Officer cadet

This article is about the US and UK "Officer Cadet". For the equivalent German Army/Luftwaffe rank, see Oberfähnrich.
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Officer Cadet is a rank held by military cadets during their training to become commissioned officers. In the United Kingdom, the rank is also used by members of University Royal Naval Units, University Officer Training Corps and University Air Squadron.[1][2]

The term officer trainee is used interchangeably in some countries.


The Australian Defence Force follows the same usage as the British military system, using the rank of officer cadet (for the Australian Army (OCDT) and the Royal Australian Air Force (OFFCDT)), for personnel undergoing initial officer training. Unlike midshipmen in the Royal Australian Navy who hold commission, officer cadets in the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Army do not yet hold a permanent commission, and are not saluted or referred to as "sir" or "ma'am". They do however hold probationary commissions. Officer cadets in the Australian Army are subordinate to warrant officers and officers and address them as "sir" or "ma'am". As officer cadets are appointed to their positions, they are technically superior to some other ranks, although they will typically not have direct subordinates.

Initial officer training can occur through either single-service institutions, such as the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Royal Australian Naval College, or the Officer Training School RAAF, or through the tri-service Australian Defence Force Academy. The ranks of officer cadet, staff cadet, and midshipman are primarily found at these establishments. However, RAAF officer trainees are often appointed to a higher rank while undergoing their initial training course at OTS if they have prior military experience, either as officer cadets prior to their initial officer course, or at airman rank. Officer cadets are also appointed to the Australian Army Reserve where training is conducted on a part-time basis at various University Regiments around the country.

Australian Army Reserve officer cadets must pass various training courses (conducted at different barracks around Australia) throughout their training with the final module completed at the Royal Military College, Duntroon before being commissioned.

At ADFA, upon completion of all academic training through the "UNSW@ADFA", military training and subsequent training at other military establishments, officer cadets from the RAAF are promoted to a higher junior officer rank, while those from the Australian Army spend another year at the Royal Military College, Duntroon before being commissioned.

Pilots, air traffic controllers and air combat officers joining the RAAF directly through the Officers' Training School (without going to ADFA) also start their career as an officer cadet. Once they have completed their employment training (2FTS, SATC and SAW respectively), they are promoted.


Memorial stained glass window, class of 1942, Royal Military College of Canada
Canadian Army officer cadet insignia
Royal Canadian Navy naval cadet sleeve insignia
Royal Canadian Air Force officer cadet sleeve insignia

In the Canadian Forces, the appointment of officer cadet (OCdt), or élève-officier (élof) in French, is held by beginning officers, as well as students attending the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec or a civilian university through the Regular Officer Training Plan. Officer cadets may sometimes hold a staff or even line appointments within a unit, such as second-in-command of a platoon within a company-sized or larger unit. This is usually done for work experience purposes, and in such roles, the officer cadet holds the same command authority as the position they hold.

Some officer cadets, who are going through ROTP, are highly qualified in their military trade. However, those officers are ineligible to receive a commission until holding a university degree.

For Royal Canadian Navy members of the same rank, naval cadet (NCdt), or aspirant de marine (aspm) in French, is used in lieu of officer cadet.

Officer cadets and naval cadets are referred to and addressed as "Mister Smith" or "Miss Smith", or more formally as "Officer Cadet Smith" or "Naval Cadet Smith". There is also a tendency in less cordial environments to refer to an officer cadet as "OC Smith". However, that is very rare. Officer cadets are generally addressed as "mister" or "miss" by commissioned officers and some senior non-commissioned officers. In non-training environments, such as a base or wing, they are referred to as "sir" or "ma'am" by non-commissioned members.

Officer cadets and naval cadets in the CF are subordinate officers, but generally billet or mess with other officers. They do not carry the Queen's commission, and as such are not required to be saluted by CF members, however they frequently are, except in a training environment.

The rank insignia for the Royal Canadian Navy is a narrow gold braid (1/4-inch; note difference with standard braid size) and a narrow braid (1/4-inch) for the Royal Canadian Air Force which is worn on the cuff of the distinctive environmental uniform jacket, and on the epaulettes of all other uniforms. This gives rise to the somewhat derogatory term 'quarter-inch admiral' as a term for cadets who try to insist that they are superior in rank to other members. In the Canadian Army, the rank insignia is one pip over a white band. The peak of the service cap (if worn) is plain (However, there are some circumstances, such as those enrolled in a UTPNCM program, that authorization of the branch cap badge is granted).


