The road to becoming an Army Colonel is one that requires many years of hard work and tenacity. To become an Army Colonel, one has to first get accepted in the Army. To do this a person needs to either be accepted into one of the military academies, preferably the U. S. Military Academy at West Point since it is the Army's school of higher education. This gives the individual full military benefits while they receive a tuition free bachelor's degree. Or receive a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and be accepted into the Army Officer Candidate School or OCS, which is a 20 week school that ends with an officer commission, usually starting as a Second Lieutenant.
The third avenue to becoming an Army Colonel is through Army ROTC or Reserve Officer Training Corps while in college. Here they participate in military training exercises and drill several times a week. Being a member of the ROTC often qualifies participants for paid tuition, books, uniforms and a monthly allowance. This option is used in place of OCS to achieve the officer commission once the person graduates from college.
The final option to become an officer is called direct commissioning. These candidates are trained professionals in the medical, legal, engineering or religious fields. Due to their expertise, direct commission candidates do not participate in the full military training at OCS. They also begin their career at a higher rank than the other routes. Most start at the rank of Captain, although some may start at First Lieutenant.
Now that the entrance and acceptance into the officer corps is explained, to rise from the company grade officer rank, which includes First and Second Lieutenant and Captain, requires many steps. One of the steps to rise to the rank of Colonel is receiving high ratings on the previous progress reports that are conducted annually. These reports take into account many things such as job performance, training and education achievements. As the ranks increase through field officer ranks or what is also known as senior officer ranks, the final grade at this level is Colonel. The Army Colonel, with pay grade of O-6, is also referred to as a Colonel or a "Bird Colonel", because of the eagle insignia worn for this rank. The unofficial title is used in third person reference only because a Lieutenant Colonel is also addressed as a Colonel. Once the rank of Colonel is attained, the next pay grade is O-7 Brigadier General.
To rise to the rank of Colonel in the Army requires moving steadily upward through the officer ranks, starting at the bottom, or close to it, and maintaining an almost exemplary service record with constant improvement while earning promotions. This is a trait that is most often looked for in a Colonel candidate is the ability to lead unerringly and sometimes aggressively. They are groomed to command large groups of soldiers, possibly several groups that are singularly commanded by a Majors or Lieutenant Colonels.
Lieutenant Colonels are thoroughly checked during their career to determine who will make a good commander before one is selected to the rank of 'Bird Colonel'. Once a Lieutenant Colonel is selected to the rank of Colonel, it is very likely that they must extend their service time to retire with that rank. When an officer has reached the rank of Colonel, they have at least 20 years in military service and are eligible for retirement.