Pay and Pensions. As a matter of current policy, Career Managers at the Army Personnel Centre (APC) are not allowed to provide advice and guidance on the pay and pension implications of any change to an individual’s TACOS. Instead the individual is directed to seek specialist advice from DBS. Current policy is that APC will write to the individual with details of the revised TACOS when they convert from an LE to a DE commission (and other changes of commission), however, this correspondence does not contain detailed pay and pension impacts as APC are not qualified nor allowed to do so. The correspondence, however, clearly articulates that there are pay and pension implications, and individuals are required to sign to confirm that they have satisfied themselves that they are happy with these (FOI 2018/04896).
3.7 Leadership as a Competency
Leadership is a competency employers look for in candidates who are applying for jobs that require them to lead, motivate and/or develop other people, usually team leader and management positions (or trainee positions that lead to management positions).
Examples of competency questions that are used to evaluate leadership skills are:
- Describe a time when you had to lead a group to achieve an objective.
- Describe a work based situation where you had to lead by example to achieve an objective.
- Describe a situation where you inspired others to meet a common goal.
- How do you motivate team members to do something they decide they do not want to do?
If you have little experience of leading teams in workplace situations – which should not normally apply to SNCO’s and warrant officers – use examples where you have led people on the sports field or during educational group exercises.
PART FOUR: MISCELLANEOUS
4.0 Useful Publications
- Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP):
- JDP 0-01: UK Defence Doctrine.
- JDP 04: Understanding and Decision Making.
- JDP 05: Shaping a Stable World: The Military Contribution.
- Joint Service Publication (JSP):
- JSP 101: Defence Writing Guide.
- JSP 752: Tri-Service Regulations for Expenses and Allowances.
- JSP 754: Tri-Service Regulations for Pay and Charges.
- JSP 757: Tri-Service Guidance for Appraisals.
- Defence Instructions and Notices (DIN):
- 2015DIN01-11: Late Entry (LE) Commissions in the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC).
- Army General Administrative Instructions (AGAI):
- AGAI 35, Annex C for details on the promotion to the substantive rank of Major for Regular (LE) and IRC (LE) officers.
- The Army Commissioning Regulations 2009 (ACR) (AC 13452).
- The Promotions and Appointments Warrant 2009 (PAW 09).
- Handbooks & Manuals:
- Officers’ Career Development Handbook.
- Army Career Management Handbook.
- Army Boarding Manual.
- The Career Employment Structure for Regular and Territorial Officers and Soldiers of the Royal Engineers. Part 2 – Regular Soldiers (otherwise known as the RE Blue Book). 2010.
- Army Forms (AF):
- AF B7221: Application for a SSC/IRC (LE) Commission by Serving Soldiers Over 30 Years of Age.
- AF B225A: Report on a WO/SNCO Candidate for an LE Commission.
4.1 Useful Links
- LE CAB Preparation website: http://xtlearn.net/L/8758.
- LE Commissioning Brief (for the Educational Training Services): https://prezi.com/92subxar5l-9/le-commissioning-brief/. (Uploaded 05 March 2015).
1 Military Police Brigade. (2016). Pre-Late Entry Commissioning Assessment Board (PRE-LE CAB) Training Event. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.facebook.com/1MilitaryPoliceBrigade/posts/1-mp-brigade-pre-late-entry-commission-assessment-board-pre-le-cab-training-even/543325935854800/. [Accessed: 17 February, 2019].
FOI (Freedom of Information Request) 2015/06053/13/04/75360 dated 07 August 2015.
FOI (Freedom of Information Request) 2015/07411 dated September 2015.
FOI (Freedom of Information Request) 2016/05615/13/04/77148 dated 24 June 2016.
FOI (Freedom of Information Request) 2018/04896 dated 09 May 2018.
FOI (Freedom of Information Request) 2018/15675 dated 20 December 2018.
Hansard. (2009) House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 20 April 2009 (pt 0012). Available from World Wide Web: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090420/text/90420w0012.htm. [Accessed: 17 February, 2019].
OU (Open University). (2019) Army Late Entry Officer Course: Regular Army. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.open.ac.uk/study/credit-transfer/my-previous-study/professional-qualifications/army-late-entry-officer-course-regular-army. [Accessed: 20 February, 2019].
RE Blue Book. (2010) The Career Employment Structure for Regular and Territorial Officers and Soldiers of the Royal Engineers. Part 2 – Regular Soldiers (Rev 2010). Available from World Wide Web: https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/5874multi/wp-content/uploads/sites/50/2017/09/27142025/20121203-RE_Blue_Book_Part_2-R.pdf. [Accessed: 17 February, 2019].
Shields, J. (2018) Army Rocked By Sandhurst Cheating Scandal. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.sandbagtimes.co.uk/army-rocked-by-sandhurst-cheating-scandal/. [Accessed: 17 February, 2019].
Stratford Business School. (2018) Pearson BTEC Level 7 Diploma and Extended Diploma in Strategic Management & Leadership. MBA Progression. Course Information 2018. Available from World Wide Web: http://stratfordbusinessschool.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/SBS-Armed-Forces-Prospectus-2018.pdf. [Accessed: 20 February, 2019].
The Gunner. (2013) The Duncan Essay. The Gunner: The Regimental Magazine of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. March 2013, pp.7.