An officer cadet (an « aspirant ») of the French Navy (wearing his rank shoulder strap) taking a naval measurement on the board of the patrol boat Cormoran..

In the French Armed Forces, this rank, named « aspirant » in French, is generally attributed to officer candidates during their education, or to volunteers or reservists with a University diploma provided that their candidacy has been validated.


In the Pakistan Army, potential servicemen training to be officers at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) are known as Gentlemen Cadets. Gentlemen Cadets join PMA Kakul either as a direct entry from civilian colleges or from Military Cadet colleges after going through an InterServices Selection Board.

GCs undergo a two-year military training program at PMA Kakul, equally divided into four semesters. The Academic Degree program for Gentlemen Cadets at PMA is a 4-year BS Engineering Sciences which compromises of 8 semesters, four of which they complete at PMA and the remaining four they study as second lieutenants at Human Resource Development Centres after the Grant of Commission from PMA.


In the Singapore Armed Forces, potential servicemen training to be officers are known as officer cadets in the Army and Air Force, while those in the Navy are known as midshipmen. All officer cadets and midshipmen receive tri-service initial training in Officer Cadet School before being sent to the appropriate training schools. They return to Officer Cadet School for their commissioning parade.

Officer cadets and midshipmen wear one, two, or three white bars on their shoulderboards to denote their seniority. The graduating class of officer cadets wear peaked caps and berets depending on their vocations, and are accorded the privilege of being addressed "sir" by junior officer cadets. At this point, they are given more privileges and responsibilities commensurate with their seniority.

Officer cadets take turns to hold various administrative and exercise appointments. Administrative appointment-holders' shoulderboards have additional loops and whorls known as "fishes" in addition to their existing one, two or three bars. Exercise appointment-holders wear yellow rank insignia appropriate to the appointment of the officer cadet. For example, an exercise platoon commander will wear two bars of a lieutenant, and his exercise platoon sergeant will wear a brassard with first sergeant's chevrons.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the rank is also used by members of University Royal Naval Units, University Officer Training Corps, and University Air Squadrons who are given Officer training, but do not have an obligation to join the regular/ reserves [1][2]

In the United Kingdom, the rank of officer cadet is held by trainee officers in the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, and the Royal Air Force College at RAF Cranwell, as well as students who are members of the University Royal Navy Units and University Officers' Training Corps. In the British Army and Royal Air Force they are referred to and addressed as, for example, "Mr Smith" or "Miss Smith", or more formally as "Officer Cadet Smith". As they do not hold the Queen's commission, they are not saluted.

Royal Navy

In Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, the rank is non-substantive and only used in the initial phases of training, after which officers use their substantive rank of Midshipman. Formerly, cadets at the Royal Naval Colleges at Dartmouth and Osborne had the substantive rank of "naval cadet", or "cadet, RN" until passing out of Dartmouth as a midshipman.


The rank of officer cadet is held by those undergoing either the Regular Commissioning Course at Sandhurst or the Territorial Army Commissioning Course holding an AOSB main board pass. The Territorial Army Commissioning Course is administered by Sandhurst but run in modules divided between Sandhurst and Army Reserve Regional Training Centres.[3] Until the Second World War, cadets at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst were referred to as gentleman cadets.

The rank is also held by members of the University Officers' Training Corps (UOTC),[4] [5][6]

Royal Air Force

The rank of officer cadet is held by those undergoing initial officer training at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell. Pilot officers of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training) Branch (RAFVR(T)) hold the acting rank of officer cadet until they successfully complete their officers' initial training at the Adult Training Facility at RAF Cranwell – they differ from other RAF officer cadet ranks in that they hold a commission, and are therefore saluted. Within the Air Cadet Organisation, the rank of officer cadet is currently only used internally and officer cadets are referred to by their substantive rank in written documents. Students undergoing the Foundation Degree course at DCAE Cosford, having been selected for service as engineer officers from the ranks, hold their previous rank while wearing officer cadet rank insignia for the duration, prior to attending initial officer training. The rank is also held by members of University Air Squadrons.[1]

