Enlisted vs Officer: Know the Difference

Do you understand the Enlisted vs Officer difference? Our OSO friend shared his story in response to this question:

I’m a reservist thinking about going to OCS. What is the main difference between being an officer and an enlisted Marine? Especially on the aviation side of the Marine Corps.

My Story

So I started out enlisting in the Marine Corps right out of high school, eventually commissioning as an officer, and finally becoming a pilot (KC-130J).

I wasn’t with aviation when I was enlisted but worked as a maintenance officer in my squadron, so I have some insight as to the roles/responsibilities/life of enlisted Marines in aviation.

Enlisted roles

Enlisted Marines in a squadron mainly work in positions that are part of their MOS (or job) such as administration, supply, training & operations, maintenance (engine mechanics, airframe mechanics, avionics mechanics, electrician, etc..).

The main difference between an enlisted vs officer Marine in a squadron would probably be their scope. On the enlisted side, the role/responsibilities are focused on the maintenance department and primarily within their division or shop.

Obviously, the more senior and experienced they are, the larger their scope (or bubble) and effect throughout the squadron is.

But at the end of the day, their scope/affect stays mainly within their shop or the maintenance

Officer roles

Pilots in the Fleet Marine Force fill many positions within their squadron. These duties, known as “ground jobs” are in addition to their pilot duties.

So while you (as a pilot) are learning, training, and becoming more proficient at flying and fighting your aircraft; you are also filling vital positions that keep the squadron running. These positions can include administration/legal officer, operations (day to day flights, future plans), training officer, maintenance (division officer, maintenance officer), logistics officer. Each of these positions is very important and together they allow the squadron to run.

Every officer is responsible to keep their section running while making sure they can support the operational objectives of the squadron.

In addition to keeping the squadron running, officers are also tasked to ensure the well-being of the Marines in their charge. Marine NCOs and SNCOs are also responsible for this, but officers are charged with more Marines including those NCOs and SNCOs.

Huey helicopter in training

My personal experience

When I was a junior enlisted Marine my responsibility was to learn and become proficient in my job. Train, increase my fitness, learn, train…. etc.

As I progressed my responsibilities grew, but not out of my team or section. When I became a Corporal (NCO), my responsibilities increased significantly.

I was my platoon’s training NCO, in charge of ensuring my platoon was properly trained and ready for combat. I worked with my Battery training chief to do this. So my scope increased to the next level of my unit.

So after a couple of years, I was leading a portion of my platoon.

Enlisted vs officer in the cockpit

When I first checked into my squadron I was assigned as the Fiscal Officer in Charge (OIC) and as a Flight Duty Officer (FDO). My duties in fiscal were to ensure everyone in the squadron was paid for their travel expenses and manage the squadron’s budget; as well as lead 5 Marines that worked in the fiscal shop. As an FDO, I managed/coordinated the current and next days flights and flight crews.

The job also entailed coordinating between our operations and maintenance departments and outside units that we were working with. About halfway through my tour, I was transferred to the maintenance department to be a the Airframes Division Officer. As the division officer, I managed 4 different shops (airframes, safety and survival, corrosion control/HAZMAT, and flight equipment) and lead over 70 Marines.

The job is just not dealing with maintenance in my division, but working with the other divisions and the head maintenance officer to get airplanes fixed and flying. In addition, I would work with operations to ensure required maintenance is complete while best supporting the squadron’s mission.

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