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.
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.