Rank insignia

Royal Navy

Royal Navy officer cadets wear shoulder flashes with a white square after they complete the Militarisation phase of training (15 weeks). Formerly, the insignia was a navy blue patch on both sides of the coat collar, with a white buttonhole and gold button, similar to a midshipman's patch. They continue to wear these tabs until they pass out of BRNC at the end of their initial training. The No.1 uniform bears the rank the cadet will hold upon completing initial officer training.

British Army

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which trains all British Army officer cadets (and some from overseas militaries), appoints junior under officers (identified by an Austrian knot above a single bar[7]) and senior under officers (SUO) (who wear an Austrian knot above two bars).[8] In practice, senior under officers are not at present appointed.

Cadets in the University Officers' Training Corps[4] wear zero to three horizontal bars on the rank slide.[9] Under officer is an appointment, not a rank, and outside OTCs they only have the status of ordinary officer cadets.

Royal Air Force

Rank insignia for RAF officer cadet (service dress)

Royal Air Force officer cadets wear differing rank tabs displaying each term. No red band is on the rank tab during the first 10-week term at RAF College Cranwell, a single red band is adopted in term two. Two red bands are worn in term three. 'A' Squadron is currently the home of the E Flight/Section (injuries flight), Aircrew cadets (NCA), Specialist Entrants and Re Entrants Course (SERE) and DELTA flight (additional leadership and officer qualities training flight). Aircrew cadets graduate as sergeant aircrew, not officers; this status is denoted by an eagle and the phrase Aircrew Cadet on their otherwise plain rank tab and the RAF airman's cap badge with a white patch behind. Members of all squadrons who are injured are moved to E Flight/Section and wear a white band on the rank tab.

On the service dress and mess dress uniforms, RAF cadets wear the braid of the rank they will hold on graduation. However, gorget patches (rectangular white tabs with one triangular end) are worn on both lapels. The only exception to this is the female mess dress, where they are worn on the sleeve. The only other distinctive identifiers are on headdress – a white patch on the beret behind the badge. The cap badge is the same as that worn by a commissioned officer (between the ranks of pilot officer and group captain), but with a white band around the cap. This band is removed on graduation.

A blue band on the white background is also used to denote officer cadets of the University Air Squadrons (UASs) who are receiving Bursaries from the Royal Air Force. UAS cadets who are not in receipt of scholarships wear just the 1-inch (25 mm) white band with no coloured band. UAS officer cadets wear airmen's headdress with a white band.

Officer cadets of the RAFVR(T) wear the 1-inch (25 mm) white band with the gilt VRT identifier positioned centrally. VR(T) officer cadets wear the standard officer's peaked cap while serving at their units, a white hat band is issued for the week-long officers' initial course to maintain uniformity with regular officer cadets under training.

United States

The United States Army, Coast Guard and Air Force use the term "cadet" for officer candidates in the Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at civilian colleges and universities and for students at the United States Military Academy, United States Coast Guard Academy, United States Air Force Academy and Air Force Officer Training School (OTS).

Individuals under the age of 18 in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps in U.S. high schools and preparatory schools, the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and the Cadet Program of the Civil Air Patrol are also addressed as cadet, but are civilians with no actual military status.

The term "officer candidate" or "officer trainee" is generally used for officer candidates who are seeking their commission by means other than ROTC or a military academy, such as through Officer Candidate School (OCS). The United States Navy uses the rank of "midshipman" for students in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps or United States Naval Academy, as well as those enrolled in the United States Merchant Marine Academy, the latter at USMMA typically being commissioned as officers in either the Regular Navy or Navy Reserve. The term "officer candidate" for others seeking a commission as an officer. The term "cadet" may also be used generally to refer to students at a private military academy, or members of a youth group associated with the military who are receiving preliminary training with the intention of joining the military, sometimes at a younger age than they would be able to do otherwise.

