Difference between Reserve Officer and Regular Officer

Key Difference: The Reserve Officers were originally created as part-time forces that could be helpful during war times. Regular Officers are officers that are on active duty. A Regular Officer has a better chance of being promoted, can serve longer and cannot be involuntarily let go. A Reserve Officer is not offered the same benefits.

Reserve Officer and regular officers are two kinds of posts that are present in the army or the navy. These two terms are often confusing for many people if they are not deeply into the military culture. Reserve Officer and Regular Officer do the same duties; however, the major difference lies in their appointment.

A Regular Officer has a better chance of being promoted, can serve longer and cannot be involuntarily let go. A Reserve Officer is not offered the same benefits. Initially, graduates of the service academies were commissioned as Regular Officers, while those commissioned under ROTC or Officer Candidate School (called Officer Training School in the Air Force), were commissioned as Reserve Officers. The Reserve Officers would compete to be appointed Regular Officers. The Reserve Officers were originally created as part-time forces that could be helpful during war times. These officers, if not on active duty live as normal citizens that have to train certain times a year.

Today, all officers are commissioned as Reserve Officers and have to compete for the posts of Regular Officers. Once a person is selected as a Regular Officer, by law they must be promoted to lieutenant colonel and can serve for 28 active years. Those promoted to colonel can serve for 30 active years. In comparison, a Reserve Officer can only serve up to 20 active years, which can be extended if required. Regular Officers also cannot be removed from active duty incase of RIFs (reduction in force).

According to the 2005 Military Authorization Act, “all commissioned officers on active duty be given a ‘regular’ commission. Officers commissioned in the Reserves will continue to receive a ‘reserve’ commission.” 

Image Courtesy: goarmy.com, army.mod.uk

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