SMP another option

The Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) is a program that allows Reserve and National Guard soldiers to be enrolled in ROTC, take advantage of certain benefits, and pursue a commission.   It has some benefits and some drawbacks, and I’ll do my best to spell out each.  This is a program that students who aren’t strong scholarship candidates should consider to help pay for college.

Take a look at this video.  It is very cursory, and focuses on National Guard.  Remember that you can also SMP in the Reserves, and know that you can start on the path to SMP as early as freshman year.

Lets start off by saying that a student interested in SMP will have to talk to a recruiter, enlist in the Guard or Reserves, and may have to attend Basic Training and AIT.  You don’t necessarily have to do this right off the bat.  You could start taking ROTC classes and then look into the SMP program.  This option could allow you to forgo basic training.

Technically you aren’t an SMP cadet until you have contracted in ROTC, which is another reason I suggest starting in ROTC before enlisting.  Since a cadet can’t contract until sophomore year, unless they are on scholarship, a freshman cadet will be in somewhat of a grey area.  Students can try to enlist as an officer cadidate (MOS O9r), or they can enlist for any MOS they are qualified for.  If they chose to enlist O9r they will have to have a letter of acceptance from an ROTC Battalion, and they may have some difficulty getting GI bill benefits while a cadet, because technically there is no AIT for their MOS (ROTC is the advance training), so they will never be MOS qualified until they commission.

Once a cadet is in the SMP program they are required to join a Guard or Reserve unit and drill regularly.  This means they will be giving up one weekend a month to go train with their unit.  If they are lucky they will be a member of a unit that is easy to travel to.  In our case we have a unit in the next town over (Canton), and we are 1 hour north of Fort Drum, which is home to a number of units.  Some would argue that drilling and attending AIT will make a future officer better, because they have experienced what the soldiers they will lead have experienced.  I totally disagree with this theory, and the topic will be the subject of a future blog.

Here is the biggest concern and possible draw back to this option.   Although an SMP cadet is not deployable, again a cadet is not officially SMP until they contract.  An enlisted freshman may be told that they must deploy with their unit.  Currently my understanding is that they are usually not required to deploy, but again this can be a gray area.  Additionally, often my prospects are convinced to forgo a semester to attend Basic and AIT (the recruiter gets his credit) which often puts the future cadet out of synch and a semester behind which often results in December graduation.  Without going into a lot of detail this creates problems.  It is far better to start school as planned and if there is still a burning desire to attend Basic, it can be done between Freshman and Sophomore year.

One last consideration is that if you are competing for a 4 year scholarship, and accept it, you cannot participate in the SMP program your first year, and must leave the guard or reserves.  If you are a scholarship winner and you do desire the SMP program, starting in your sophomore year, you can convert your scholarship to a Guaranteed Reserve Forces  Duty (GRFD) scholarship.  At that time you must begin drilling, and you will be prohibited from assessing onto Active Duty.  Non scholarship SMP cadets can still go Active Duty when they graduate.

The bottom line is make sure that if you are considering the SMP program that you get your information from an enrollment officer, and carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks.

New York National Guard SMP site

This link is a good starting point for info.  One reason it took so long for me to tackle this post is that it’s a little difficult to explain SMP in a simple, concise way.  If you google ROTC SMP you will find a ton of discussion board threads covering all the variations of the SMP program, with a ton of misleading and partially incorrect information.  I can’t emphasize enough that you talk to an enrollment officer at an ROTC battalion to get the most accurate information about the program.

9 Comments

  1. Sir, I enjoy SMP a lot. As I have learned a lot from my unit. I do not enjoy the constant struggle of dealing with School conflicts with drill dates

  2. That is one of the drawbacks of the program. It is one additional committment you have on your plate. Additionally there are some squared away Guard/Reserve units that know what to do with Cadets, and welcome the opportunity to develop their future leaders. On the other hand there are some units that couldn’t be bothered. But, any big organization is going to have some parts of that organization that are better than others. Additionally some school’s academic rigor or lack thereof makes drill a little more manegable.

  3. Aloha! I am curious about the SMP 5k signing bonus? My recruiter said I am eligible to skip basic and AIT and do LTC instead, but he doesn’t remember telling me/doesn’t know anything about a 5k signing bonus for signing a SMP contract. Is this not offered in all states? I have no idea where I would have heard this from if not from him, but maybe I was just hearing things haha. Thanks so much 🙂

    1. That 5K LTC bonus went away two years ago. You can still go to LTC if you have two years of school left, and you may even win a scholarship from camp (I had three of five receive LTC offers this last summer). LTC really has nothing to do with the SMP program, and I would encourage you to talk to the enrollment officer where you plan to do ROTC about your options. The recruiter is trying to get you signed up in the Reserves, and his primary motivation is not to allow you to become an Army Officer through ROTC. I think he’s basically giving you correct info, but that enrollment officer is going to be the person that gets you ready to attend LTC and then determines whether you contract or not the following fall. If you sign up for SMP prior to going to LTC probably still have reserve/guard obligation even if you don’t continue in ROTC. Be careful.

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