Officer cadets are generally paid below the standard pay rates for junior officers, but receive some of the rights and responsibilities of a junior officer during their training. Officer cadets, trainees, and midshipmen are considered Geneva Conventions Category III personnel.[10]


Cadets and midshipmen in the ROTC program generally hold training ranks equivalent to their branch's enlisted ranks during their first three years of training and officer-equivalent ranks during their senior year, except in the Air Force where they hold officer-equivalent rank during their junior and senior years. In addition, a small amount of NROTC midshipmen 2/C may hold officer ranks, limited by the amount of available billets. Cadets or midshipmen holding cadet-enlisted rank must salute cadet or midshipman officers within their own branch of the service. At the service academies, they hold similar ranks (generally for the first two years, they hold simulated low enlisted ranks, then in the third year, senior enlisted ranks, and in the final year, officer ranks). However, at the academies and some ROTC units, it is not customary for cadets or midshipmen to salute each other regardless of rank, nor will they salute ROTC cadets senior to them. All cadets and midshipmen are required to salute commissioned officers regardless of branch. Per Army regulation, since cadets will serve in officer positions, enlisted personnel are encouraged to salute cadets and address them as "Sir" or Ma'am" or by their title and surname.[11]

Cadet officer ranks[12] in US Army ROTC are denoted by "pips" – one to three circular insignia denoting the company-grade equivalents, one to three diamond-shaped insignia denoting the field-grade equivalents.[13] For midshipman ranks, both junior and senior officer equivalents wear from one to six 1/4" gold stripes or bars.

US Air Force cadets wear rank shoulderboards or lapel insignia which carry miniature insignia identical to those worn by officer trainees at USAF Officer Training School and similar, but more simplified, than those worn by cadets at the USAF Academy.

Senior Military Colleges

Cadets who are attending SMCs generally hold training ranks equivalent to their branch's during their first three years of training and officer equivalent ranks during their senior year. However the ranks are different among the six SMCs. All cadets are required to salute commissioned officers regardless of branch.

Service academies

Each U.S. service academy has its own set of insignia, different from that of its service's ROTC program.

U.S. Military Academy (West Point)

United States Military Academy "class insignia" are worn on the collar and epaulets of certain uniforms. An enameled shield bearing a Greek sword surmounted by the helmet of Pallas, worn on the left collar or above cadet rank stripes/bars on epaulets, is the standard class insignia for third-class (yellow shield), second-class (grey shield), or first-class (black shield) cadets. On traditional "dress grey" and "full dress grey" uniforms and overcoats, the class insignia is indicated by the number of service stripes (one to three) denoting completed years of service at the academy. These stripes are located on the lower sleeve for the under two classes and on the upper sleeve for the upper two classes. Visitors are sometimes confused to see cadets early in the academic year wearing the insignia of cadet PFC - such cadets are often reduced in rank (for any of a variety of reasons), but have already completed their first year and as such are no longer cadet PVTs ("plebes").

Rank within the Corps of Cadets is denoted by collar insignia "railroad tracks," a number of black enamel bars with silver outline, or epaulet stripes from one (for cadet corporal) to six (for cadet captain in certain command and staff roles) on certain uniforms. On the traditional dress-grey-based uniforms and overcoats, chevrons denote rank in the Corps. A cadet corporal wears two chevrons on the lower sleeve. A cadet sergeant wears two chevrons on the upper sleeve, a cadet lieutenant three, and a cadet captain from four to six chevrons. For cadets in the rank of cadet sergeant and up, various combinations of stars, diamonds, rockers or arcs, and other devices, are used on the sleeves to denote specific positions/jobs. The title of cadet captain is used for all cadets wearing four or more stripes/bars. The brigade commander, also called the first captain, wears six stripes/bars/sleeve chevrons with a gold star [14]

