How Do I Become an Exchange Officer?

Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Woman posing
Woman posing

An exchange officer is a military officer in one nation who serves the military of another nation through a reciprocal exchange. The purpose of such exchanges is to facilitate coordination of military strategies and logistics when conducting joint operations. At any point in his or her career, a military officer looking to become an exchange officer will need to demonstrate a few key attributes to his or her superiors, in addition to satisfying the criteria of the host nation. Applying for the position will usually happen in one of three ways: the officer is approached by his or her career manager, the military assigns the officer to such a post, or the officer responds to a listed post for an exchange officer. Serving as an exchange officer as a deliberate career move can prepare the officer to assume command posts in the joint operations theater.

As a first step to become an exchange officer, a candidate will need to receive a commission as an officer or warrant officer in his or her nation’s military. While steps vary to gain such commissions, an officer will usually gain this status either through a direct commission due to professional expertise and qualifications or upon graduation from an officer training academy. Chief warrant officers usually gain their commissions through ample military service in their occupational specialty, which allows attendance and graduation from a warrant officer’s training school, thereby receiving the commission from their nation’s head of government. Host nations will often have a keen interest in a potential exchange officer’s academic performance; therefore, potential officers should strive for the highest academic achievements.

Upon gaining a commission as an officer, those seeking to become an exchange officer will need to gain some experience in their role before considering such a post. Exchange officer programs need leaders who can demonstrate tact and diplomacy, while exhibiting a high degree of intrinsic motivation. Learning foreign languages is important as well, since such skills are usually needed in the host nation. Performance on the job is extremely important, and officers should do their best to ensure their performance exceeds expectations in the role they serve.

Applying to become an exchange officer will require responding to a post soliciting for an officer of the same grade and military occupational specialty (MOS). Such postings will usually list which occupations will be considered and the required rank to fulfill the position. Thereafter, the officer’s military organization will conduct interviews and assess the candidate and forward the officer’s information to the host nation if he or she is a fit. Upon receipt, the host nation will review the information, verify academic achievements, verify professional performance, and conduct security checks before making a final decision. Notification of the final decision comes through the officer’s chain of command, along with any specific instructions and next steps to take if selected.

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