MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- The path to becoming a commissioned officer in the military is a varied one, but most start after an interested candidate completes a four-year bachelor’s degree. The same cannot be said for limited duty officers however.
An LDO is a technical expert in a specialized field who receives their knowledge through experience and military education, according to Capt. Ray Howard, the Marine Aircraft Group 31 embarkation officer. LDO’s typically serve as special staff officers who are responsible for their area of expertise to the commanding officer.
While a bachelor’s degree is not required to become an LDO, many have obtained their degrees in their off duty time, according to Maj. Tim Sechrest, the aviation ordnance officer.
The path to becoming a limited duty officer cannot be done in a few years; it literally takes years of service. A Marine must enlist and serve at least eight years (waiverable to 7 1/2) to apply for the Warrant Officer Program. Once appointed a warrant officer, a Marine must serve five years before applying for the LDO program. After acceptance as an LDO, the Marine is promoted from their present rank directly to the rank of captain.
“An LDO is restricted in two ways,” Sechrest said. “The highest rank we can obtain is lieutenant colonel and we are restricted within our MOS.”
Sechrest joined the Marine Corps in 1984 and climbed the ranks to obtain staff sergeant. In 1994, he was promoted to warrant officer. In March 2002, Sechrest had to make a decision – whether to continue on the warrant officer path or to take a commission and become a captain, as an LDO.
“Any enlisted Marine can apply to become a warrant officer,” Sechrest said. “It may not be in their particular MOS, but they can apply. However, not every warrant officer can become an LDO. Certain occupational fields are open for selection to LDO. It’s mostly technical and it’s for both ground and air.”
On March 1, Howard joined the LDO ranks when he was promoted to captain. Howard joined the Marine Corps in 1994 and climbed the ranks to obtain staff sergeant as well. In 2002, Howard was promoted to warrant officer and subsequently advanced to chief warrant officer 3.
“In my particular MOS, this allows me the opportunity to handle transportation issues at a higher level and possibly influence positive change that can affect the entire Marine Corps and Department of Defense unit move process and procedures,” Howard said. “It also ensures that you stay engaged, working hands-on with the Marines, which is the best part.”
Both Howard and Sechrest agree that the program is a great opportunity for an enlisted Marine.
“The program allows a Marine to continue to do the job they enjoy,” Howard said. “It provides continuity and experience in those technical MOS’s that are continuously evolving through technology and process improvements.”
“As a warrant officer, and then progressing to an LDO in my MOS, created more opportunities and billets availability for ordnance,” Sechrest said. “It creates more opportunities and higher command opportunities.”
Regardless of their current ranks and history with the Marine Corps, both Sechrest and Howard have similar reasons for continuing their service.
“I’m very fortunate to be in the Marine Corps,” Sechrest said. “I made (private first class) twice, but I was fortunate to have great senior enlisted Marines and officers that allowed me to overcome my initial shortcomings. Through the years as an commissioned officer, from 1994 to the present, I have been very fortunate to be blessed with a lot of great junior and senior enlisted Marines that took care of me and helped my progression and senior officers who mentored me.”
“I love being around Marines, leading Marines and the camaraderie,” Howard said. “Just the pride of belonging to something bigger and serving our country is why I continue to serve.”
Selection boards for the LDO program convene annually at Headquarters Marine Corps to select qualified warrant officers for appointment to LDO. For more information contact your squadron’s career retention specialist.