U.S. Air Force Academy

The shoulderboard insignia of the USAF Academy cadet vice wing commander

The rank of United States Air Force Academy cadets is denoted by the insignia on their shoulderboards in all "blue" uniforms, including day-to-day "blues", service dress, mess dress and parade dress. All cadet shoulder boards carry the heraldic nebuly device, (commonly referred to as "clouds" by cadets). Third class cadets (sophomores) have one thin bar (ground) underneath the clouds; second and first class cadets wear two thin bars, one each above (horizon) and below the clouds. Additional chevrons denote cadet non-commissioned officer ranks, while additional bars denote cadet officer ranks. An exception to this is the unranked cadets, who are on probation of some kind (academic, athletic, military, honor, etc.). For unranked third class cadets, only ground and cloud are present; for unranked second class cadets only ground, cloud, and horizon are present; for unranked first class cadets only ground, cloud, horizon and one thin bar are present. Vertical diamonds on the boards of second class cadets indicate either squadron or group superintendent positions. Horizontal diamonds on the same indicate squadron first sergeant positions. Stars on first class cadet boards indicate either flight, squadron, or group command positions. If multiple stars are present, the cadet is either the vice wing commander (two stars), or the wing commander (three stars), the senior cadet in the Wing. The only second class cadet rank with a star present is the Wing Command Chief, the senior second class cadet.

On the (now retired) Battle Dress Uniform or (current) Airman Battle Uniform, Air Force Academy cadets wear bars or chevrons on their lapels to denote their rank. While fourth class cadets wear no insignia on utility uniforms, they are awarded a Prop and Wings after recognition, to be worn on the flight cap. Third class cadets wear one chevron on each lapel, signifying that they are cadet/staff sergeants. Second class cadets wear two to five chevrons, indicating ranks from cadet/technical sergeant to cadet/chief master sergeant. First class cadets function as cadet officers and wear one to six bars on their lapels, corresponding to ranks from cadet/second lieutenant to cadet/colonel.

U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis) and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point)

The rank insignia of the United States Naval Academy and the United States Merchant Marine Academy is a combination of sleeve, shoulder and collar insignia, similar to that used by the Naval ROTC units.

United States Coast Guard Academy

There are two types of insignia used by Coast Guard Academy cadets.

The first is a metal pin-on device. It is a colored shield with a gold anchor with a silver star above it. The color of the background denotes the class. The colors are green for 4/c, red for 3/c, white for 2/c and blue for 1/c. The colors all have historic meanings: red and green represent the running lights on a vessel; white signifies the white lights used as navigation lights, signifying the role as guides for the 4/c; blue signifies the officers that 1/c are about to become.

The second type of insignia is shoulder boards. All cadet shoulder boards have a slightly smaller version of the shield found on officer shoulderboards, and stripes denoting class or 1/c leadership positions. The 4/c have no stripes, 3/c 1 diagonal stripe, 2/c 2 diagonal stripes, and 1/c 1 horizontal stripe. First class leadership positions have increasing numbers of horizontal stripes, up to six for the regimental commander.

U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps

The United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps uses the terms "Midshipman (MIDN)" and "Instructor (INST)" for adults members seeking an appointment as an officer. NSCC midshipmen are adult leaders in training who are between the ages of 18 and 21. Normally, NSCC midshipmen are former cadets who reached the rate of seaman as a cadet, former JROTC cadets, or members of the military who are not old enough to be an NSCC instructor or officer. An NSCC instructor is an adult leader who either has an interest in becoming an NSCC officer or who wants to dedicate his time to mentoring and training cadets. All persons applying to be in the NSCC are first enrolled as an NSCC instructor for a period of one year. After a year, instructors may apply for an appointment to the NSCC Officer Corps or remain an instructor.[15]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Induction Camp". Cambridge University Air Squadron.
  2. 1 2 "University Officer Training Corps About Us". Ministry of Defence. UOTCs are military units but it is not about training students for war. Many UOTC members do go on to join the Armed Forces, both full and part time, but the majority have no further contact with the forces after they graduate.
  3. "RMAS courses".
  4. 1 2 "University Officer Training Corps Home Page". Ministry of Defence.
  5. "Cambridge University Officer Training Corps". MoD. At Cambridge UOTC our leadership development program is set to the same standards of military training that all Officers must undergo at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
  6. "Ministry of Defence : Defence Gateway". Retrieved 2016-02-04. (registration required)
  7. Illustration of junior under officer rank slide
  8. Illustration of senior under officer rank slide
  9. Illustration of rank slide
  11. CC Circular 145-11-98
  12. Cadet officer ranks
  15. "Adult Leadership" (PDF).

External links

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